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Funding opportunities to cover cloud costs

Last week I wrote about the free cloud credits program that you can use to get started with Terra on Google Cloud at no cost. It’s very helpful and it’s open to just about anyone with a valid Google identity. However, the credits expire after three months, so even if you’re very frugal, at some point you’ll need to start paying for your usage of cloud resources. If you’re a PI switching from using institutional computing resources that are normally paid out of grant overhead, and until your institution lets you reallocate that money to cover cloud costs, you’re going to need to find new funding.

The good news is that there are some funding sources out there that are pretty much dedicated to bridging that gap between how academic computing is traditionally funded and the shiny new world of public clouds. 


Get free credits from Google EDU for education and research 

First up, let’s look at what Google Cloud Platform (GCP) itself offers. Beyond their basic free credits program, GCP also advertises opportunities for educators and researchers to obtain additional credits and discounts under certain Google EDU programs. These involve an online application process, which you can learn more about here

The amounts of credits range from $50 coupons for students (great if you’re teaching a class with practical exercises that you run on the cloud) up to $10,000 for supported research projects. How far you can go depends a lot on what you’re hoping to do, but it’s worth looking into. 

As an example, I once applied for and received an EDU grant of $5,000 credits to support a project on synthetic genomic data in the context of an NCBI hackathon, which allowed my team to achieve all our original objectives and much more besides. The only hitch was that the credits were provided in the form of a coupon, and I had to ask for some help from our institutional IT team to redeem the coupon in a way that could be linked to our Terra billing project. It might have been because I didn’t read the full instructions that came with the coupon… In any case, if you run into any trouble using EDU coupons in Terra, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Terra Helpdesk to get it sorted out. 


Get support and funding for being an early adopter

Moving beyond the scale of individual projects, there are some other really interesting opportunities that you should be aware of, mainly coming from the growing number of funding agencies in the US and abroad that are investing heavily in making their datasets available on the cloud. Many of these recognize that moving to the cloud is not a completely trivial endeavor, so they provide funding for researchers to get started with cloud resources like Terra as a way to grease the wheels and jumpstart the migration of the research community. 

One very prominent example in the US is the NIH STRIDES Initiative, which is aimed at NIH-funded biomedical researchers and includes credits as well as access to consulting services, training, and other helpful resources. For more information on eligibility and how to get started, you’ll want to contact the NIH STRIDES Initiative team at STRIDES@nih.gov

While STRIDES is a continuously-running program, there are also discipline-specific opportunities that follow a more traditional pattern of time-bounded calls for proposals; for example, the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute (NHLBI) recently recruited their third cohort of BioData Catalyst Fellows. At the time of writing, they are not currently taking any more applications, but it’s worth checking out the program guidelines to get a sense of what these kinds of calls entail and what you can prepare in advance to have a head start when the next opportunity opens up. 

Speaking of the next opportunity, we collaborate closely with many of these organizations and we typically work with them to spread the word when new calls for proposals go out. Subscribe to this blog and/or follow us on Twitter to make sure you don’t miss any funding news!

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