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General Access Allocation Types and Submission Guidelines

Northwestern provides free access to limited Quest resources through an allocation process. To gain access, researchers apply for an account on Quest. Each researcher's account is then associated with specific allocations of computational resources and storage made available to the researcher for a fixed period of time.

This allocation process does not apply to Full Access users of Quest who have purchased dedicated resources.

The Allocation Submission and Review Guidelines provides information on the types of allocations supported by Quest, application deadlines, proposal guidelines for Research Allocation II, the application review process, and required documentation. To apply, please use the Application Forms.

Application Guidelines

Any Northwestern University researcher or educator may request an allocation on the Quest computational cluster as the allocation manager, for the purpose of research or education. Northwestern graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and staff may be allocation managers. Undergraduate students may use Quest but must be associated with a sponsoring allocation manager, principal investigator or research project.

Upon approval, the allocation manager will be contacted directly. The time frame for review decisions is dependent upon the type of allocation requested.

Researchers should become familiar with the Procedural Guidelines for accessing Quest.

In general, all members of the University community should read and understand the Rights and Responsibilities for the Use of Central Network and Computing Resources at Northwestern University.

Types of Allocations and Application Process

Workshop & Classroom Allocations

The Workshop & Classroom allocation is available as a means to support teaching, short-term training, educational events, and coursework requiring access to high performance computing capabilities or the Quest Analytics Nodes. Workshop and classroom allocations are reviewed and approved by Research Computing and Data Services.  Class or workshop instructors should submit the request at least one week before the class or workshop start date. This allocation type is not for students seeking to use Quest for coursework.  See  Quest Workshop and Classroom Allocations for more details.

Research Allocations

There are two types of research allocations. They differ in the number of acquirable compute hours, amount of storage, and approval process. Note that a compute hour is one hour of wall clock time on a single processor. For reference, 105,000 compute hours = 12 processors running for about one year, and 500,000 compute hours = 57 processors running for about one year.

Note that there is no hard limit on compute hours as long as you have an active allocation. While you will never run out of compute hours on Quest, your wait times for available resources may vary depending upon how many compute hours you use. The fair utilization of compute resources is ensured via a fair share mechanism.

All types of research allocations are valid for one year and allow researchers to access Quest's job scheduling system and the Quest Analytics Nodes.

Research Allocation I

  • Expect to use up to 100,000 compute hours in a year
  • 1 TB of storage
  • Approved on a rolling basis

The Research Allocation I is intended for researchers with small to moderate computational and storage needs. Over half of Northwestern research projects fall into this category. If you are accessing Quest for the first time, start with this allocation to get acquainted with the system.

The Research Allocation I is suitable for projects requiring 100,000 compute hours or less. This allocation provides a 1 TB project directory, and an 80 GB home directory. Researchers only interested in using the Quest Analytics Nodes should apply for this allocation. Applications for this allocation are approved by Research Computing Services on a rolling basis throughout the year. After a researcher completes the request form and attaches a one paragraph statement of purpose summarizing the planned research, the application is reviewed by Research Computing and Data Services and will be processed within 10 business days. Research I Allocations will be valid for a period of one year and are renewable annually.

Additional Storage

Researchers with a Research Allocation I who require more than 1 TB of storage can apply for a Research Allocation II and request 2 TB of total storage, or purchase additional storage.


Researchers may renew their Research Allocation I yearly by submitting the renewal request form and providing an updated statement of purpose and listing of any publications (submitted or accepted) resulting from their use of Quest.

Research Allocation II

  • Expect to use up to 500,000 compute hours in a year
  • 2 TB of storage
  • Quarterly application deadlines: December 1, March 1, June 1, September 1
  • Approved by a review committee

The Research Allocation II is designed to support larger research projects requiring either more compute hours or more storage than is acquirable under Research Allocation I. Research Allocation II applications are reviewed and approved quarterly through a committee review process. Researchers may request this allocation if they will need up to 500,000 compute hours. Researchers will also receive 2 TB of project storage and an 80 GB home directory. Researchers who apply for an allocation between the submission deadlines will be granted a temporary Research Allocation I which will then become a Research Allocation II if their application is approved. Researchers must fill out a request form and provide a three-page research proposal. Research Allocation II accounts will be valid for a period of one year from creation and are renewable annually with an updated research proposal and a list of supporting publications.

Quarterly Submission Deadlines
  • Fall: September 1
  • Winter: December 1
  • Spring: March 1
  • Summer: June 1

The review process for Research Allocation II applications may last up to 60 days.

Additional Storage

Researchers who need more than 2 TB of storage space may purchase additional storage.


Researchers may renew their Research Allocation II yearly by submitting the request form and providing an updated research proposal. See Proposal Guidelines for further details below. Renewals will be reviewed by Research Computing and Data Services and submitted to the allocation committee.

Proposal Guidelines

If you are requesting a Research II Allocation, you will also need to fill out and attach the Research II Allocation Proposal to your application form.

Research Allocation II proposals should contain the following:

  1. A sufficient description of the significance of the project and expected impact in the allocation manager's field of study without overwhelming details to the reviewers;
  2. Any previous work that has been conducted by the allocation manager on other computational systems in pursuit of these computational goals and, if applicable, include links to publications and presentations enabled through previous usage of research computing resources;
  3. A clear description of the computational plans, including computational algorithms to be used and their relation to the research, as well as software that will be used to achieve the computational goals of the project;
  4. Estimation of compute hours, memory, storage needed, etc. with clear and concise justification;
  5. Indicate sources and terms of supportive funding and resources for the project, including off campus computational resources or facilities available through external collaboration. Describe efforts, if any, to obtain further support;
  6. If this project has been previously supported by Quest (i.e., if this is a renewal application), please summarize the progress to date and provide a list including student thesis produced and conference/journal publications (submitted and/or published, please also include DOI);
  7. Provide the desired start date for computational work on Quest;
  8. Explain any support that may be required from Quest support staff in order to accomplish the project.
Review Process

Research Computing and Data Services will review all incoming requests for Research II allocations to provide context and prioritization to the Allocation Committee, which grants final approval. The Allocation Committee is composed of researchers (faculty and postdocs) who are familiar with Quest. The Allocation Committee will evaluate requests based on these primary factors:

  • The significance of the proposed project in the allocation manager's research program
  • The quality and readiness of the described work plans to bring the project to a successful conclusion
  • The applicability of Northwestern IT HPC computational and storage resources to successfully complete the project
  • The availability of funding and external resources, including the term, to understand the context in which Quest resources are needed
  • Additional consideration for priority will be given to junior faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate student fellows


Please submit requests via the Application Forms.

Larger Projects and Special Requests

Researchers whose computational needs are beyond 500,000 compute hours, should schedule a consult with Northwestern IT Research Computing and Data Services to discuss options and resources, including the use of national computing facilities.

Researchers with other computational requirements not described here are invited to contact Northwestern IT Research Computing and Data Services. Resources beyond Quest are available for Northwestern researchers.