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Types of Allocations and Application Submission Guidelines

Access to Quest resources that are underwritten by the University is governed by an allocation process. Researchers must apply for an account on Quest. Each account is associated with a specific allocation of computational resources and storage.  These allocated resources are available to the researcher for a fixed period of time.

The 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, use the Application Forms.

Application Guidelines

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

Upon approval, the CI 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 for coursework that requires access to high performance computing capabilities or the Quest Analytics Nodes. Workshop and classroom allocations are reviewed and approved by Northwestern IT.  The class or workshop instructor 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 compute hours, amount of storage, and approval process.  A compute hour is one hour of wall clock time on a single processor. 35,000 compute hours corresponds approximately to four processors running 24 hours a day for a year, or to one node with 20 processors running 24 hours a day for over two months.  Both types of research allocation are valid for one year and allow researchers to access the Quest Analytics Nodes in addition to the job scheduling system.

Research Allocation I


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 provides 35,000 compute hours, a 500GB project directory, and an 80GB home directory. Researchers only interested in using the Quest Analytics Nodes should apply for this allocation.  Applications for this allocation are approved by Northwestern IT on a rolling basis throughout the year. After a researcher completes the request form and attaches a statement of purpose of up to one paragraph long, the account is reviewed by Northwestern IT and will be created within 10 business days. Research I Allocations will be valid for a period of one year from creation and are renewable annually with an updated statement of purpose and a list of supporting publications.

Additional Compute Hours

Under a Research Allocation I, researchers may apply for up to 35,000 additional compute hours twice. Requests for additional compute hours must include an updated statement of purpose along with a listing of any publications (submitted and accepted) for the project. Extensions are reviewed and approved by Northwestern IT. 

Researchers requesting additional compute hours may be required to apply for a Research Allocation II in future years. Researchers needing more than 35,000 additional compute hours should apply for a Research Allocation II.

Additional Storage

Researchers with a Research Allocation I who need more than 500GB of storage have two options. Option 1 is to apply for a Research Allocation II and request up to 2TB of storage total. These applications are reviewed quarterly. Option 2 is to purchase additional storage by the terabyte.


Researchers may renew their Research Allocation I yearly by submitting the 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


The Research Allocation II is designed to support larger research projects requiring either more compute hours or more storage than is allowed under Research Allocation I. Research Allocation II applications are reviewed and approved quarterly through a committee review process. Researchers may request up to 500,000 compute hours and up to 2TB of project storage and will also receive 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 be rolled over to a Research Allocation II if their application is granted. Researchers must fill out a request form as well as provide a two-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.


Once the allocation period expires or the allocated compute hours or storage are exhausted, researchers may apply for an extension of their allocation. Up to two extensions may be requested per year before a new proposal must be submitted. You may request two time extensions OR two compute hour extensions OR one time and one compute hour extension. Each time extension will be for three months. Each compute hour extension request cannot exceed 125,000 compute hours. Extensions are reviewed and approved by Northwestern IT. Requests for extensions of Research Allocation II accounts must provide the following:

  1. Previous results and progress to date
  2. Publications that have been submitted
  3. Deadlines for upcoming publications
  4. List of additional computational resources required to complete the project 
Quarterly Submission Deadlines

The review process can take up to 60 days.

Additional Storage

Researchers who need more than 2TB of storage space may purchase it by the terabyte.


Researchers may renew their Research Allocation II yearly by submitting the request form and providing an updated research proposal. Renewals will be reviewed by Northwestern IT and submitted to the allocation committee.

Proposal Guidelines

Research Allocation II proposals should contain the following:

  1. A sufficient description of the significance of the project and expected impact in the CI's field of study without overwhelming details to the reviewers
  2. Any previous work that has been conducted by the CI 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. Enough information should be given such that the committee is able to reduce the original request when needed;
  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 available, such as XSEDE or facilities through an external collaboration. Describe efforts, if any, to obtain further support;
  6. If this project has been previously supported by Quest, please summarize results obtained including: student thesis, conference papers, and journal papers (please include electronic copies or 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

Northwestern IT will review all incoming requests for Research II allocations and 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:


Please submit requests via the Application Forms.

Larger Projects and Special Requests

Researchers who need more than 500,000 compute hours should contact Northwestern IT Research Computing Services to discuss options and resources, including use of national computing facilities, such as XSEDE.

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

Last Updated: 2 January 2018

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