Print this page

SKA/AWS Call for Proposals for AstroCompute in the Cloud

The Square Kilometre Array, in conjunction with Amazon Web Services (AWS), is pleased to issue this call for proposals for grants to use AWS for radio astronomy data reduction or tools and techniques development. Read the press release here.

AWS has made a significant tranche of AWS Services credits available each year, for two years for this purpose, and will host up to 1 Petabyte of radio astronomy datasets as a public resource open to grant recipients and the community in general.

SKA will review submissions, allocate resource grants, and monitor progress. AWS will provide technical advice to grant recipients and will make training available. This training may take the form of face-to-face workshops or make use of virtual resources.

Cloud computing is now playing a role in scientific computing in multiple fields. The SKA is interested in the potential of cloud computing for both science analysis of results from the telescope, but also for the entire life cycle of science computing associated with the telescope, including calibration and imaging. Thus SKA is very keen to see people from radio astronomy make use of this AWS opportunity in order to build experience and capability in the radio astronomy community.

SKA and AWS share the following goals for the programme:

  1. Development and optimization of the code that will perform the massive, high-throughput, data analysis that turns the raw data into science data (i.e. portions or significant parts of the pipeline).
  2. Image analysis algorithms – these are the software packages that will periodically scan across the entire dataset looking to algorithmically identify galaxies and other massive structures in the universe to build catalogues of objects and phenomena.
  3. Data mining discoveries – workloads that mine the catalogue data looking for large scale properties of the universe that will lead to new discoveries. We expect to the SKA to deliver numerous innovations in the fields of machine learning, computer vision and data compression.
  4. Data visualization approaches and technologies – the SKA will deliver an unprecedented level of detail for astronomers. Traditional techniques of displaying imagery on a computer screen or printout will no longer suffice. Novel data visualization approaches will need to be developed to put the SKA observations in context.
  5. Data management techniques – the SKA will produce datasets of unprecedented size and handling these data will represent a huge management challenge. We hope that the learning exercise of managing data in the cloud will contribute to practices and skills in this area.
  6. Democratisation of the data – even a single Petabyte is too big to move around the globe easily just so someone can “take a crack at it”. We’d like to encourage sharing of methods, code & data without having to move it around the globe.

This Call for Proposals (CFP) is open to all those associated with or making use of radio astronomical telescopes or radio astronomical data resources. In particular, we are not limiting the call to SKA or SKA precursors and pathfinders.

Most initial grants will be in the region of $10,000 in the first instance, with further grants depending on demonstrated progress. A brief report will be expected for renewal. We will facilitate turn around to ensure that projects are not interrupted. At the end of the project, a more detailed but still concise report is expected.

In addition to processing resources, AWS has made available 1 PB of storage in the US Standard Region. This is specifically targeted at long-lived data resources such as archives or unreduced data for processing and subsequent archiving. Proposers wishing to make use of this resource are particularly welcome.

Responses to this CFP will be judged on adherence to one or more of the goals above and on a number of additional aspects:

  1. Assurance of a concrete outcome, either as a science result, a resource, or a tool for use by others. Examples include a published peer-reviewed paper, a student project, an archive of some data, software with open-source license committed to github or similar and openly available.
  2. Training of students or postdocs
  3. Relevance to SKA science or technology
  4. Well resourced plan
  5. An initial plan for how to make use of AWS resources.

Previous experience in using cloud resources is helpful but not necessary. AWS offers low-cost or free training resources in a number of locations around the world. For information see:

If you have any questions about the CFP, please contact Tim Cornwell ( or Miles Deegan (

If you have any questions regarding AWS capabilities or technical details please contact AWS’s Scientific Computing group by emailing

To facilitate submission of responses, SKA and AWS will host a conference calls via telephone and video on 18 May at 14:00 UTC. Conference call details appear below.



This Call for Proposals is issued 28 Apr 2015. Responses are expected by 1 June 2015. Successful proposers can expect to hear by 1 July 2015.

A response must be no more than 4 pages, and address the issues outlined above.


Conference Call Details 

Meeting number: 807 880 182
Meeting password: astroCompute99

1-650-429-3300 Call-in toll number (US/Canada)
Access code: 807 880 182

Global call-in numbers:


Presentations shown during the conference call

SKA – Tim Cornwell & Miles Deegan – AstroCompute in the Cloud Webinar

AWS – Brendan Bouffler – AstroComputer, AWS101 – using the cloud for Science

AWS – Brendan Bouffler – Building an HPC cluster in 10 minutes


Also in this section