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Cloud Computing FAQs for See Through Carbon Competition Applicants

cloud computing for See Through Carbon Competition Applicants AI ML Carbon drawdown effective climate action

Our handy guide to help you maximise your chances of being shortlisted for, and winning, all or part of our prize of US$500,000 worth of cloud computing.

This article is designed to help applicants to the See Through Carbon Competition understand whether their particular projects might be suitable for the cloud computing resource offered by the Competition, and to maximise their chances of success.

We recommend any applicants completely unfamiliar with cloud computing also read these FAQs for Cloud Computing Novices.

How will you assess my application?

Initially, your application will be assessed by a team of shortlisters, who will check whether your project meets the Competition’s basic requirements:

  • the viability of the research project
  • whether it serves the See Through News Goal, with particular reference to the Global South

If your application meets these requirements, it stands an excellent chance of being shortlisted, and sent to the Expert Panel for detailed assessment.

What does the Expert Panel do?

See Through News has assembled a panel of specialist experts in three categories, each of whom rates each shortlisted application from their perspective. If possible, we’ll have multiple Experts in each category.

What are the different categories on the Expert panel?

  • The Subject Expert(s) will assess your application on its chances of producing meaningful results.
  • The Political Expert(s) will asses your application on the likelihood any research might be quickly implemented in practice and how quickly it could start measurably reducing how much carbon.
  • The Technical Expert(s) will assess whether your project actually requires cloud computing and if so, how much of the US$500,000 should be allocated.

Between them, these Experts will assess each shortlisted application.

How soon will I know if my Application will be shortlisted?

As this Pilot has been put together so quickly (this article explains why) we’re not in a position to guarantee how quickly we can respond -everyone involved is volunteering, has limited time, and we have no idea how many applications to expect.

Still, we aim to let you know within a few days whether your Application has been shortlisted or not. If our Expert panel has any questions, we will email shortlisted applicants within a few days.

How soon will I know if my shortlisted application has won the prize?

As soon as all the Expert Panel’s follow-up questions have been answered to their satisfaction. April 2023 is a hard deadline to complete all the computing, and preparing data may take some time, so we want to start awarding prizes as soon as possible.

What if the US$500K of compute is all used up by the time my application arrives?

This pilot Competition is first come, first served. Because of the April ‘2023 deadline, we’re awarding the prize on a rolling basis, until it’s all used up. This is why it’s important for you to submit your applications as soon as you can.

What if my data might not be ready in time?

We’d encourage you to apply anyway. If your project is approved, but your data can’t be ready in time to complete the compute by the April deadline, it may qualify for future See Through Carbon Competitions.

Will this Competition become permanent?

Everyone involved, including the donor, wants this Competition to become permanent, and bigger. Whether it becomes permanent depends on the response to this Pilot. This Competition, especially the way we’re prioritising the Global South’s access to this advanced technology, is unique, original, and done at very short notice. No one knows if it will work. The best way to ensure the Competition becomes permanent is to apply, prove there’s a demand, and demonstrate suitable projects exist.

Will I get any feedback on my application if it doesn’t win some or all of the Prize?

Absolutely. In the interests of transparency, we’ll also publish all the shortlisted applications, together with the Expert’s questions, feedback and assessments.

Who is on the Expert Panel?

A core panel is already in place, and already assessing our first applications. We’re still adding Subject Experts to cover as wide an area of sustainability fields as possible (energy, transport, food, construction, biodiversity, forestry, etc.) and will shortly be publishing the panel’s details on this website. In the meantime, we have at least one Expert in each Category to start assessing shortlisted applications, so don’t delay in applying.

What’s the difference between ‘cloud computing’ and using the most powerful computer I can access?

Cloud computing is an extension of whatever computing resource you have. You may well, for example, currently have access to servers and a laptop/PC. Such computers may meet all your compute requirement while you develop your code, but when you want to use that code for analysing a very high volume of data, and/or get results in a practical time frame, you might benefit from ‘bursting’ the task onto the cloud.

What questions should I ask myself in order to determine whether I need cloud computing?

For the See Through Carbon Competition the two most critical questions are likely to be:

  • ‘Do I have a very high volume of data I want to analyse?’
  • ‘Do I have a very complex task which would normally run for a very long time before giving me an answer?’

If either answer is ‘yes’, ‘bursting’ the task onto the cloud is likely to be highly effective. 

Should I still apply even if I’m not 100% sure about the answers to these questions?

Yes. We don’t expect researchers who’ve never used cloud computing to know all the technical answers, so while we’d like you to understand as much as possible, via FAQs such as these, we’re also urging you to submit your applications as soon as possible, to give it the best chance of winning the prize.

Can you provide support to answer technical questions about my project’s suitability for cloud computing?

If your project is promising enough to be shortlisted, yes. Our Technical Experts feedback will cover any critical issues of your project’s suitability for this prize.

How should I answer the question about how much cloud computing my project requires? What metrics should I use?

We understand this is a hard question for any cloud computing novice, which is why it’s so unspecific. As our Cloud Computing for Novices FAQ article explains, the ‘correct’ answer can be very complex, even for an experienced cloud computing user. If you don’t know, don’t worry, or use the email address to ask for guidance.  We can help as long as your project is a good fit overall.  For example, in 2022 the donor helped a team from an Ivy League university with no cloud computing experience to complete a computing task they thought might take up to two years. After a couple of hours set up, they completed the task overnight.

How can I tell how long my project might take to adapt for cloud computing?

This is straightforward.

  • Do you have enough data you want to process, in the right quality and correct format you, as a team, want for your project? 
  • Is the software you need in order to do your analysis ready? 

If the answer to both is ‘yes’, the donor can assess with you what last things need to be done.  If the answer to either question is ‘no’ or you cannot answer, that’s the question to focus on. But don’t let working out the answer prevent you from applying!

Do I have to prepare my data in a special way for cloud computing?

This is unlikely to be a major issue. Usually no change is required.

Does the prize include long-term cloud storage?

No, the prize is for short-term cloud processing only. You data will only be ‘stored’ in the cloud for as long as it’s required to compute. The donor neither keeps any data, nor makes any claim over owning it, or the results of the processing. Think of it as an industrial bakery. You hand over all your ingredients (data) and recipe (calculation parameters), the donor follows your instructions, and returns the cake to you. This will likely only take a few minutes, or an hour or so at the most.

How might access to cloud computing change the scope or focus of my research?

The prize represents a huge amount of computing capacity. Our hope is that it could be transformative for your research and its potential impact. Imagine, for example, you thought it would take two years to discover your results, and now you can see them tomorrow morning, enabling you to make an impact two years faster than you ever imagined.

This prize might also not just produce quicker results, but better results. If you’ve had to select a representative, but tiny fraction of a huge dataset, simply because of the computing capacity available to you, this Competition means you no longer have to make an educated guess about which part of a dataset might be representative. Instead, you can imply analyse all the available data. Applying cloud computing might produce qualitatively different, and more effective, results.

The other article explains ‘multi-cloud’ and ‘cloud native’, but do I need to do anything different to qualify for this award?

We want you to be familiar with how the main different cloud computing words and labels connect. But the donor’s business model is based on removing such complexity from the client. They made this donation in the hope that you can come up with brilliant projects this Competition can accelerate and improve for your benefit, and for all those your research may benefit.

Do you provide 1-to-1 support for questions not covered by these FAQs?

We’re targeting Global South research projects precisely because they usually don’t have access to cloud computing, which is highly-advanced technology even for Global North researchers with better resources. We don’t expect applicants to know about cloud computing, and expect you’ll need our advice and support. 

These FAQs are our short-term attempt to provide some support for the Competition Pilot. 

If and when this Pilot becomes permanent, we intend to expand the mentoring and support provision to include a pool of experienced cloud computing mentors as well as online resources.

For the moment, however, limited resources mean we can only respond individually to shortlisted projects, so to give your application the best chance of success, we recommend reading both FAQs, and checking other online resources.


We hope these FAQs are helpful, but please let us know if you have any further questions before submitting your application. 

As we stress in these FAQs, we don’t expect all applicants to have a deep understanding of cloud computing, nor is it necessary. 

If you would rather deepen your understanding of this new technology, we’ve written this FAQ article on ‘Cloud Computing for Novices’, which includes links to other online guides, like: