Status of the Sigma2 Contribution Model

We get many questions about invoicing due to the local implementation of payments at the BOTT universities.  We know it has not been easy to handle the changes locally at the faculties and departments, and we would like to contribute to shedding light and explaining the background and the current status.

Background

Sigma2 has responsibility for the national e-infrastructure for High-Performance Computing and large-scale data storage in Norway. We cooperate closely with the BOTT Universities (NTNU, UiB, UiO and UiT) to provide our services. A national e-infrastructure offers means that researchers in Norway get access to more powerful computers and better services. The BOTT collaboration is an important condition to ensure that service development and further investments in e-infrastructure are carried out in line with the researchers’ needs.

In 2018, Sigma2 introduced the Contribution Model to meet a requirement from the Research Council of Norway (RCN) to have the same principle for the national e-infrastructure as other research infrastructures (“leiestedsmodellen”). The boundary conditions for which projects should contribute were set relatively high, meaning that only HPC projects with funding above 15 MNOK from the RCN or storage projects above 10 TB were required to contribute.

In 2021, Sigma2 signed a new collaboration agreement with our partners, the BOTT universities. This new agreement required all projects, except EU-funded projects, to contribute according to the Contribution Model. In the new collaboration agreement, the BOTT universities increased their base funding of Sigma2 from 50 to 100 MNOK. This was in line with a strong statement from the BOTT rectors regarding the e-infrastructure and the recommendations in the e-infra2030 report to reduce the impact of the national e-infrastructure on the INFRASTRUCTURE calls/program from the RCN. This 100 MNOK cost was distributed amongst the universities according to a distribution key decided by BOTT.  

BOTT initiated a re-negotiation of the agreement between BOTT, RCN and Sigma2 in 2021, and it was decided that the BOTT institutions should manage the payments from their projects separately and that this should be seen as part of and included in the base funding of NOK 100 million. As a result of the negotiations, Sigma2 will only manage the contributions from projects belonging to organisations outside of BOTT. The BOTT universities have implemented the payments from projects using the e-infrastructure in different ways internally.

Current Status 

Sigma2 is unfamiliar with details of how the payments are managed locally at each BOTT university. We know that most BOTT universities cover part of the 100 MNOK share of the base funding by central funding. However, we have only recently learned that the rest is distributed to the faculties/departments/projects using the Sigma2 e-infrastructure, without considering actual usage and the prices Sigma2 has set for the services. This means that some BOTT projects now experience a very high cost using the e-infrastructure, much higher than if they were invoiced according to the Contribution model. 

 
We fully understand that this is experienced as unfortunate for our users at the BOTT universities, and we will do our best to try to find a better solution. The next step is that BOTT, RCN and Sigma2 will work on these problems together during the first months of 2023 and try to find a different approach.