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Open Science Data Cloud (OSDC) Documentation

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Introduction to the OSDC


The Open Science Data Cloud (OSDC) is a distributed, cloud-based infrastructure for managing, analyzing, archiving and sharing scientific data sets.

The OSDC operates two major public compute clouds named Sullivan and Griffin and a few separate storage resources. Sullivan and Griffin are both OpenStack based clouds. Sullivan is older and uses GlusterFS for storage, while Griffin utilizes ephemeral storage in VMs for scratch space and S3 storage for a longer term shared term solution.

Root hosts about 1 PB of public data sets and is accessible from all OSDC resources.


OSDC resources are generally named after prominent Chicago Architects ie: Griffin = Marion Griffin, Sullivan = Louis Sullivan; etc...

The OSDC also operates protected clouds like the Bionimbus Protected Data Cloud to provide platforms for users to compute over large protected human genomic datasets. We generally refer to these as “PDCs”.


OSDC resources that are not specifically labeled as protected clouds are not designed to be used for the analysis or storage of any Protected Health Information (PHI) or other sensitive data.

Each uses either a distributed Gluster File System or object storage and ephemeral storage in VMs where users can store their data and access it from all of their VMs.

OSDC Resource Allocations

The Open Science Data Cloud ecosystem has a very active community of BETA users and demand for OSDC services are growing. To help keep up with the demand for computing resources, we review active resource allocations on a quarterly basis and make sure that allocations are adequately distributed among projects based on scientific merit and/or established partnership status with the OSDC. This is done through a process of surveys to active grantees of OSDC resource allocations.

Resource allocation periods are generally for 3 months at a time and begin on January 1, April 1, July 1, October 1. All incoming applications for resources will be reviewed near one of these terms and are due on the 15th of the month prior (e.g., December 15th for the allocation period starting January 1st). During the survey process, a resource allocation extension can be requested if your research is not yet complete.

A general resource allocation on the OSDC can be requested through the application process. Special protected resources like the Bionimbus-PDC have their own separate application process.


The OSDC console uses federated login. If your organization is on the list of InCommons members, CANARIE members, or is part of a federation that utilizes the EduGAIN service please apply using those credentials. The Bionimbus PDC also uses eRA Commons for secure authentication.

Once you’ve applied, you’ll hear back from us shortly with any additional follow up questions regarding your request for resources. Your request will then be considered by our resource allocation committee during the allocation review period. Due to space limitations, not all requests will be approved.

Once your application is approved and your account is created, you’ll receive an email welcome with instructions for getting started.

Resource allocations will be reviewed periodically to make sure recipients are making progress with their research questions and making appropriate use of their allocations. This will be done via surveys and direct emails.

Recipients of OSDC resource allocations are expected to

  • Make appropriate use of OSDC resources and use good social behavior.
  • Do not share private ssh keys or login information - one user per resource allocation.
  • Cite the OSDC in any papers describing research
  • Regularly respond to quarterly OSDC allocation surveys
  • Submit tickets to the OSDC support ticketing system when encountering technical issues not covered by the OSDC support documentation.

Protected Data Resources

Some protected OSDC resources or Protected Data Clouds (PDC) require special certification or legal agreements to be shared with our allocation team before a researcher gains access. Ensuring that PDC allocation receipients are trained in handling sensitive data is an important step in keeping these resources secure and compliant.


OSDC resources that are not specifically labeled as protected clouds are not designed to be used for the analysis or storage of any Protected Health Information (PHI) or other sensitive data.

PDC - Handling Sensitive Data Training:

PDC resource allocation recipients are required to provide copies of the standard training and organizational approvals that all projects that use protected health information and other sensitive data must have.

The Protected Data Cloud provides a computing environment designed to support research with protected health information and other sensitive data, but the computing environment is only one component of what is required to properly secure protected health information or other sensitive data. Another important requirement is that those using a computing infrastructure like the PDC have proper training and have received from their institution all the required approvals for working in secure environments.

We require the following documentation:

  1. For each project, that the PI of the project send us a copy of the IRB approved protocol for the study using the Protected Data Cloud or a letter showing the study is exempt from needing an IRB Protocol. The IRB Protocol or Exemption should be from the home institution of the PI for the project. For new protocols or renewals of protocols, please refer explicitly to the PDC environment.
  2. For each researcher with a Protected Data Cloud account, a certificate proving that the researcher has completed CITI training appropriate for working in secure environments. For international researchers, we can accept NIH security training as an alternative. A copy of a certificate indicating that you have completed the required training will be requested each year.


We recognize that some institutions do not support CITI training. If CITI training is not available at your institution, we can review and accept other forms of certification indicating proof of training handling PHI on a case by case basis. For interational researchers, we can accept NIH security training as an alternative.

CITI Training:

Please complete the following four modules from the Human Subjects Research - Biomedical Modules available through CITI training.

  • Human Subjects Research – Biomedical (Biomed) Modules
    • Basics of Health Privacy
    • Health Privacy Issues for Researchers
    • Basics of Information Security, Part 1
    • Basics of Information Security, Part 2
  • Suggested Modules
    • Research and HIPAA Privacy Protections
    • Protecting Your Computer

Here are some details (NOTE: users at different institutions, and at different depts within an institution may not see these exact messages):

  • Go to CITI home page

  • If you do not already have a CITI account, go to “Create an account” –> Register and select your Organization Affiliation. Be sure to select your home institution as your “Participating Institution,” select a username/password, and fill out all other necessary information requested in registration.

  • Once this is completed you will be required to complete 4 enrollment questions. This will determine the modules you will need to complete.

  • Please make the following choices:
    • Would you like to take the Conflict of Interest Course? - “Yes”
    • I would like to complete the optional Good Clinical Practices (GCP)
    • Select your Division at your Institution.
    • Researchers involved in protocols need to complete CITI Basic/Refresher - “Need to Enroll for Research Staff”
    • Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research course - “Yes”
  • Once complete, send your certificate to

NIH Training:

For international collaborators unable to complete CITI training that need access to the PDC, we can accept proof of completion of the “Entire NIH Information and Security Awareness Course” offered by the NIH.


You can learn more about the OSDC in general by watching this webconference demonstration on the OSDC and how to use the Sullivan resource.