High-performance computing | Research data management | Data-intensive research | REDCap | iThenticate | Digital Library Services | ZivaHub | UCT DMP | Data visualisation | FAQs

High-performance computing

UCT offers a centralised High Performance Computing (HPC) resource in order to provide a reliable, scalable and economic computing facility to UCT’s researchers. UCT HPC is an affordable and environmentally friendly means of granting researchers access to computing resources.

The HPC clusters are housed in the ICTS data centres in order to make use of existing support infrastructures such as UPS, generators, cooling, fire suppression and secure access. This ensures that UCT’s investment in HPC is well spent and that the cluster can continue to grow according to researchers’ needs. Permanent staff members have also been given extensive training in supporting the HPC infrastructure and researchers’ computing requirements. This training and time is seen as an investment by the university in providing long term HPC support.

Researchers that make use of the HPC resources are bound by the Acceptable Use Policy and are required toreference the HPC resource in their citations. There is currently no service level agreement for HPC resources and user support is on a best effort basis. Should a department or research group need to use specific infrastructure on the HPC cluster that does not fall within the generic offering then they need to include it in their budget and engage with ICTS regarding the provisioning thereof.

Research data management

Working with data can be challenging. Research data management (RDM) is the the active curation of data throughout the research life-cycle. It includes various methods of organising and documenting data processes (collection, description, curation, archiving and publication) within a research project, ideally towards making it FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and accessible).

Today, actively managing data has become a very necessary part of research, and it is something that needs to occur within every research event, in every department. 

Even if a researcher cannot make their research data completely open, practising good research data management helps make the research more efficient, searchable and findable. Professional data management practices can make research more coherent and shareable, which translates to research being relevant and valuable. By understanding RDM and using available RDM tools, researchers at UCT can achieve far more efficiency with their data, and thus ensure that their research is far-reaching and impactful.

Data-intensive research

As complex and large amounts of data become a pervasive aspect of our world, the increasing need for data intensive research (DIR) has propelled scientists to re-think the ways in which their research is carried out. Advances in digital hardware and software technologies continue to accelerate, and researchers nowadays have to grapple with unprecedented amounts of data. This has renewed interest in the field of applied Artificial Intelligence, whereby algorithms can to some extent be trained to mimic human behaviour and intuition in tackling sophisticated tasks.


Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy (IDIA) is a partnership of South African universities and industry created to respond to the emerging challenge of the new era of big data in astronomy. Together, the partner universities established a computational facility that is data-centric and based on cloud technology. This is called the ilifu Facility.

The ilifu facility is designed specifically for data-intensive computation in astronomy with a focus on the large science programmes of the South African MeerKAT radio telescope, which is a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array.

Launched in 2015, IDIA is a partnership of the University of Cape Town, the University of Pretoria and the University of the Western Cape.

Get access

The ilifu Facility is dedicated to storing, processing and analysing astronomy data arising from the SKA precursor, MeerKAT, and other SKA pathfinder projects. The facility prioritises MeerKAT projects that are led by or include significant participation by researchers from South Africa belonging to one of the IDIA partner institutions. 

MeerKAT Large Projects with participation from IDIA currently include LADUMA, MIGHTEE, MONGHOOSE, Fornax, ThunderKAT and the related MeerLICHT project. It is open for use by large survey projects from South Africa outside of IDIA and to international collaborators, subject to agreement and provision of resources.

Visit the IDIA website to find out more.


Amongst the sciences with the greatest challenges are astronomy and bioinformatics. In astronomy, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) drives one of the most significant big-data challenges of the coming decade. Biomedical and other biological research is rapidly adopting high-throughput technologies, driving a growing demand in bioinformatics for expertise and facilities for big data management, storage and analysis.

New modalities and technologies are required to empower research and discovery in this data-intensive era. Research organisations and national communities that do not rise to this challenge will be marginalised.

During 2016, UCT led a consortium of institutions in the Western Cape to put in a bid to the National Integrated Cyberinfrastructure System (NICIS), supported by the Department of Science and Technology. The goal of this bid was to build a data-intensive research facility in the Western Cape that would cater explicitly to the needs of researchers working in astronomy and bioinformatics – two areas in which universities in the Western Cape have a strong international presence. The bid was successful; and today, this project is known as ‘Ilifu’ (‘cloud’, in isiXhosa).

What is Ilifu?

Ilifu is addressing the need for support for data-intensive research in South Africa. It is intended to be a research tool to enable South African researchers at the partner organisations to be world leaders in the strategic science domains of astronomy and bioinformatics.

Ilifu is a consortium of Western Cape institutions that together will establish and operate a data-centric, high-performance computing facility for data-intensive research. The partner institutions are the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Stellenbosch University, Sol Plaatje University, South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO, formerly SKA South Africa), UCT (lead institute) and the University of the Western Cape.

You can learn more and gain access via Ilifu's website


REDcap logo

UCT is a partner in the REDCap Consortium, and UCT researchers can benefit from the broad range of data collection functionality that REDCap offers. At its most simple, REDCap is a web-based interface that empowers researchers to take control of their data collection work. REDCap is a neutral data collection platform, able to capture any type of data, for any purpose.

You can access REDcap with your valid UCT login details at REDcap.uct.ac.za. You can also aget more information about the platform and request assitence at the same link.


iThenticate logo

iThenticate provides plagiarism detection and prevention technology. It is widely used by scholarly publishers and research institutions to ensure the originality of written work before publication. This is an online web-based system that can be used by researchers at UCT. Access it via iThenticate.com.

Digital Library Services

The UCT Digital Library Services team offer a wealth of experience and expertise in Digital Scholarship and Research Data Services at UCT. You can read more about their services and training offerings here, or click on any of the below buttons to redirect you appropriately.

We briefly expound seperately on UCT DMP and ZivaHub in sections below as well. 



ZivaHub is UCT’s institutional data repository. It is an online, institutional data repository that serves as a publishing and access platform to research data and scholarly outputs. It is powered by Figshare for Institutions and is available to all students and staff at UCT. Using ZivaHub also simplifies the process of making data FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and re-usable). Moreover, it has been shown that sharing data increases citations and boosts research metrics.

You can access ZivaHub with your UCT login details at ZivaHub.uct.ac.za.


Increasingly, funding bodies mandate the submission of a Data Management Plan (DMP) to ensure that data can be preserved and shared. By managing your data, you make it easier to understand the details and procedures relating to your data and data collection throughout the life cycle of the project.

UCT DMP logo

UCT DMP has been developed to help you write data management plans. The tool assists you with creating a DMP by providing questions related to your data and the research life cycle and giving for tips to answering them. We make a number of DMP templates available in UCT DMP, to help you with the requirements of specific funders, departments or projects, depending on your discipline.

To begin, sign in using your UCT credentials and hit create plan. From there you can either choose an existing funder template or departmental template for your plan. If no departmental template exists then use the UCT student generic or UCT generic template.

Data visualisation

Data visualisation is the presentation of information in a pictorial or graphical format. Its goal is to convey information clearly and efficiently, and it is one of the steps in data analysis.

Because of the way the human brain processes information, it’s easier to comprehend large amounts of data using pictures or graphs than poring over numbers or tables. In addition to facilitating comprehension, data visualisation can help to identify relationships, patterns or trends, and it can open up access to data and analyses by making them understandable for anyone.

UCT supports infrastructure that the university’s researchers can use to visualise their data.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) is the computer-generated simulation of a 3D image or environment that can be interacted with using special equipment, such as a headset. UCT eResearch offers researchers the use of commercial VR via the Oculus Rift headset, which consists of a head-mounted display with a small screen in front of the eyes.

Get access

To use an Oculus Rift headset for virtual reality purposes, researchers can email UCT eResearch.

Visualisation wall

The visualisation wall, housed in an 80 seater venue at Hlanganani Junction, is made up of 10 monitors driven by a powerful computer that collectively can display 20 million pixels. The software allows multiple researchers to display their data, extracted information, visualisations and animations at the same time on a very large-format screen, and to use their own devices to interact with the displays.

Get access

To reserve the venue housing the visualisation wall at Hlanganani Junction, use your Microsoft Outlook calendar and select Hlanganani Junction from the address book. For support, contact UCT eResearch.

Planetarium and Digital Dome

The Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome is a facility available to researchers from UCT for visualising research data on a 360-degree display. Researchers in fields as diverse as geology, climate and earth science, medical science, town planning, animation and fine art – as well as planetary and solar system science – could benefit from the facility.

Get access

Before using the Iziko Planetarium and Digital Dome, researchers will need training on how to use the software that drives the projector and theatre systems. Professor Tom Jarrett (UCT) and Associate Professor Michelle Cluver (University of the Western Cape) hold workshops and Data to Dome events to exhibit the system and how it can be used by researchers.

You can contact the Inter-University Institute for Data Intensive Astronomy to find out about using the facilities.

Primary access for researchers is every Monday from 8:00 to 17:00. There are also slots available from 15:00 to 17:00 every day.

Frequently asked questions

The eResearch Centre was created in order to provide support and services to researchers in the use of resources including (but not limited to) computing, software, data management and storage, digital scholarship and ensuring access and visibility. In an ever-changing and evolving environment, the eResearch Centre helps to ensure that UCT is ready to respond to changes in the global research landscape. It occupies an important space between research and research-supporting PASS (professional, administrative and support staff) to make sure that services match needs.


The eResearch Centre partners with researchers and research groups to accelerate and transform research, connecting you to the most appropriate services to support the research lifecycle.


The ICTS Helpdesk offers a broad scope of support to UCT staff and students, while the eResearch Centre offers specialised support and services, with a focus on computing, software, research data management, digital scholarship and Open Science.