PASC18 Conference Grows in Attendance and Scope

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Over at CSCS, Simone Ulmer writes that more than 400 scientists from all over the world met in Basel in early July for PASC18. With more than 200 talks centered around the conference theme of “Fast and Big Data, Fast and Big Computation” 400 attendees enjoyed the exchange of knowledge in the area of Scientific Computing and Computational Science.

The primary theme during the podium seminars, keynotes and discussions was the need for improved algorithms, open access to data and the reproducibility of data in High Performance Computing (HPC). Throughout the conference, scientists exchanged ideas about these challenges in the fields of Climate and Weather, Solid Earth Dynamics, Life Sciences, Chemistry and Materials, Physics, Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, Engineering and Emerging Application Domains among others. Once again, the shared worry among attendees was the difficulty to capture the interest of the up-coming generation: since more people with computer science skills are needed, and code development does not hold a high scientific status, it is necessary to make the topic interesting for budding young scientists.

Alice-Agnes Gabriel

The PASC18 Conference began with a welcoming ceremony from the local hosts of the city of Basel and the conference co-chairs, followed by a keynote by Alice-Agnes Gabriel from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

Gabriel researches the dynamic of earthquakes. In her public keynote, she explained that the dissipation of seismic waves, which are generated through earthquakes, can be simulated very well today and used for displaying Earth’s “tomography”. Because what happens at the origin site of the earthquake is still unknown, Gabriel’s team of scientists use simulations to research the mechanisms that cause the Earth’s crust to break. The researchers are trying, through tight collaborations with computational scientists, to shine a light on the processes that happen during an earthquake.

David Bader from Georgia Tech

Another keynote, which was also a public lecture, was given by the graph expert David Bader of the Georgia Institute of Technology, USA. In mathematics, graphs are diagrams that show how a quantity of specific objects, as well as the connection between them, looks. According to the conference chairs — and probably also to the listeners — the bottom line of Baders’ Lecture is, “We are all part of a graph somewhere.”

The keynote speaker from the field of Weather and Climate simulations, Nils P. Wedi from ECMWF, laid out the necessity for a high-resolution simulation of the entire Earth system — the linking between oceans, sea ice, land and atmosphere. This is needed, for instance, to warn people more precisely about hurricanes and heavy storms.

Marina Becoulet, from the Institute of Researching Magnetic Fusion at the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA/IRFM), is an expert in the simulations of magnetic confinement fusion. She presented in her keynote not only the challenge in creating these simulations, from the particle description and the kinetic description to the fluid description, but also the valuable findings these simulations provide. This research serves as support for global energy production projects, including fusion reactors like ITER.

Interdisciplinary Dialogue

Aside from the first podium discussions around “Big Data vs. Fast Computation – Is HPC Facing a Game Change,” PASC18 was the first conference in the series to host an official interdisciplinary dialogue: ETH-Professor Petros Koumoutsakos interviewed the physicist Constantia Alexandrou, Professor at the University of Cyprus and The Cyprus Institute and expert in the field of quantum chromodynamics, about her research —all in the spirit of the interdisciplinary exchange for which PASC stands.

As always, CSCS director Thomas Schulthess informed the Centre’s users of its future plans and strategies. CSCS will have a successor to “Piz Daint” in 2020. According to Schulthess, the architecture is still being discussed, though, most likely, it’s going to be graphic processors again. Maria-Grazia Giuffreda, Associate Director and Head of User Engagement Support, also spoke about the usage of “Piz Daint” by the various disciplines, the process of application for computing time, and the necessity of high quality applications since the demand is 2 to 3 times higher than there is computing time available.

PASC19, all around the theme of “Exascale and Beyond”, will take place from June 12–14 at ETH Zürich. Co-chairs are going to be Haohuan Fu, Tsinghua University/National Supercomputing Centre in Wuxi, China, and Simon Scheidegger, University of Zurich, Switzerland.

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