SC16 Salt Lake City, UT

HPC Outreach: Promoting Supercomputing to the Next Generation

Authors: Dr. Nick Brown (EPCC at the University of Edinburgh)

BP Abstract: The goal of outreach is to promote HPC and our science research to the general public. In order to encourage the next generation of scientists and inform the public why “HPC matters”, we need to carefully design outreach activities to have maximum impact. This BoF hosts an interactive discussion of public engagement activities to learn from each other’s experiences, explore what works well and provide attendees with a starting point for their own outreach. There will also be an opportunity to experiment with existing activities and demos. Issues surrounding encouraging diversity in public engagement and best practice will be explored.

Long Description: Outreach is crucial for engaging the general public in the work we do, enthusing the next generation about HPC, the science that supercomputing facilitates, and ensuring the wider community benefits from the knowledge that HPC provides. Public engagement is also often a prerequisite, or at least highly desired, by funders. The purpose of this BoF is to bring together those who are doing, or would like to do, outreach activities to discuss and coordinate our efforts better. Goals of this BoF are: 1) Sharing success stories to better understand how we the community currently undertake public engagement and new techniques and processes for improving activities. For instance, what changes can people make to ensure longer term impact? How do you design HPC projects so outreach is a first class design criterion? 2) Sharing ideas on how the community can encourage diversity with public engagement. What modifications can be made to ideas or existing activities to ensure that they are inclusive to all? 3) Providing an opportunity for members of the HPC outreach community to meet face-to-face and collaborate. Outreach engagement is crucial to encourage people to consider supercomputing as a future career, there are numerous examples where people have attended an outreach event that has then driven their decision to further explore HPC. However the majority of people in the HPC community have no specific training in public engagement or education. Given the importance of outreach it is essential that the activities have the desired benefit, but with little or no training individuals participating in outreach risk having a negative rather than positive impact. A related issue is that of encouraging diversity. There is currently a growing need for improving diversity in the the field of HPC, both to provide the best quality science and also to ensure that there are enough qualified specialists in a rapidly expanding field. As the largest international HPC conference series, SC has emphasised the importance of diversity and one crucial aspect is encouraging the next generation of HPC developers, irrespective of factors such as gender, ethnicity or race. Exactly how we approach outreach and design our activities to best meet these diversity goals is a challenge, and one that deserves careful thought and discussion by the entire community. A BoF of this sort has not been held before and we are proposing this due to the feedback received for a workshop application, where the reviewers felt that a BoF would better suit the needs of what we desired. The intended outcome of this BoF is that it forms the first step in developing a coordinated international HPC community outreach network. The discussions and ideas from this BoF will be shared with the wider community via a white paper which will detail the challenges of public engagement, how the community currently addresses these problems and suggestions for how one might start doing outreach. This will be made available to the SC website after the BoF and attendees will be able to register to receive this.

Conference Presentation: pdf

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