the code, but in other fields, like computational chemistry, one needs to dig deeply into the code and model in order to work on its optimization.

Based on these observations, the committee reached the following conclusion:

Conclusion 7. To capitalize on HECC’s promise for overcoming the major challenges in many fields, there is a need for students in those fields, graduate and undergraduate, who can contribute to HECC-enabled research and for more researchers with strong skills in HECC.

The career path for people who invest time in developing high-end computing capabilities, which by themselves might not constitute publishable research, is problematic, especially in academia. What is needed is a career path that encompasses both a service role (HECC consulting within their field and to computer scientists) plus opportunities to conduct their own research.


The findings and conclusions in this chapter might apply to other fields of science and engineering, but the committee did not explore that question. The study that led to this report was, in part, an experiment to determine whether particular fields of science and engineering could follow a methodology known as “gaps analysis” to determine the potential impact of—and hence their implied need for—advanced computing. In the committee’s view, the experiment was a success. Even though the four fields selected for this study are very disparate, the committee was able to develop credible snapshots of the major challenges from each of those fields and then determine which of them are critically dependent on HECC. Any other field that wishes to perform a similar self-assessment should take the following lessons to heart:

  • It is necessary to build on existing statements about a field’s current frontiers or major challenges. Developing a consensus picture of the frontier, and of the major challenges that define promising directions for extending that frontier, is a major task by itself.

  • It is important to determine which major challenges for the field are critically dependent on HECC. It is easy to spot opportunities for applying HECC to advantage, but that is not the same as identifying the major challenges where progress will be limited if appropriate HECC cannot be brought to bear.

  • Compelling justification for a particular proposed HECC investment would require a level of analysis not included in this report. For each of the major challenges targeted by the investment, it would be appropriate to identify the various research directions that are germane to progress and their associated infrastructure requirements. From them, one could develop an investment strategy that maximizes the potential for scientific progress.

All the infrastructure components needed to apply HECC to the challenges that depend on it must be identified, and the community must develop a clear understanding of the resources needed to build a complete infrastructure. Merely giving a field access to supercomputers is no guarantee that the field’s scientific progress will be enabled or accelerated.

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