New working group in HPC skill-building taking shape in New Zealand & Australia

Around the world, The Carpentries is teaching foundational coding and data science skills to researchers. However, a hands-on, beginner-friendly introduction to High Performance Computing (HPC) skills is still hard to come by.

Efforts have been made to address this gap. A subset of the Carpentries community developed HPC Carpentry lessons, which were designed ‘to help new users take advantage of high-performance computing systems’. Following the 2018 CarpentryCon, the budding HPC Carpentry community was energised and ready to develop the content further. However, other commitments at the time proved difficult to overcome for the HPC Carpentry pioneers.

Their material remains teachable but in need of the TLC (tender loving care) that only active instructors, lesson maintainers, and community champions can provide.

Fortunately, a group of Carpentries community members in New Zealand, Australia, the US, and Europe are ready to reinvigorate the HPC Carpentry initiative. 

The topic came up at eResearch NZ 2020 this year, where a group of Carpentries community members from both sides of the Tasman expressed interest in forming a HPC Carpentry working group. They were keen to take the existing, partially complete HPC Carpentry curriculum, polish it up to further develop and edit the material, and trial a workshop in 2020. Megan Guidry, NeSI Research Communities Advisor and the Regional Coordinator for The Carpentries in New Zealand, is helping encourage the effort.

Since those initial discussions in February at eResearch NZ, the working group has found time to meet once and start some brainstorm discussions around approaches to tackling this curriculum challenge. Developing HPC skills often has a particularly steep learning curve since using a shared computing resource is unlike any work done on a personal computer. Additionally, the needs of learners, possessing different domain knowledge and technical skill, can vary widely, making teaching the content tricky for instructors.

But even before HPC Carpentry lessons are ready to teach, the material itself must be carefully crafted and edited by the community. There has been great progress so far, with teachable lessons existing on the HPC Carpentry GitHub page, so what is the next step?

In a discussion Megan had with two of the biggest champions of HPC Carpentry – Peter Steinbach, Helmholtz AI Consultants Team Lead for Matter Research, and Alan O’Cais, E-CAM Software Manager for Juelich Supercomputing Centre – a major item that topped Peter's wishlist for moving forward is to have maintiners who could dedicate time (i.e. two days a week) to pushing the project forward and engaging with those interested in being HPC Carpentry contributors. 

The conversation is ongoing and will hopefully continue at CarpentryCon @ Home, happening online from 14 July - 31 August. With continued community support, Megan says she's confident the working group will be able to deliver HPC Carpentry in the NZ/AU region in 2020.  

Would you like to be part of this process? There's still time to get involved! Email and Megan will connect with you.

NeSI eResearch NZ 2020 Training
NeSI Research Communities Advisor Megan Guidry (at left) at eResearch NZ 2020 in February, participating in a discussion on digital skills training.