February 06, 2024 - by CSCS

The Swiss Platform for Advanced Scientific Computing (PASC) was launched in 2013 with the goal of strengthening the position of Swiss computational science in the emerging exascale era. PASC is an integral part of the Swiss High-Performance and Networking (HPCN) initiative and complements the supercomputing-hardware focused investments. Thus far, PASC has supported a total of 45 projects in three four-year periods from 2013 to today. PASC projects receive approximately 500’000 CHF to hire personnel and receive additional engineering support from the PASC core team at CSCS.

PASC projects are subject to a review process and are evaluated after three years of the project period for in-depth quality control and for evaluating a possible one-year extension of the application. With the third funding period coming to an end, members of the Scientific Advisory Board held a review to gain an impression of how the researchers had implemented projects that had been running since 2021 and whether they had achieved the research objectives they had set themselves.

This cycle’s on-site review team consisted of world-class researchers representing a variety of scientific domains: Katherine Evans of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Mike Heroux of Sandia National Laboratories, David Keyes of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Minna Palmroth of University of Helsinki, and William Tang of Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.  The 15 projects were presented by scientists from many major research disciplines that benefit from world-class HPC resources: computer science, chemistry, materials science, physics, astronomy, life sciences, earth sciences, climate, and meteorology. Each researcher had 20 minutes to give an overview of what he or she had achieved over the past three years. Afterwards, they were available for questions and answers from the reviewers and their fellow researchers.

Interdisciplinarity is key

To conclude the scientific presentations at USI Sebastian Keller, Senior Research Software Engineer at CSCS, gave a comprehensive overview of the interdisciplinary collaborations in PASC and the activities of the PASC core team at CSCS. The PASC programme emphasises co-design through interdisciplinary collaboration between domain scientists, computational scientists, software developers, computing centres, and hardware developers. In this co-design effort, CSCS supports researchers in software development and implementation. Keller described the roles that each group plays in the process: Principal investigators bring their goals and vision to the project, while the computational scientists translate formulas into algorithms to solve the problems. On the other side of the collaboration, software engineers use their expertise to make these algorithms and codes as efficient as possible, while application scientists analyse and interpret the results.

The presentations prompted Palmroth to ask the audience if they were aware of how lucky researchers in Switzerland are to have such a programme.

The researchers do seem to be aware of the value of PASC, and are looking forward to participate in the next cycle (HPCN period 2025-2028), where a growing investment will ensure that Swiss research will remain world-class when in comes to extreme scale computing and data analytics. While the specifics of the next call for projects will be formulated in the coming months based on the input from the review team, researchers from the last round are already indicating how new allocations will benefit them in pursuing new, more challenging research questions.

Find out more about the latest PASC projects: