Is Australia ready for our supercomputing future?

November 29, 2023

Heard of exascale computing? It’s the next big thing in high-performance computing and it’s paving the way for scientists to analyse huge amounts of data and simulate complex real-world problems, thanks to computer processing speeds never seen before.

But Australia’s scientists say the nation is at risk of being left behind when it comes to reaping the benefits of high-performance computing without a long-term strategy and more significant strategic investment from government.

Experts at a national roundtable hosted by the Australian Academy of Science this week have called for an international exascale computing facility to be hosted in Australia.

They say a national strategy backed by at least one exascale capability would secure Australia’s sovereign research capability and enable science to meet national and regional priorities into the future.  

Experts at the roundtable discussed Australia’s opportunity to position itself to host a next-generation computing facility that could be shared with regional partners – advancing science for the region and building a skilled workforce in Australia.

The online forum hosted by the Academy brought together 21 multidisciplinary experts from fields including genomics, computational medicine, climate science, artificial intelligence and quantum physics.

The roundtable was chaired by Mr Andrew Stevens, Board Chair of Industry Innovation and Science Australia.

Mr Stevens said the way scientists are using high-performance computing facilities to respond to global challenges is rapidly evolving.

“It is crucial that Australia gets on the front foot to assess the needs of our community in the national priority areas of today and even tomorrow,” Mr Stevens said.

“We need to ensure we have both sovereign computing capability to respond to these needs and understand any impediments that may prevent prospective users from being able to take advantage of high-performance computing capabilities.

“I congratulate the Australian Academy of Science for showing leadership and convening experts to identify current trends and to determine the future computing needs of Australia’s science sector.”

Academy President Professor Chennupati Jagadish said a high-performance computing capability is a critical issue for science in Australia, but also in the Asia-Pacific region more broadly.

“This capability is vital for tackling region-specific issues, including natural disasters, climate change and public health concerns,” Professor Jagadish said.

Read the Academy’s brief: The future computing needs of the Australian science sector

Roundtable participants

Roundtable Chair: Mr Andrew Stevens, Board Chair of Industry Innovation and Science Australia

Professor David Abramson FTSE, Director, University of Queensland Research Computing Centre

Associate Professor Alan Aitken, Associate Professor, School of Earth Sciences, University of Western Australia

Dr Greg Ayers FTSE, Advisory Board Chair, National Computational Infrastructure

Senior Professor Amanda Barnard AM, Computational Science Lead and Deputy Director, Australian National University

Professor Nathan Bindoff, Program Leader, Australian Antarctic Program Partnership (Professor of Physical Oceanography, University of Tasmania)

Professor Lachlan Coin, Laboratory Head, Computational Sciences and Genomics, Doherty Institute

Professor Susan Coppersmith FAA, Head of School of Physics, UNSW Sydney

Dr Rebecca Farrington, Director of Research Data Systems, AuScope

Dr Daniel Grimwood, Discipline Leader Supercomputing Services and Technology, Australian Defence Science and Technology

Associate Professor Junming Ho, Associate Professor, School of Chemistry, UNSW

Professor Andy Hogg, Director, ACCESS-NRI

Associate Professor Parwinder Kaur, Associate Professor (Biotechnology), University of Western Australia and Special Advisor – Science & Technology Plan, Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation

Mr Tennessee Leeuwenburg, Team Leader of Data Science and Emerging Technologies, Bureau of Meteorology 

Professor Naomi McClure Griffiths FAA, ARC Laureate Fellow in Radio Astronomy, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Australian National University

Dr Christina Maher, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, University of Sydney

Professor Grainne Moran, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research Infrastructure), UNSW

Mr Rob Pike, Programmer and author, Formerly Bell Labs Computing Sciences and Google

Professor Andy Pitman AO FAA, Director, ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes

Professor Sean Smith, Director, National Computational Infrastructure

Mr Mark Stickells, Executive Director, Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre

Professor David Thomas, CEO Omico: the Australia Genomic Cancer Medicine Centre

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