More than HPC. The SC20 Planning Committee chose that theme in early 2019 to emphasize that as a community, we are more than just the bits and bytes that we work with to solve the problems facing us today. Little did we know how important that would become. And when it became apparent that, with everyone’s safety as our first concern, we would have to take SC20 online – I chose to change our location not to “virtual,” but to “Everywhere We Are.” That’s because it’s true in any year, and any place.
As I’ve written here before, we were far enough into the submissions and acceptance process for a number of conference activities that we were faced with a difficult decision about how far to take SC20, regardless of where or how it was held: either reduce acceptances for major components of the conference…or go big, and put on the conference with its customary breadth and depth.
We chose the latter and were the better for it. As a committee, 742 of us worked harder than ever planning for various scenarios, stretching ourselves to the limits of our agility while we learned more about our virtual platform’s capabilities even just a few days out from the event as the platform itself evolved in response to lessons learned from earlier virtual conferences. We were able to loosen pre-recording requirements for our tutorials and workshops which allowed them to be much more interactive than we had initially thought possible. We facilitated live Q&A sessions for most of our events, delivered an abundant Technical Program – 30 Tutorials, 40 Workshops, 95 Papers, 16 Birds of a Feather sessions, 106 Posters, an additional COVID-focused Gordon Bell component, 12 Invited Talks, 10 Panels, 18 State of the Practice Talks , a vibrant Early Career program, and even an Awards Ceremony – and had a full complement of Exhibitor Forum sessions and 285 interactive Exhibits to encourage the kind of discussions we knew many exhibitors and attendees would long for.
Our SCinet team put on an engaging SCinet program despite there being no buildout of the world’s fastest temporary network. It’s a great look at the people behind SCinet, and the future of it as well.
With the Students@SC program, we kept students involved as volunteers, content creators, cluster challenge competitors from a record 19 teams, and as a key component of what makes SC the well-rounded conference it is, thanks to our extraordinarily enthusiastic Students@SC committee.
And we’re able to keep this vast trove of technical, exhibits, Students@SC, and SCinet content online for the next six months – over 600 hours of content created by you, for each other.
Speaking of you – over 7,440 of you attended SC20 from over 115 countries.
Inclusivity and Diversity
We had great inclusivity and diversity activities planned for Atlanta, which would have been a new city for the SC Conference Series – and one of the most diverse destinations yet for the conference, home to a significant number of local historically black colleges and universities. Those plans were curtailed in March but we were still able to grant 41 inclusivity registration scholarships to students, faculty, and staff from minority serving institutions in the United States, Turkey, and Indonesia. Twenty-five of those recipients were new to SC.
Our new HPC in the City hackathon featured 43 student participants and 21 mentors who used HPC resources and methodologies to analyze a wide range of important Atlanta-specific topics, including K-12 broadband access in underserved areas in Atlanta, human trafficking, voter fraud, and COVID-19 impact on the economy of Fulton County, GA.
And Computing4Change returned, sponsored by ACM SIGHPC – allowing 19 undergraduates the chance to use XSEDE resources Jetstream and Stampede2 to work on student-chosen problems including the environment, overall health, violence, and COVID-19 disease spread, mobility, and its impacts upon healthcare.
Keynote and Plenary: Climate Science and Pandemic Response
Climate science was an important, early choice for our keynote topic before the COVID-19 situation heightened, and our Keynote Chair and I felt it was important to keep that focus as the world turned its attention to all things pandemic. Dr. Bjorn Stevens hit exactly the right note – lighthearted, while setting the climate issues we are racing to solve in sharp relief. It’s definitely worth a view or three.
Our More Than HPC Plenary Chairs put together a brilliant panel of experts to discuss how we are using HPC to fight COVID-19 today, and how we might combine it with data science and data collection in the future in such a way that we’re prepared to instantly take action for the next calamity.
A Community, and a Conference, Endures
Delivering SC20 was an incredible challenge for all of us; volunteers, authors, exhibitors, participants, and organizers alike, in a year that devastated us like no other. There will never be enough words to express the appreciation I have for all of you, and for our sponsoring societies, IEEE-CS and ACM, for their continued support.
I hope you’ll take the time to look back upon what we accomplished as a community and realize that congratulations are in order for all of us – to everyone who donated hours, days, weeks, and months of time and effort to prove that anywhere we are, and everywhere we are, we are more than HPC.
In deepest gratitude,
Christine E. Cuicchi
SC20 General Chair