HPC-Europa3 – travel, learn, compute and collaborate

Pan-European HPC-Europa3 programme funds international research visits requiring HPC. So far the programme has been a great success with over 200 satisfied visitors and 1000 research groups signed up as hosts.

HPC-Europa3 – travel, learn, compute and collaborate

Pan-European HPCE3 programme funds international research visits requiring HPC. So far the programme has been a great success.

In the first 18 months of the four year time span HPCE3 has supported 204 visits from 48 different countries spanning multiple fields of science (see figure 1). More than half of the visits concern either physics or chemistry – fields with a long tradition using computational methods – but also other fields are well represented including one visit categorized in social sciences.

Figure 1. Applications and accepted visits in different scientific fields in the first 5 calls.

What does HPCE3 offer?

HPCE3 enables international research visits by reimbursing reasonable travel and accommodation costs and a small daily allowance (the exact details depend a little by country). Computational resources and user support are provided from the local supercomputing center.

Scientific supervision is provided by the host research group. HPCE3 also gives additional visibility to the research via social media and the websites of the HPC centers and of course the HPC-Europa3 itself.

The visitors whose visit took place within the last year also get an invitation to an annual meeting (TAM) in one of the HPC sites, where the research can be presented via talks or posters (available in here). In 2018 the TAM meeting took place in Scotland, Edinburgh (see picture 2). In 2019, the TAM meeting has been planned to take place in Spain, Barcelona.

Picture 2. Participants of the Transnational Access Meeting hosted in Edinburgh October 2018.

What do the participants say?

After the visit, both the host and the visitor fill in a short survey. Based on the results 100% (!) of the visitors have been either satisfied or very satisfied overall for the visit, although understandably there have been some more specific aspects of the visits that received criticism (e.g. hard to find accommodation that would be 100% covered with the funding).

All of the visitors would recommend HPCE3 for their colleagues. Here are some examples why:

  • Throughout my visit my experiences and knowledge in my field has been enhanced. The computational resources and experiences of Dr. Jan Åström (CSC) was a great opportunity to find out new results in my field
  • The HPC3 Program provides an excellent opportunity to visit new research environments and collaborate with local researchers
  • Visiting institutions with technical expertise and large computing facilities for free! What's not to love?
  • It is a fantastic opportunity to form new links in your research network and to do initial proof-of-concept studies on new subjects which could be hard to fund in bigger application frameworks. 

Also the hosts have been satisfied with the visits and 80% replied that they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the visit overall. The great majority would host a visitor also again.

All of the hosts wanted to continue with HPCE3, but why? Here are some excerpts:

  • I have a very good experience; the HPC researchers are generally well motivated and competent
  • This is an extremely useful instrument to promote scientific collaboration, career development and mobility in science. The computational support is great. We couldn't have handled any of the analysis we did on such big data
  • There has to be mutual benefits. But I think HPC Europe is a perfect light-weight instrument to foster researcher mobility

Can I participate as well?

Most likely yes! HPCE3 continues until April 2021, and research visit applications can be made at any time on the programme website. The applications are collected four times a year, evaluated by the HPC-center of the target country (technically doable, e.g. resources available), by the host (willing to receive the visitor) and finally by two members of the Scientific User Selection Panel for feasibility, quality of research and suitability for the programme.

Overall, the application process is lightweight for the visitor and for the host, which has been verified also in the feedback. The application is compiled through an online form, with instructions on what to fill in each field.

You can naturally participate as a visitor but in case you don't want to travel, and if you're in one of the nine countries accepting visitors (like Finland) you can invite a researcher to your group.

The programme has not received as many visit applications as it could have supported. Regardless of this, the acceptance rate has been very high, 77%, so it is very likely that also future applications will be accepted.

Also, several visits from one researcher are possible as long as the new application concerns new research. It is also possible for many researchers from one group to apply for visits to the same but also other research groups.

What kind of research qualifies for HPCE3?

Research that requires the use of computational resources – from any field of science – can be supported by the programme. Figure 1 lists the distribution of accepted visits within a rough categorization, but to get more concrete examples, look at the abstracts of actual projects listed in the project directory (pdf).

Visitors can be affiliated to a university, but also to a research institute or a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), but the main results should be publishable, i.e. not to concern proprietary research. The visitors can similarly be hosted by universities, research institutes or SMEs.

There are no strict requirements for particular degrees for a visitor. Figure 3 shows the distribution of the career stage during the first 18 months of the programme. The important part is that the research plan is realistic, i.e. that the visitor has the right competences to carry it out during the visit.

A good application has a clear research plan detailing what kind of simulations or computational work is performed at each stage of the visit. The HPCE3 staff will be glad to help you if you have questions related to filling in the application.

The online application form includes a tickable list of motivations for a visit. These include e.g. production calculations, benchmarking, code porting and development, consultation, data analysis, establishing collaboration – several aspects which are more efficiently carried out when all parties are at the same location. A good application is motivated by a number of these.

Figure 3. Visitor career stage distribution during the first 18 months of HPCE3.

Where to go?

The countries which accept visitors are shown on the map in green. The supercomputing centers that manage the visits, give computational resources and support are shown with the blue background. Already about 1 000 research groups have signed up as hosts and can be browsed on online.

Of course, these are not the only possibilities, but new hosts can sign up at any time. If you want to host a visitor, you can sign up here. Similarly, if the group you'd like to visit is not yet listed, you can ask them to sign up.

Figure 4. Countries accepting visitors shown in green labelled with the computing centers providing the resources and support. Visitors can come from any EU or associated state and a limited quota is also available for visitors from other countries.

Success stories

In the first one and a half years, we've learned from at least two cases where an HPCE3 research visit has resulted in a long term research position at the host institute. Also, there is one case where the research project carried out during the visit resulted in the visitor to be hired by the local company.

There have also been follow-up visits and reciprocal visits, which show that an HPCE3 visit is an efficient tool to set up international collaboration. For example, if you will soon be finishing your master's degree, an HPCE3 visit to an interesting group abroad would be useful to pave way for a PhD position, and similarly of course for a post doc position, respectively. For a detailed success story, take a look at the research carried out at Aalto University which solved a long standing dispute on the mechanism of amorphous carbon growth.

Cover image by Jyrki Hokkanen, CSC.

Do you want to know more?

If you have any questions, e.g. related to the suitability of your research, questions related to a suitable host group or practical arrangements, feel free to contact us at hpc-europa@csc.fi or at staff@hpceuropa.eu.

The next deadline for applications is 21st February 2019, and the visits accepted in this call are suitable to start between April-August 2019. The next call deadline is 14th May and the coming calls are always shown on the HPCE3 page. Apply before it's too late!


 Published originally 24.1.2019.

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