STEM-Trek’s Elizabeth Leake received the 2016 HPCwire Editors’ Choice “Workforce Diversity Leadership Award” from Tom Tabor (Tabor Communications), surrounded by OCG@SC16 and ACM SIGHPC-RCE participants & trainers.

URISC@SC17 Training Highlights

An international team of high performance computing (HPC) specialists has planned a cybersecurity training program for HPC professionals who support education and research communities in the United States and sub-Saharan Africa. It will take place in Denver, Colorado, and will be co-located with SC17, the flagship HPC industry conference and technology showcase that attracts more than 10,000 international attendees.

The “Understanding Risk in Shared Cyberecosystems,” or URISC workshop, begins Saturday, November 11 with one full day focused on cybersecurity best practices and threat assessment training, and will conclude Thursday, November 16 with a half-day workshop in the morning. Delegates will also have the opportunity to attend SC17. A total of 12 hours of cybersecurity and related instruction will be offered.

URISC will provide an introduction to open-source materials developed by the Center for Trustworthy Scientific Cyberinfrastructure at Indiana University (CTSC/IU). Attendees will receive coaching in the art of external relations – specifically how to foster administrative and legislative buy-in for a greater cybersecurity investment on college campuses. Training will be customized to help campus tech facilitators serve what has become an increasingly diverse body of campus stakeholders (including researchers, students, faculty, government agencies, “long-tail” user communities, and regional industry partners).

URISC @SC17 Organizing Committee:

Elizabeth Leake (STEM-Trek Nonprofit), URISC Planning Committee Chair and Facilitator;
Von Welch (IU/CTSC), Planning Committee SME, Facilitator and Trainer;
Happy Sithole (Director, CHPC/Cape Town), URISC Planning Committee SME;
Bryan Johnston (Trainer, CHPC/Cape Town), URISC Trainer;
Meshack Ndala (Cybersecurity Lead, CHPC, Cape Town), URISC Trainer, SME.

Presenters and Special Guests (more to follow; watch this page for updates):

Florence Hudson, Senior Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer, Internet2. “IoT security challenges and Risk in Shared Cyberecosystems.”

Thomas Sterling (Indiana University, CREST) will share highlights of a new NSF-funded course titled, “High Performance Computing: Modern Systems and Practices, first edition,” scheduled for release Dec. 2017.

Nick Roy (InCommon). Roy manages the U.S. National Research and Educational SAML Federation, InCommon, which supports global federated identity for researchers.

Application Process & Eligibility

The call for participation closed Sept. 13 (Application checklist).

Thirty-five applications were received and ranked by U.S. and South African reviewers, and 30 percent received a travel award (others are self-funded). Among them are cybersecurity professionals, HPC systems administrators, educators and network engineers who support research at sub-Saharan African and U.S. colleges and universities. All work at least 50 percent of the time in professional support roles where they help students, faculty and staff leverage locally-hosted, or remotely-accessed advanced cyberinfrastructure (CI) for education and open research.

Awards Include

Final awards will reflect the total amount of funds that are raised before September 25. As of August 29, the project will cover expenses for six U.S. and six African delegates, plus four facilitator-trainers, including: round-trip flights, lodging for six nights, some meals, full SC17 registrations for African participants and some ground transportation. Partial awards may be granted (according to rank/subject to review). Final award amounts will be included in letters issued on or before Sept. 25, 2017.

Why This Workshop is Needed

Over the past 50 years, HPC has supported tremendous advances in all areas of science, from biology, physics and astronomy, to chemistry, nanotechnology, and energy exploration. Densely-populated, urban communities can easily support subscription-based commodity networks and energy infrastructure, but that can be challenging for universities that are situated in rural regions – the last mile can be long.  These universities, however, support industrial landscapes that reflect unique, globally-significant environmental factors, geology, minerals, and more. Social conditions in remote regions are of interest to urban data scientists; the phenomenon of urbanization is of growing importance to national defense and homeland security stakeholders who leverage “big data” to predict a variety of outcomes, including where social unrest is likely to occur. Regional-serving universities help fill the HPC workforce pipeline, and the research communities they support make important contributions to environmental health, global food security, fresh water science and world peace.

While all HPC professionals would benefit from attending SC17, few from the communities this project will serve could afford to travel otherwise. Many are generalists who have tech support and teaching obligations, so it’s difficult for them to take time away from work. There are always urgent and competing priorities for limited funds so they’re especially disadvantaged when it comes to scholarly travel. However, time off for URISC is justifiable since delegates will learn cybersecurity best practices from some of the best and most informed professionals in the business (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure); they will engage with a multinational “affinity” network that can provide psycho-social support in the future; and have the opportunity to access a wealth of information at SC17.

Benefits to US/Pan-African Delegates

With increased exposure to resources and communities of interest that foster broad, international collaborations, this training exercise will pave the way for secure collaborations among US and African research communities that will contribute discoveries in climate science, agriculture, fresh water, transportation, research networks, and telecommunications – among others – all of which would benefit African and US interests. By preparing delegates to make HPC more accessible and secure on college campuses, our program will produce results in both computer-focused education, and science education, in general.

Broader Impacts

When the Ranger system was donated by the University of Texas to South Africa/SADC in 2012, it had already helped many thousands of US researchers advance discovery and innovation during its production lifetime. It continues to support science and engineering outcomes as an education and light research platform for students and researchers at eight African universities. Additional training and knowledge transfer has been supported by NSF, STEM-Trek, CHPC and donors through TACC&SC15 and OCG@SC16 US-based training exercises, and training programs on the African continent that are sponsored by the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) and CHPC in South Africa. URISC@SC17 continues the legacy.

STEM-Trek allies with the XSEDE Campus Champion program (with 355 champions from 221 U.S. institutions, including 63 from under-served states and territories), and the SADC HPC Forum which represents 15-nations in the SADC region. The SADC HPC Forum and CHPC teams cross-train with the SKA Readiness effort, which includes representation from Ghana, to reach a geographically-distributed and diverse body of campus technology facilitators on the African continent. By attending STEM-Trek workshops, they will learn skills that will enable them to advocate for a greater CI investment, and ultimately deploy new systems at their university data centers and government-sponsored laboratories.

Financial Support for URISC@SC17

This workshop is supported by a U.S. National Science Foundation grant and STEM-Trek donations from Google, Corelight and the SC17 General Chair Bernd Mohr (Jülich Supercomputing Centre). A limited number of seats are reserved for self-funded participants. To inquire, contact

History of This Workshop Series

This will be the third year that STEM-Trek has been involved with an SC co-located workshop for African stakeholders, and the second year for US campus technology facilitators. In 2015, a workshop was arranged by the Texas Advanced Computing Center at TACC in Austin, Texas co-facilitated by Melyssa Fratkin (TACC) and Elizabeth Leake (STEM-Trek). Last year’s “HPC On Common Ground @SC16” workshop in Salt Lake City featured a food security theme and was led by Elizabeth Leake (STEM-Trek), Dana Brunson (Oklahoma State University), Henry Neeman (University of Oklahoma), Bryan Johnston (South African Centre for High Performance Computing/CHPC) and Israel Tshililo (CHPC).

History of Southern Africa’s Shared Cyberecosystem

The SADC HPC Forum formed in 2013 when the University of Texas donated their decommissioned, NSF-sponsored Ranger system to the South African CHPC. Twenty-five Ranger racks were divided into ten smaller clusters and were installed in universities in the SADC region. It is their goal to develop a shared cyberecosystem for open science.

In 2016, a second system was donated by the University of Cambridge, UK. It was also split into small clusters that were installed in Madagascar and South Africa (North-West University). In 2017, Ghana joined the collaboration and CHPC installed a cluster there that will become part of the shared SADC cyberecosystem. The CHPC continues to lead training efforts in the region, and a dozen or so US and European HPC industry experts volunteer to advise as the shared African CI project continues to gain traction.

Many SADC delegates have trained as a cohort since 2013, and it has been a successful exercise in science diplomacy. Among them are network engineers, sysadmins, educators, computational, and domain scientists. While there are multiple language and other cultural disparities, as they train together with a common goal, the team has coalesced despite these differences. They are creating a procedural framework for human capital development, open science and research computing. The SADC HPC Forum serves to inform policy-makers who will then advocate for greater national investments in CI.

The SKA project – the most ambitious and well-funded technology project ever developed – is being installed in the “radio quiet” Karoo region of South Africa. SKA is contributing computational and data science training (and resources) to SADC HPC Forum participant schools to help prepare the indigenous workforce pipeline needed to support the SKA’s 50-year lifespan. Additionally, they’re investing in peered national research and education networks that will ultimately support a shared CI.