Computing Insight UK 2020: A Virtual Success
11 Jan 2021
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- Hal Dodman

 

 

For the first time in its 30 year history, the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC) Computing Insight UK (CIUK) conference has been held as a fully virtual conference.  

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CIUK quote.pngHosted annually in December, CIUK is one of the UK's leading High Performance Computing conference and exhibitions and is run by STFC's Scientific Computing Department. It enables members of the HPC community to discuss some of the latest advances in a research area that is at the frontier of some very exciting science. In 2020, due to the global Coronavirus pandemic, it was impossible to hold a physical 'in-person' conference, so it went ahead online instead.​

CIUK 2020 included an exceptional programme of high quality presentations, selected jointly by a Scientific Advisory Committee and an external Programme Committee. Talks included insights on transparency and reproducibility in HPC from Lorena Barba from George Washington University; work on a web resource for tracking the evolution of the SARS-Cov2 virus over time from STFC's Agnel Praveen Joseph; and an introduction to the National Quantum Computing Centre from Simon Plant and Ash Vadgama.  

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We were especially pleased to welcome keynote speaker Torsten Hoefler, director of the Scalable Parallel Computing Laboratory at ETH Zurich, who presented a very informative session on 'A Data-Centric Approach to Performance Portability'. And the CIUK conference would not be complete without hearing from founding member Martyn Guest, who gave an overview of computational chemistry codes and application performance on a variety of processors. 
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The CIUK Jacky Pallas Memorial Award was presented to John Dudley from Cambridge University, for his research on 'Probabilistic User Interface Design Strategies for Next-Generation Augmented Reality Applications'.  Part of his prize was one of the sought-after speaking slots in the conference's technical programme.



​The CIUK student poster competition was won by Patrick O'Hara from the University of Warwick. His poster presentation focussed on “Project Odysseus", which integrates multiple large-scale, heterogeneous datasets and the development of machine learning models to infer mobility, transportation and footfall activity throughout the city of London.

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Although the need to move to an online platform reduced the scope for impromptu networking sessions, delegates were still able to meet people and establish new contacts in our virtual chat rooms. The move online also opened up some new and exciting opportunities, including an extended programme of events that ran throughout the month of November in the build up to the conference.

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One of the highlights was the introduction of the CIUK Student Cluster Challenge. This was an online competition, with teams from the Universities of Liverpool, Durham, Bristol and York completing a series of ten individual challenges over an eight week period. The teams used various different systems which were provided by supporting companies.

Going into the final challenge during CIUK, less than one point separated Liverpool and Durham at the top of the leader board. In a thrilling finale, Bristol University claimed the win in the last individual challenge, but a second place finish was enough to give Durham University the overall title as CIUK 2020 Cluster Challenge Champions. They will now go forward to represent CIUK in the ISC'21 Cluster Challenge in Germany this summer.

“Overall, the event was a huge success and the feedback received so far has been positive. This was the first virtual conference that many of the committee members had been involved in from the organisation side so it was quite a steep learning curve and we are very happy with the end result" said Damian Jones, CIUK Conference Manager. “One drawback to having an online event was that we couldn't include the very popular exhibition that normally accompanies the conference. We decided against the idea of having a virtual exhibition following advice from the CIUK Exhibitors Committee. So, despite the enormous success of the virtual event, we look forward to returning to a physical event this year!"

CIUK should return to the Manchester Central conference centre on 9-10 December 2021. 

More information: Computing Insight UK

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Contact: Dodman, Hal (STFC,RAL,SC)