The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science announced on September 7th its awards for the next phase of its "Scientific Discovery through Advanced Computing" (SciDAC) program. This is the major DOE program that funds research in computational science and tools, and is by several measures the most significant program in the world focused on high end computing for science.
This new program will spend $60M per year over the next three to five years on "projects aimed at accelerating research in designing new materials, developing future energy sources, studying global climate change, improving environmental cleanup methods and understanding physics from the tiniest particles to the massive explosions of supernovae." These projects will make use of amazing new computational facilities at Argonne, Oak Ridge, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, capable of computational rates of 100s of teraflop/s. The scientific goals of these
projects are truely remarkable in their ambitions and implications: it's well worth browsing the list to see what they are up to. It's also interesting to see where SciDAC researchers are located (see figure).
SciDAC emphasizes numerical simulation and supercomputers, but there is clearly also a growing recognition of the importance of linking both supercomputers and experimental facilities with the communities of scientists that must ultimately make sense of the petabytes of data produced by simulations and experiments. Thus, SciDAC-2 includes three projects focused on distributed data:
- The Center for Enabling Distributed Petascale Science (CEDS), that will develop the tools needed to distribute and analyze large quantities of data.
- The Earth System Grid, focused on enabling access to, and analysis of, data from climate simulation models.
- The Open Science Grid project, funded jointly by DOE and NSF, aimed at linking computational resources across the U.S. for data analysis.
It's sobering to see that DOE funded only 30 out of 240 proposals. Given the exceptional quality of the people and ideas in many of the 210 proposals that were not funded, one is left keenly aware of the tremendous potential that remains untapped. Let's hope those ideas can be supported by other programs.