DiRAC-3 Operations 2019-2022 - Edinburgh

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Sch of Physics and Astronomy


Physicists across the astronomy, nuclear and particle physics communities are focussed
on understanding how the Universe works at a very fundamental level. The distance scales
with which they work vary by 50 orders of magnitude from the smallest distances probed
by experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, deep within the atomic
nucleus, to the largest scale galaxy clusters discovered out in space. The Science challenges,
however, are linked through questions such as: How did the Universe begin and how is it evolving?
and What are the fundamental constituents and fabric of the Universe and how do they interact?

Progress requires new astronomical observations and experimental data but also
new theoretical insights. Theoretical understanding comes increasingly from large-scale
computations that allow us to confront the consequences of our theories very accurately
with the data or allow us to interrogate the data in detail to extract information that has
impact on our theories. These computations test the fastest computers that we have and
push the boundaries of technology in this sector. They also provide an excellent
environment for training students in state-of-the-art techniques for code optimisation and
data mining and visualisation.

The DiRAC2 HPC facility has been operating since 2012, providing computing resources for theoretical research
in all areas of particle physics, astronomy, cosmology and nuclear physics supported by STFC. It is a highly productive
facility, generating 200-250 papers annually in international, peer-reviewed journals. However, the DiRAC facility risks becoming uncompetitive as it has remained static in terms of overall capability since 2012. The DiRAC-2.5x investment in 2017/18 mitigated the risk of hardware failures, by replacing our oldest hardware components. However, as the factor 5 oversubscription of the most recent RAC call demonstrated, the science programme in 2019/20 and beyond requires a significant uplift in DiRAC's compute capability. The main purpose of the requested funding for the DiRAC3 project is to support the running costs across all DiRAC services to enable the facility to remain competitive during 2019/20 in anticipation of future funding for DiRAC-3.

DiRAC3 builds on the success of the DiRAC HPC facility and will provide the resources needed to support cutting-edge research during 2019 and beyond in all areas of science supported by STFC. While the funding is required to remain competitive, the science programme will continue to be world-leading. Examples of the projects which will benefit from this investment include:

(i) lattice quantum chromodynamics (QCD) calculations of the properties of fundamental particles from first principles;
(ii) improving the potential of experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider for discovery of new physics by increasing the accuracy of theoretical predictions for rare processes involving the fundamental constituents of matter known as quarks;
(iii) simulations of the merger of pairs of black holes which generate gravitational waves such as those recently discovered by the LIGO consortium;
(iv) the most realistic simulations to date of the formation and evolution of galaxies in the Universe;
(v) the accretion of gas onto supermassive black holes, the most efficient means of extracting energy from matter and the engine which drives galaxy evolution;
(vi) new models of our own Milky Way galaxy calibrated using new data from the European Space Agency's GAIA satellite;
(vii) detailed simulations of the interior of the sun and of planetary interiors;
(viii) the formation of stars in clusters - for the first time it will be possible to follow the formation of massive stars.

Planned Impact

The DiRAC-3 Facility strategy for impact and innovation delivery is well-aligned with the UK government Industrial Strategy. As such, much of our societal and economic impact will continue to be driven by our engagements with industry. Each DiRAC-3 service provider has a local industrial strategy to deliver continued high levels of industrial engagement and to explore avenues to increase innovation and industrial returns over the next three years. Progress towards the industrial strategy goals will be monitored by the Service Management Boards and the DiRAC Technical Manager and reported to STFC via the DiRAC Oversight Committee.
The "Pathways to Impact" document attached to the lead JeS form for this proposal describes the overall DiRAC-3 industrial strategy, including our strategic goals and key performance indicators.
Examples of the expected impact of DiRAC-3 include:
Dissemination of best practice in High Performance Computing software engineering throughout the theoretical Particle Physics, Astronomy and Nuclear physics communities in the UK as well as to industry partners.
Training of the next generation of research scientists to tackle problems effectively on state-of-the- art of High Performance Computing facilities. Such skills are much in demand from high-tech industry and the cadre of highly-skilled, computationally literate individuals nurtured by DiRAC-3 will have influence beyond academia and will help to maintain the UK's scientific and economic leadership.
Development and delivery of co-design projects with industry partners to improve future generations of hardware and software.
Development of new techniques in the area of High Performance Data Analytics which will benefit industry partners and researchers in other fields such as biomedicine, biology, engineering, economics and social science, and the natural environment who can use these developments to improve research outcomes in their areas.
Sharing of best practice on the design and operation of distributed HPC facilities with UK National e-Infrastructure partners and providing leadership towards an integrated UKRI National e-Infrastructure. By supporting the uptake of emerging technologies by the DiRAC research communities, we will enable other research communities, both in academia and industry, to explore the value of using leading-edge technology to support their research workflows.
Engagement with the general public to promote interest in science, and to explain how our ability to solve complex problems using the latest computer technology leads to new scientific capabilities/insights. Engagement of this kind also naturally encourages the uptake of STEM subjects in schools.


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