Covid Policies at HPC Conferences Should Reflect HPC Research

By Oliver Peckham and Tiffany Trader

June 6, 2022

Supercomputing has been indispensable throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, from modeling the virus and its spread to designing vaccines and therapeutics. But, despite supercomputers’ formative role in our understanding of Covid-19, supercomputing conferences have been aligning their Covid policies more closely with local ordinances than with that hard-won scientific knowledge. That should change.

Covid at HPC conferences

ISC 2022 was an exceptional showing for the conference organizers, supercomputing (exascale, officially!) and the European HPC community. Unfortunately, those successes now have a SARS-CoV-2-shaped asterisk. Over the past several days, several high-profile attendees have taken to Twitter to reveal that they tested positive for Covid-19 at or immediately after ISC 2022. Further, HPCwire can confirm that there were additional Covid infections among ISC 2022 attendees, including (but not limited to) two of HPCwire’s own eight-person contingent. (Both of our team members who tested positive are recovering well and have since tested negative.)

ISC 2022 did not have a vaccination requirement or a mask requirement, with the notable exception of the main keynote hall, which did require masks for entry. The conference did recommend social distancing and masking with FFP2 masks (which the conference made readily available and which are roughly equivalent to a KN95 or N95 mask). However, neither of those recommendations were widely followed among attendees, with the exception of a rigorous few. The ISC 2022 Covid policies aligned with the Covid policies in Hamburg, Germany, where ISC 2022 was held: Hamburg only requires FFP2 masks in a few specific areas (like healthcare facilities and public transport).

If you’re having a sense of déjà vu, you’re not alone. A similar conversation emerged ahead of SC21 in St. Louis, Missouri, the first major supercomputing conference to return to an in-person format in the wake of the Covid vaccines. In August 2021, the SC21 chair said that the conference would not implement a vaccine requirement unless required to do so by the city of St. Louis; after several weeks of community outcry, the conference changed course to require proof of vaccination. The conference also required indoor masking, in line with the mask mandate in St. Louis at the time. HPCwire did hear of one person who contracted Covid at a party during SC21.

The health and safety implications of Covid exposure are far and away the most important, but Covid risks also have implications for the conferences themselves. At least one person was not able to present at ISC 2022 due to their positive test; others missed important meetings due to their positive tests or the need to test in the wake of direct exposure. For those who tested positive at ISC 2022, the financial and logistical burdens of the mandatory quarantine (a minimum of five days) have been severe. Previously, ahead of SC21, many speakers and exhibitors chose to pull out of the conference or go virtual amid concerns over Covid spread at the conference. We believe that positive Covid tests and elevated fears of contracting Covid are almost certainly much more detrimental to these conferences than any inconveniences that might stem from mask or vaccine requirements.

Our community’s challenging responsibility

For the past three years, all of us have had to contend with difficult decisions, and many of us have felt guilt, anxiety and uncertainty as the science and the circumstances rapidly evolved. It bears mentioning that navigating the tension between what is required and what is advisable in terms of Covid policy for a major conference is an extraordinarily unenviable task with little precedent, few constant variables and even fewer broadly accepted (let alone adhered-to) norms. It’s also worth noting that there will likely remain a significant and inherent Covid risk associated with travel in the coming years – a risk over which conference organizers have no control outside of host city selection.

Nevertheless, we believe that supercomputing conferences in particular have a responsibility to exemplify the best scientific understanding of Covid spread in their policies. Much of that understanding, as it pertains to gatherings, stems directly from supercomputing research – particularly research on Riken’s Fugaku supercomputer, which launched a year ahead of schedule specifically to support Covid research and which placed first on four consecutive Top500 lists. The research conducted on Fugaku has consistently elucidated how viral droplets spread in shared spaces and interact with barriers like masks and face shields.

Indeed, in the Twitter conversation surrounding Covid infections at ISC 2022, Satoshi Matsuoka – director of Riken’s Center for Computational Science – cited Fugaku-based research. “According to Fugaku simulations, masks protect well against someone infected not showering droplets&aerosols around them,” Matsuoka tweeted. “[Masking] is effective but less against inhaling aerosols w/viruses. As such they are very effective if everyone wears them.”

In alignment with this and other research, Riken’s 19-person contingent at the conference was triple-vaccinated, fully masked throughout the conference and tested negative via PCR test before and after the conference. Not everyone exhibiting this level of care was so lucky, though: Addison Snell, who tested positive after ISC, was employing similar measures – but, as Matsuoka indicated, there is only so much that an uninfected individual’s mask will protect them if few others are wearing one. For truly effective protection, there needs to be broad adoption of preventative measures.

It is time to exceed the minimum requirements

The next major supercomputing conference will be SC22, held in Dallas, Texas, from November 13-18, 2022. The state of Texas currently has an executive order banning organizations – including private businesses – from mandating vaccines for their customers. However, Time reported that many businesses were ignoring this ban, and it is also unclear whether this ban would affect the NY- and NJ-based organizations behind SC22 if they were, for instance, to require proof of vaccination during registration rather than at the conference center. There is no ban in Texas that prevents private businesses from mandating masks. The SC22 Covid page, for its part, says that the organizers “are committed to following regional jurisdiction guidelines and rules in maintaining a safe environment for our attendees.”

HPCwire hopes that, for the foreseeable future, supercomputing conferences exceed the minimum requirements and commit themselves, instead, to Covid policies guided by the outstanding science made possible by supercomputers.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

Is Time Running Out for Compromise on America COMPETES/USICA Act?

June 22, 2022

You may recall that efforts proposed in 2020 to remake the National Science Foundation (Endless Frontier Act) have since expanded and morphed into two gigantic bills, the America COMPETES Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act in the U.S. Senate. So far, efforts to reconcile the two pieces of legislation have snagged and recent reports... Read more…

Cerebras Systems Thinks Forward on AI Chips as it Claims Performance Win

June 22, 2022

Cerebras Systems makes the largest chip in the world, but is already thinking about its upcoming AI chips as learning models continue to grow at breakneck speed. The company’s latest Wafer Scale Engine chip is indeed the size of a wafer, and is made using TSMC’s 7nm process. The next chip will pack in more cores to handle the fast-growing compute needs of AI, said Andrew Feldman, CEO of Cerebras Systems. Read more…

AMD’s MI300 APUs to Power Exascale El Capitan Supercomputer

June 21, 2022

Additional details of the architecture of the exascale El Capitan supercomputer were disclosed today by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) Terri Quinn in a presentation delivered to the 79th HPC User Forum Read more…

IDC Perspective on Integration of Quantum Computing and HPC

June 20, 2022

The insatiable need to compress time to insights from massive and complex datasets is fueling the demand for quantum computing integration into high performance computing (HPC) environments. Such an integration would allow enterprises to accelerate and optimize current HPC applications and processes by simulating and emulating them on today’s noisy... Read more…

Q&A with Intel’s Jeff McVeigh, an HPCwire Person to Watch in 2022

June 17, 2022

HPCwire presents our interview with Jeff McVeigh, vice president and general manager, Super Compute Group, Intel Corporation, and an HPCwire 2022 Person to Watch. McVeigh shares Intel's plans for the year ahead, his pers Read more…

AWS Solution Channel

Shutterstock 152995403

Bayesian ML Models at Scale with AWS Batch

This post was contributed by Ampersand’s Jeffrey Enos, Senior Machine Learning Engineer, Daniel Gerlanc, Senior Director for Data Science, and Brandon Willard, Data Science Lead. Read more…

Microsoft/NVIDIA Solution Channel

Shutterstock 261863138

Using Cloud-Based, GPU-Accelerated AI for Financial Risk Management

There are strict rules governing financial institutions with a number of global regulatory groups publishing financial compliance requirements. Financial institutions face many challenges and legal responsibilities for risk management, compliance violations, and failure to catch financial fraud. Read more…

Nvidia, Intel to Power Atos-Built MareNostrum 5 Supercomputer

June 16, 2022

The long-troubled, hotly anticipated MareNostrum 5 supercomputer finally has a vendor: Atos, which will be supplying a system that includes both Nvidia and Intel CPUs and GPUs across multiple partitions. The newly reimag Read more…

Is Time Running Out for Compromise on America COMPETES/USICA Act?

June 22, 2022

You may recall that efforts proposed in 2020 to remake the National Science Foundation (Endless Frontier Act) have since expanded and morphed into two gigantic bills, the America COMPETES Act in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act in the U.S. Senate. So far, efforts to reconcile the two pieces of legislation have snagged and recent reports... Read more…

Cerebras Systems Thinks Forward on AI Chips as it Claims Performance Win

June 22, 2022

Cerebras Systems makes the largest chip in the world, but is already thinking about its upcoming AI chips as learning models continue to grow at breakneck speed. The company’s latest Wafer Scale Engine chip is indeed the size of a wafer, and is made using TSMC’s 7nm process. The next chip will pack in more cores to handle the fast-growing compute needs of AI, said Andrew Feldman, CEO of Cerebras Systems. Read more…

AMD’s MI300 APUs to Power Exascale El Capitan Supercomputer

June 21, 2022

Additional details of the architecture of the exascale El Capitan supercomputer were disclosed today by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) Terri Read more…

IDC Perspective on Integration of Quantum Computing and HPC

June 20, 2022

The insatiable need to compress time to insights from massive and complex datasets is fueling the demand for quantum computing integration into high performance computing (HPC) environments. Such an integration would allow enterprises to accelerate and optimize current HPC applications and processes by simulating and emulating them on today’s noisy... Read more…

Q&A with Intel’s Jeff McVeigh, an HPCwire Person to Watch in 2022

June 17, 2022

HPCwire presents our interview with Jeff McVeigh, vice president and general manager, Super Compute Group, Intel Corporation, and an HPCwire 2022 Person to Watc Read more…

Nvidia, Intel to Power Atos-Built MareNostrum 5 Supercomputer

June 16, 2022

The long-troubled, hotly anticipated MareNostrum 5 supercomputer finally has a vendor: Atos, which will be supplying a system that includes both Nvidia and Inte Read more…

D-Wave Debuts Advantage2 Prototype; Seeks User Exploration and Feedback

June 16, 2022

Starting today, D-Wave Systems is providing access to a 500-plus-qubit prototype of its forthcoming 7000-qubit Advantage2 quantum annealing computer, which is d Read more…

AMD Opens Up Chip Design to the Outside for Custom Future

June 15, 2022

AMD is getting personal with chips as it sets sail to make products more to the liking of its customers. The chipmaker detailed a modular chip future in which customers can mix and match non-AMD processors in a custom chip package. "We are focused on making it easier to implement chips with more flexibility," said Mark Papermaster, chief technology officer at AMD during the analyst day meeting late last week. Read more…

Nvidia R&D Chief on How AI is Improving Chip Design

April 18, 2022

Getting a glimpse into Nvidia’s R&D has become a regular feature of the spring GTC conference with Bill Dally, chief scientist and senior vice president of research, providing an overview of Nvidia’s R&D organization and a few details on current priorities. This year, Dally focused mostly on AI tools that Nvidia is both developing and using in-house to improve... Read more…

Royalty-free stock illustration ID: 1919750255

Intel Says UCIe to Outpace PCIe in Speed Race

May 11, 2022

Intel has shared more details on a new interconnect that is the foundation of the company’s long-term plan for x86, Arm and RISC-V architectures to co-exist in a single chip package. The semiconductor company is taking a modular approach to chip design with the option for customers to cram computing blocks such as CPUs, GPUs and AI accelerators inside a single chip package. Read more…

The Final Frontier: US Has Its First Exascale Supercomputer

May 30, 2022

In April 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy announced plans to procure a trio of exascale supercomputers at a total cost of up to $1.8 billion dollars. Over the ensuing four years, many announcements were made, many deadlines were missed, and a pandemic threw the world into disarray. Now, at long last, HPE and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have announced that the first of those... Read more…

AMD/Xilinx Takes Aim at Nvidia with Improved VCK5000 Inferencing Card

March 8, 2022

AMD/Xilinx has released an improved version of its VCK5000 AI inferencing card along with a series of competitive benchmarks aimed directly at Nvidia’s GPU line. AMD says the new VCK5000 has 3x better performance than earlier versions and delivers 2x TCO over Nvidia T4. AMD also showed favorable benchmarks against several Nvidia GPUs, claiming its VCK5000 achieved... Read more…

Top500: Exascale Is Officially Here with Debut of Frontier

May 30, 2022

The 59th installment of the Top500 list, issued today from ISC 2022 in Hamburg, Germany, officially marks a new era in supercomputing with the debut of the first-ever exascale system on the list. Frontier, deployed at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, achieved 1.102 exaflops in its fastest High Performance Linpack run, which was completed... Read more…

Newly-Observed Higgs Mode Holds Promise in Quantum Computing

June 8, 2022

The first-ever appearance of a previously undetectable quantum excitation known as the axial Higgs mode – exciting in its own right – also holds promise for developing and manipulating higher temperature quantum materials... Read more…

Nvidia Launches Hopper H100 GPU, New DGXs and Grace Superchips

March 22, 2022

The battle for datacenter dominance keeps getting hotter. Today, Nvidia kicked off its spring GTC event with new silicon, new software and a new supercomputer. Speaking from a virtual environment in the Nvidia Omniverse 3D collaboration and simulation platform, CEO Jensen Huang introduced the new Hopper GPU architecture and the H100 GPU... Read more…

PsiQuantum’s Path to 1 Million Qubits

April 21, 2022

PsiQuantum, founded in 2016 by four researchers with roots at Bristol University, Stanford University, and York University, is one of a few quantum computing startups that’s kept a moderately low PR profile. (That’s if you disregard the roughly $700 million in funding it has attracted.) The main reason is PsiQuantum has eschewed the clamorous public chase for... Read more…

Leading Solution Providers

Contributors

ISC 2022 Booth Video Tours

AMD
AWS
DDN
Dell
Intel
Lenovo
Microsoft
PENGUIN SOLUTIONS

Intel Reiterates Plans to Merge CPU, GPU High-performance Chip Roadmaps

May 31, 2022

Intel reiterated it is well on its way to merging its roadmap of high-performance CPUs and GPUs as it shifts over to newer manufacturing processes and packaging technologies in the coming years. The company is merging the CPU and GPU lineups into a chip (codenamed Falcon Shores) which Intel has dubbed an XPU. Falcon Shores... Read more…

AMD Opens Up Chip Design to the Outside for Custom Future

June 15, 2022

AMD is getting personal with chips as it sets sail to make products more to the liking of its customers. The chipmaker detailed a modular chip future in which customers can mix and match non-AMD processors in a custom chip package. "We are focused on making it easier to implement chips with more flexibility," said Mark Papermaster, chief technology officer at AMD during the analyst day meeting late last week. Read more…

India Launches Petascale ‘PARAM Ganga’ Supercomputer

March 8, 2022

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Indian government promised that it had five HPC systems in the final stages of installation and would launch nine new supercomputers this year. Now, it appears to be making good on that promise: the country’s National Supercomputing Mission (NSM) has announced the deployment of “PARAM Ganga” petascale supercomputer at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)... Read more…

Nvidia Dominates MLPerf Inference, Qualcomm also Shines, Where’s Everybody Else?

April 6, 2022

MLCommons today released its latest MLPerf inferencing results, with another strong showing by Nvidia accelerators inside a diverse array of systems. Roughly fo Read more…

AMD’s MI300 APUs to Power Exascale El Capitan Supercomputer

June 21, 2022

Additional details of the architecture of the exascale El Capitan supercomputer were disclosed today by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) Terri Read more…

Nvidia, Intel to Power Atos-Built MareNostrum 5 Supercomputer

June 16, 2022

The long-troubled, hotly anticipated MareNostrum 5 supercomputer finally has a vendor: Atos, which will be supplying a system that includes both Nvidia and Inte Read more…

Industry Consortium Forms to Drive UCIe Chiplet Interconnect Standard

March 2, 2022

A new industry consortium aims to establish a die-to-die interconnect standard – Universal Chiplet Interconnect Express (UCIe) – in support of an open chipl Read more…

Covid Policies at HPC Conferences Should Reflect HPC Research

June 6, 2022

Supercomputing has been indispensable throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, from modeling the virus and its spread to designing vaccines and therapeutics. But, desp Read more…

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
HPCwire