SC23 Proceedings

The International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis

Birds of a Feather

Scientific Software and the People Who Make It Happen: Building Communities of Practice

Authors: David Bernholdt (Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)), Nasir Eisty (Boise State University), Rinku Gupta (Argonne National Laboratory (ANL)), Mozhgan Kabiri Chimeh (NVIDIA Corporation), Lauren Milechin (Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)), Miranda Mundt (Sandia National Laboratories), Alessandro Orso (Georgia Institute of Technology), Keita Teranishi (Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)), Jeffrey Young (Georgia Institute of Technology)

Abstract: Software has become central to all aspects of modern science and technology. Especially in high-performance computing (HPC) and computational science and engineering (CSE), it is becoming ever-larger and more complex while computer platforms evolve and become more diverse. Simultaneously, the teams behind the software are becoming larger, more technically diverse, and more geographically distributed.

This BoF provides an opportunity for people concerned about these topics to share existing experiences and activities, discuss how we can improve on them, and share the results. Presentations and discussion notes will be made available at the BoF series website,

Long Description: The engineering of software for modeling, simulation, and data analytics for computational science and engineering (CSE) continues to receive insufficient attention within our community.. We celebrate the big machines, the scientific discoveries they enable when driven by sophisticated software, and the ingenuity and creativity of the software itself. We pay much less attention to how the software was developed and many other aspects of the entire lifecycle of a CSE application, including portability, sustainability, overall productivity, and usability by and for the community. Major concerns, such as reproducibility, start with good software development practices.

At the same time, the pace of change and level of diversity in architectures have increased dramatically, and the drive to exascale exacerbates the situation. CSE software developers must now also contend with significant architectural changes, in addition to the existing scientific demands for “bigger, better, and faster” modeling and simulation capabilities, which entail larger, more multidisciplinary, and geographically dispersed development teams. Further, increases in data volume and complexity, and the increasing integration of “big data” (analytics & AI/ML) infrastructures (both hardware and software) raise additional SWE challenges.

Finally, the teams behind the software are growing in size, technical diversity, and geographical distribution. Emerging roles, such as Research Software Engineers are often part of these teams, but so are many others.

Fortunately, a growing number of individuals and organizations are paying more attention to addressing this challenge. But their work is not yet widely shared, and the sharing and uptake of good practices is fragmented. We believe that the next step in the process is a concerted effort to increase awareness and sharing of work on SWE for HPC CSE to help build the community of practice, capable of fostering good practices that will result in software fit to power CSE through the next era of computing and recognizing and empowering the people who strive for better scientific software.

Our goal is to bring together people who are concerned and passionate about this topic to share existing activities, explore avenues of expansion and improvement, and share the results, complementing “traditional” venues for the academic (often versus practical) discussion of SWE for CSE, such as conferences and workshops. An interactive Google Doc will be used to collaboratively take notes of the discussion. These notes will be made publicly available.

The SC Conference Series provides an ideal venue for these discussions. A large fraction of the attendees are CSE practitioners or researchers who support such activities. Past editions of this BoF (SC15-22, and ISC2019, 2022-2023), have been very well attended and the discussions highly engaged. Supercomputing will also host a number of complementary activities, including workshops on software correctness, research software engineering and performance portability, a tutorial on Better Scientific Software, and, likely, other BOFs. There is also the overall SC Reproducibility Initiative. We believe these activities are highly complementary and will be synergistic in generating interest and participation from the SC community.


Back to Birds of a Feather Archive Listing