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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/N019067/1
Title: Software Engineering - In Support of the Exascale
Principal Investigator: Bush, Dr I
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Engineering Science
Organisation: University of Oxford
Scheme: EPSRC Fellowship
Starts: 01 April 2016 Ends: 31 March 2021 Value (£): 712,184
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
High Performance Computing
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine Chemicals
Healthcare Energy
Electronics
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
15 Oct 2015 EPSRC RSE e-Infrastructure Meeting Announced
17 Nov 2015 EPSRC RSE e-Infrastructure Meeting (Interviews) Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The Software Engineer, the forgotten enabler of ... well everything nowadays! Wherever there is a computer there needs to be software, otherwise it is just a lump of silicon, metal and plastic. And wherever software is needed the man or woman you call upon is the Software Engineer. So whether it is your phone, tablet or PC, or your TV, toaster or washing machine, or a host of other appliances nowadays the Software Engineer is the person who makes it work. And good software engineering is hard! "Computer says no" and "Blue Screen of Death" are just two memes that indicate the frustration caused in modern life by software that does not behave as desired, and in turn demonstrates the need for quality software to make life, at the very least, just that little bit more bearable.

The Research Software Engineer is what it says, the Software Engineer operating in a research environment. These are the people who provide the crucial infrastructure that supports and enables much of modern research, for whether it be in the arts and humanities or the physical sciences or anywhere in between the computer is the crucial modern tool. So this funding is to support one such guy who, while not producing reams of papers himself, enables literally thousands of other researchers to do their work. In particular I work in High Performance Computing (HPC), possibly better known as supercomputing. Through this grant I'm going to develop a number of scientific applications so that they can not only use more effectively modern top end computing facilities, but also I will provide new capabilities within those programs so that brand new quantities can be calculated. So, for instance, modern supercomputers consist of tens or hundreds of thousands of individual computers all working together. Now we know from life how difficult it is to get a small group of people to all pull together to get something done at all, let alone well, my job is to achieve this with hundreds of thousands of workers all trying to solve a complex scientific problem in the most efficient way possible while getting the right answer. It's not easy, but that's what makes it fun!

The changes I will implement will benefit a very large number of researchers, the applications that I plan to work on (DL_POLY_4, CRYSTAL, CRYSCOR and GS2) have around 3,500 licensed groups in total and that number is growing daily. The subject areas enabled range from the modelling the microscopic, quantum described, structure of materials through looking at the dynamics of large macromolecules, right up to modelling fusion generation of power. Thus just one ultimate beneficiary is the ITER project, a 10 billion Euro experimental tokamak being built in France, and other areas include catalysts, pharmaceuticals, sensors, fuel cells, electronic devices, batteries and a host of others limited only by the researcher's imagination.

But it's not just coding! I've been in this game quite a while now and want to hand on my experiences to the new generation. It's becoming increasingly clear that with the more and more complex computational tools that are being used in research that there is a real skills gap in software, leaving that wonderful piece of hardware as just, well a pile of silicon, metal and plastic. So part of the funding is to train and produce training material for young graduate students who really need expertise in this area, but the opportunities to learn certain key aspects are missing.

So overall this is funding to provide the infrastructure to push at least part of the HPC landscape towards the 2020s, and with a bit of luck beyond!

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Organisation Website: http://www.ox.ac.uk