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 High and ultra-high performance computing

Computers do not carry out calculations by themselves: to use them effectively, highly qualified personnel and sophisticated coding are needed. This is especially true for expensive high-performance and supercomputers, which are a scarce resource for a wide variety of sciences, especially the natural sciences, life sciences and engineering. They are used in science and industry as research-supporting instruments, especially where real experiments are not possible, too time-consuming or too expensive.

In recent years, numerous scientific breakthroughs have been achieved that would not have been possible on computers with lower performance. This applies, for example, to simulations in the engineering sciences, in physics and chemistry as well as in climate and environmental research. Even the planning of efficient traffic systems in large cities would not be possible without powerful computers.

This has prompted the Science and Humanities Council (Wissenschaftsrat, WR) to repeatedly address, in various contexts, how an adequate supply of High Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructures can be provided at the national and European level. It has made overarching recommendations on the structure and conditions of such a supply, as well as commented on concrete procurement projects for computing systems by the states (Länder). The conspicuous density of recommendations in this area indicates the central importance that the WR and the political decision-makers at the federal and state level attach to an adequate HPC infrastructure as a location factor in international scientific and industrial competition (German versions only):

Strategic further development of High Performance Computing in Germany | Position Paper (Drs. 1838-12), January 2012

Report on the activities of the National Coordinating Committee for the Procurement and Use of Supercomputers (Drs. 8162-07), November 2007

Recommendations for the establishment of European supercomputers (Drs. 6308-04), November 2004

Recommendations on the future utilisation of supercomputers (Drs. 4558-00), May 2000

Recommendation on the Provision of Science and Research with High Performance Computing Capacity, in: Wissenschaftsrat: Empfehlungen zur Ausstattung der Wissenschaft mit moderner Rechner- und Kommunikationstechnologie, Cologne 1995, pp. 51-70.

The last time the WR addressed this issue, it was prompted by the question, not yet resolved in the 2012 policy paper, as to which financing strategies can ensure the supply of science with sufficient HPC capacity efficiently and for the long term. This applies particularly against the background of strongly growing scientific demand and increasing cost pressure, which is primarily due to energy costs.