OSG User School 2017

November 29, 2017

The OSG User School 2017 was held at the University of Wisconsin–Madison on July 17–21. There were 56 participants, including mostly graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, a few advanced undergraduates, several faculty, and some research staff from research institutions in the United States (and one each from England and Spain). The range of scholarly domains was one of the most diverse yet, including physics, biology, chemistry, medicine, engineering, statistics, earth sciences, plant sciences, and economics. Participants were selected by demonstrating need for large-scale computing and by being in a position to transform their scholarly work through computation. The instructors this year were Bala Desinghu, Brian Lin, and Derek Weitzel from the OSG, plus Christina Koch and Lauren Michael from the UW–Madison’s Center for High Throughput Computing.

This year’s curriculum retained its focus on hands-on practice with a wide variety of user tools, providing a solid grounding for advanced and theoretical topics later in the School, as well as further learning afterward. Much of the curriculum was carried over from 2016, with minor updates to stay current. However, some sections of the curriculum were updated more significantly, including the first-day materials on running jobs locally with HTCondor and the last-day capstone exercise and its end-to-end workflow example. The larger changes reflected both changes in the technologies involved plus improved pedagogical approaches based on experiences with past OSG User Schools and other science end-user engagements.

All of the training materials from the School remain available online indefinitely, in case they are helpful as reference material. Also, participants received several clear options for getting ongoing help with their large-scale computing needs. Plus, every participant left the School with at least two ways to run jobs — an account on a UW–Madison HTCondor submit node and an OSG Connect account — so that there are as few barriers to computing and storage resources as possible.

The attendees of the OSG User School
The attendees of the OSG User School in 2017.

From formal training evaluations to informal comments and emails, the School was clearly a success. Participants were happy with the program, with how much they learned, and with the new paths that are now open to them. Further, many participants completed a final written assignment after the event, describing a research computing challenge and their plans for applying material from the School to handle the challenge using distributed high throughput computing. From these assignments, it is clear that most participants have concrete, realistic plans to advance their research through computing, and many have already begun doing so.

– Tim Cartwright