One Year in Retrospective

The first year of the HPC Certification Forum was spent on making the initiative more visible, gathering contributors and self-organisation. From the very beginning, it was clear that this effort needs a strong support from the community to succeed. Therefore, a number of processes and prototypical tools have been put in place as a result of internal discussions and conversations with external partners.


The Forum participated in the two major HPC conferences: Supercomputing held in Dallas in November 2018 and ISC-HPC held in Frankfurt in June 2019. At both events we organized Birds-of-a-feather sessions and gave short talks to introduce the initiative to the HPC Educational community. The paper submitted to the Best Practices in HPC Education and Training at SC18, and the follow-up BoF session were focused on presenting the goals and scope of the Certification Program and finding the initial collaborators. Whereas our BoF at ISC, was geared towards getting input from the community. During the second half of this highly interactive session, the participants were encouraged to visit ‘stations’ dedicated to specific topics (subtree of the skill-tree or the examination process) and provide feedback on their current state. At ISC, we also presented a project poster and a paper on the Workshop on HPC Education and Training for Emerging Technologies (HETET19) which provided a status update and ask for more contributions from the community. Throughout the year, we also organised a number of webinars, presentations and meetings introducing the initiative to the wider HPC community.


The ongoing conversation with various stakeholders involved in HPC education and training means more contributions and increased engagement in the forum’s activities. The member’s contributions are voluntarily and follow the schedule agreed between the contributor and the HPCCF board.

The first steering board had been elected at ISC-HPC 2018, establishing communication channels via webpage, email and Slack for regular discussion. Slack is currently used to conduct our monthly open meetings between members and the steering board. Initially, video conferencing tools were tried for that purpose but the geographical diversity of the attendees influenced the decision to move towards the chat-based tools. The asynchronous nature and automatic message retention proved to be more productive, effectively providing an open and inclusive platform for discussion. Meeting notes, along with the action items, are extracted from the Slack discussion and documented using Google Doc (an online word processor allowing real-time and multiple-user collaboration). The prospective contributions are managed in Trello (a web-based list-making collaborative application), in which each member can manage their own card.

Technical tasks

The general tasks the Forum sets out to accomplish are: 1) the definition of competencies; 2) the examination of practitioners; 3) the creation of certificates; and 4) the reinforcement of an ecosystem of tools supporting them.

A substantial progress has been made towards all of these goals. While the definition and organisation of competencies was the main focus, we prototyped various tools and processes embedding the competencies into a wider ecosystem of HPC education.

Although, the templates for the skills descriptions were finalised, the effort to map out all of the relevant competencies is still on-going. The feedback received during a variety of events resulted in the addition of new topics to the first version of the Skill Tree. The definitions of the competencies are version-controlled with Git and are publicly available in XML and Markdown format. A Wiki is being used to edit the skills’ descriptions, and a navigable and widely customisable JavaScript makes the skill tree easily accessible to the forum members and end-users alike.

The first iteration of processes and tools have been developed and deployed to curate the examination questions and conduct an online multiple-choice examination. We are thankful to the PeCoH project for the contributions towards the development of these tools.

The future …

While the Forum made significant progress, a lot remains to be done. We expect to be engaged in more collaborative activities with external parties, and within the Forum. New and current members are invited to become more active and contribute to the future developments. Julian Kunkel, the general chair of the HPCCF for the period 2019/2020, summed up the main goal for the coming year in the following words - “Skill Tree 1.0 – emerge”.