The HPC Asia 2009 keynote speech, given by Dr. Peter Arzberger, gives us deep understanding into Dr. Arzberger’s vision for the successful integration of HPC with cross-cultural and international collaboration. He also describes the beginnings of the PRAGMA institute he started several years and currently chairs along with its organizational structure. Dr. Arzberger’s goes on to give us his insight into how to better educate students of science so that they will be better prepared to do research in the global science community.
Part1| Part2 | Part3 | Part4 | Part5 | Part6 | Part7 | Part8 [PDF Download] [Video]
Part 6: Structuring Successful Partnerships
So how do we structure such partnerships? If you really take this notion that, yeah, we can begin to work together across geography, across disciplines, how do we actually put these together so that they succeed? Well, there are a lot of lessons learned that we have here. For example, repeated meetings. We know that there’s nothing that replaces face-to-face meeting. Unfortunately, technology doesn’t do that. Really focusing on certain outcomes, being open to sharing our successes and failures, taking small steps that lead to bigger steps. It’s as basic as breaking bread together or having a good meal together. Being very pragmatic. It’s better to not try to solve all the problems but just to try to solve a few.
But is there a conceptual framework we can put these in? Because those are just very practical. One of the people that we’ve had the pleasure of working with in PRAGMA is Grace Hong. Grace worked at NCHC and has her Maters now from the London School of Economics. She studied PRAGMA as an organization. And what brought in this concept was her psychology that really was focusing on the experience on the community rather than just on to just the structure. And looking at issues of how membership, influence, integration, fulfillment, as well as shared cultural value. These are important concepts in the sense that these are things that help build a community and help it stay together. The shared emotional context of sharing the pain of what happened and the sorrows is what brought the PRAGMA community very close together. The notion of sharing, if you will, these very simple features such as this PRAGMA “family” photo is another thing that brings people together. So really the question is what or how can we learn from these other disciplines. And you have here a very simple system, a process-to-people model, where the sense of community, this notion from psychology, comes in. And we need to remember that the technologies allow the cooperation but it’s the people that make it happen.
But to make the point a little bit stronger that NSF just put out a call for proposals to take a look at these organizations from a social-technical systems perspective. To understand how it is that we are able to make the grassroots activities work well together. Not everything is mapped out and there are a lot of things that have to be done still.
So, the last part of my talk is about education. Given that we have new sets of technologies that are leading us to a new age of synthesis, given that we have people working in groups as we’ve never had before, across disciplines, across countries, across cultures……are we training our students to take advantage of those changes both in the science itself and the conduct of science? That’s really the fundamental question that we have here.
Why do we care? Why should we care about this? From the US perspective, just a couple of points, only 1% of undergraduates in the United States have any significant undergraduate experience overseas. And that’s an intolerable level. And yet, almost all of the issues which we talked about in the beginning require an understanding of working internationally. Actually, we also have a very low rate of people having a passport that would allow them to even leave the country.
This slide is actually quite important because it comes from industry. Each one of these quotes is from someone from industry whether it’s Microsoft, whether it’s Google, or whether it’s Nokia. They talk about innovation. They talk about working abroad as criteria for being involved in their company. And they talk about working in teams to better understand and advance those problems. So there is a need out there for better training than what we are creating right now.