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Pawsey supercomputer: critical national research infrastructure

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Publication Date: 
November 2017
Case study from: Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation

​Big science and research problems require big computers with processing ‘grunt’ to model and simulate complex systems that would be too expensive or impossible to physically demonstrate.

Australia is home to two nationally significant research supercomputing facilities: the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre in Perth and the National Computational Infrastructure in Canberra. The Pawsey supercomputing facility supports some 1249 users from across 90 partners and institutions each year.

No-one appreciates a big question like an astronomer. Astronomers working on the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) – a precursor to the world’s biggest telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) – will be investigating around 600,000 galaxies in a bid to gain a better understanding of how galaxies have formed and evolved.

Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith, Group Leader at CSIRO’s Australia Telescope National Facility, appreciates the scale of the challenge.

‘Once we have all 36 of the ASKAP telescopes working, we're going to have about 72 trillion bits per second of information,’ Dr Harvey-Smith said. ‘These supercomputing facilities are essential for us to even use the telescope at all.’

The Australian Government has contributed to Pawsey’s establishment through the Super Science initiative, and provides a level of ongoing operational funding through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy. Pawsey attracts significant ongoing co-investment from the CSIRO, the university sector and the Western Australia Government.

The SKA precursor telescopes and supporting research infrastructure have increased Australia’s ability to be an active contributor in the global SKA consortium.