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(Mis)Managing Parallel Computing Research Through EU Project Funding

By Jesper Larsson Träff

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 59 No. 12, Pages 46-48

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Much high-performance and parallel computing research in Europe is funded by the European Union through the so-called "EU projects." These projects are highly competitive and often considered highly attractive and prestigious because of their scientific quality, involvement of outstanding researchers, contributions to the education of new Ph.D.'s for academia and the European workforce, and opportunities for collaboration with industry in Europe.

I will argue a dissenting opinion that EU projects in this field may not serve their stated purposes of advancing science and education, and are not effective in subsidizing European industry. On the contrary, they are a time-consuming effort with often mediocre outcome that tend to perpetrate a narrow, self-referential, and trivialized view of the scientific process with possibly detrimental long-term effects on the scientific culture in Europe and the quality of the workforce. The problems are not exclusive to the EU funding system, and also not to parallel computing research, but to a large extent caused by excessive managerial overheads and the specific stated requirements and unstated expectations in the EU project conception. This Viewpoint from the perspective of an academic researcher is based on long, personal experience with EU projects in parallel computing and related areas, in different roles, and with different degrees of "success." Since these reflections are not meant as criticism of specific projects or activities, I will not cite concrete project figures or outcomes, but contend that my claims can be backed up by publicly available material.


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