SC21 Proceedings

The International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage, and Analysis

Words Matter! Promoting Inclusion through Language in Advanced Research Computing


Authors: Susan Mehringer (Cornell University), Linda Akli (Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA)), John Towns (University of Illinois, National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA)), Jay Alameda (University of Illinois), Stephen Deems (Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), Carnegie Mellon University), John Holly (XSEDE, Southeastern Universities Research Association (SURA))

Abstract: Many projects and organizations active in advanced research computing are becoming aware of the need to ensure that the language they use both formally and informally is free from terminology that prevents the fostering of environments inclusive for all community members. This applies to documentation, presentations, educational materials, and workplace language. In 2020, the Extreme Science Engineering and Discovery Environment (XSEDE) project started addressing these concerns by forming a Terminology Task Force (TTF). Presentations by the XSEDE TTF and other invited groups will briefly review their progress to stimulate discussion and exchange of best practices among interested SC21 participants.

Long Description: In the past year, organizations active in advanced research computing are becoming aware of the need to ensure that the language they use both formally and informally is free from terminology that prevents the fostering of environments inclusive for all community members. This applies to documentation, presentations, educational materials, and workplace language. We believe this topic, inclusive terminology in advanced research computing, is important for the health and growth of our community and the industry.

In 2020, The National Science Foundation funded Extreme Science Engineering and Discovery Environment (XSEDE) project began addressing these concerns by forming a Terminology Task Force (TTF) to review, address, and define processes to eliminate offensive terms in their materials. Members of the XSEDE TTF propose to organize this BOF with the goals of raising awareness, stimulating discussion, sharing references, exchanging best practices, and brainstorming difficult issues. Problematic terminology is pervasive and entrenched in the HPC community, due to many factors, including longstanding embedded analogies; for example, XSEDE contacted the MPI and OpenMP standards bodies, contributing to their decisions to replace “master/slave” terminology.

The session will include a short presentation outlining the activities of the XSEDE TTF, addressing questions during the presentation. Lightning talks will follow; several groups facing this complex problem are being invited to share their approaches, experiences, and plans. Lightning talk invitations will be extended to a number of organizations, including ACM, Internet2, Trusted CI, Campus Research Computing Consortium (CaRCC), XSEDE Campus Champions, and the SC21’s Inclusivity Committee. Questions will be encouraged after each lightning speaker. Discussion will follow, inviting all participants to share their opinions on this complex topic and how to address it.

Throughout the session, participants will be encouraged to add information to a shared doc that can be used by all as a resource after the session. We anticipate that this resource, along with ideas and greater understanding resulting from the discussion, will be valuable to the participants.

The XSEDE Terminology Task Force was convened in August 2020, with the goal of improving the terminology used throughout the organization. Specifically, the XSEDE TTF created a list of questionable terms from a wide range of sources, paying careful attention to their context and applicability to advanced research computing usage, and suggesting possible replacements as appropriate. The Task Force recently published the list on the XSEDE website and is training XSEDE staff in its use. The XSEDE user community is asked to report additional terms they find problematic and TTF has a process to decide on the inclusion of such crowd-sourced terms into the list. Metrics were identified for tracking the removal and replacement of identified terms from active and future materials published by XSEDE and understand the progress of the effort.


URL: https://www.xsede.org/terminology


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