Informatics Newsletter August 2019

Issue 27 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from Head of School

Jane Hillston

31st July marked the end of my first year in the role of Head of School. I have been enjoying the role immensely and I particularly get a great deal of pleasure and pride when I am called upon to represent the School to external bodies, be they funders, government officials or potential collaborators.  Staff and students in Informatics have tremendous achievements and I always welcome opportunities to talk about them.  Reading the newsletter and the School news webpages is a source of inspiration so please do ensure that Kasia and the Inf Comms team are kept informed about what you have been up to.

Over the course of the year, I have been also considering how best to support staff and students within the School to ensure that they can make the most of their time here.  For academic staff, this has involved a reorganisation of line management structures which should provide a “closer” line manager who is able to offer more tailored advice and support.  I am grateful to the Directors of Institute (Barbara Webb, Frank Keller, Jacques Fleuriot, Kousha Etessami, Mahesh Marina and Matthias Hennig) for agreeing to take this responsibility on.  More generally we have introduced the suggestions box and appointed two engagement champions (Volker Seeker and Ronnie Johnson) to collect ideas of how we can collectively improve our working environment.  For students, we are reiterating our commitments to a zero-tolerance policy with respect to all forms of bullying and harassment and looking for more ways to foster a sense of community and engagement.

School News


Research Institutes

Informatics Student Support (UG and MSc)

Informatics Student Support (PhD)

New staff

Research staff

Christian Hardmeier - Senior Researcher, started on 1st July 2019

Songyan Xin - Research Associate, started on 4th July 2019

Yizhou Fan - Research Associate, started on 8th July 2019

Kerewin Kokke - Research Assistant, started on 25th July 2019

Rui Soares Barbosa - Research Associate, started on 1st August 2019

James Vaughan - Research Assistant, started on 1st August 2019

Professional Services staff

Clara Fraser - Teaching Organisation Administrator, started on 23rd August 2019

Heather Mcwhirr - Finance Administrator, started on 5th August 2019

Martin Johnston - Administrative Secretary, started on 1st July 2019

Nikolaos Dandoulakis - Computing Support Officer (Procurement), started on 5th August 2019

Anne Mackenzie - Teaching Support Administrator (Maternity Cover), started on 15th July 2019

Siobhan Carroll - CDT Administrator - Data Science, started on 8th July 2019

Maryam Dar - Trainee Workshop Technician, started on 19th August 2019

Kaseye Girls secondary school receiving computers from the Turing Trust
Kaseye Girls secondary school receiving computers from the Turing Trust


Staff Engagement Sessions

Two Staff Engagement sessions were held on 21st August by our wonderful Engagement Champions Ronnie Johnston and Volker Seeker. Plenty of ideas were thrown around which will be reported to the School Executive for further consideration. 

Turing Trust donates computers to a secondary school in Malawi

James Turing and Turing Trust staff have recently got back from Malawi. Thanks to our donation they were able to install the computers are Kaseye Girls secondary school. This is the first time the girls at Kaseye have had the opportunity to start learning ICT with machines rather than just on their blackboard so are delighted.

Informatics Murder Mystery

Another edition of the Informatics Murder Mystery took place on 19th July 2019. We are pleased to congratulate David Wilmot and Uli German for solving the mystery! Watch this space for Halloween edition of our mystery-solving game for all, or register your interest with InfComms Team.


Register interest

A word from Research Services

Plan S has been postponed by 1 year. Updated information is available on relevant InfWeb pages.

As always, questions and comments on Pure, open access and REF are all welcome. Please contact the RDM team, or Victoria directly.

Email RDM Team

Email Victoria

Plan S

New research finance contacts 

A note from InfHR

Staff Development Fund

We remind all informatics staff that School’s staff development fund is available for applications. Please apply using a newly activated online application form. T&Cs apply. If you require extra funding to attend your Erasmus+ training (e.g. registration fee is too high to cover from your Erasmus+ grant),  you should also apply to the Staff Development Fund, but please note, that these expenses need to be pre-approved.

Staff Development Fund


Informatics HR team are Kilt Walking

Jenny, Sam and Nicki have teamed up and are taking part in the 2019 Kiltwalk. They will be walking 24 miles in September in kilts to raise money for All4paws. All4paws is an Edinburgh run charity helping vulnerable and homeless animals. They would appreciate your contributions – every little helps!

Please help them reach our target


A note from Institutes Admin Services

Improved ways of working start with…… newly co-located teams in Level 2 and 4 offices. This is to enable better absence cover, resilience, knowledge exchange and staff training & development – with the aim to benefit the Institutes’ academic community.

More improvements throughout the year will see us simplifying the travel booking process, publishing online guides for admin procedures, and managing incoming enquiries via a ticketing system.

New admin support contacts

Updates about Health & Safety and Facilities

Relocations and Refurbishments

The forum has been undergoing a lot of change recently, with staff relocations and refurbishments nearing an end.  We appreciate your patience whilst this has been going on. A new contractor has recently been appointed to finish off the outstanding work and hopefully, this work should commence next week.

Annual Fire Drill

Please note that the annual fire drill will take place next month.  You should ensure that you cooperate fully by evacuating the building as soon as possible once the alarm is sounded, so we can all return to our offices quickly.  No one should enter the building without being given the all-clear.

General office & common areas safety

General office and common areas safety policies and tips have been put together. If you are a new member of staff, you should read them, if you have been in Informatics for a while, please do revisit the page.

General office & common areas safety

School news

Smart Energy Research Lab Project

Researchers from the School of Informatics are working on a major UK research project, the Smart Energy Research Lab (SERL). The project will utilise household energy consumption data from smart meters to fuel a new wave of innovative energy research. This research will help make the UK’s energy more efficient, sustainable and affordable.

Informatics Researchers to work on Smart Energy Research Lab (SERL) Project

Best Paper Honourable Mention for Carl Allen and Tim Hospedales

Carl Allen and Timothy Hospedales recently received a Best Paper Honourable Mention at the world’s largest conference in Machine Learning for explaining a curious phenomenon found amongst word representations.

King - man + woman = queen: the hidden algebraic structure of words

Benjamin Bach is the Eurographics Young Researcher of the Year

Benjamin Bach won one of the Eurographics Young Researcher of the Year Awards, given each year to two young researchers in the field of visualisation to recognize people early on in their career who have already made a notable contribution and are likely to make more.

Eurographics Young Researcher of the Year Award for Benjamin Bach

Informatics involved in the Quantum Technologies Research Project

Elham Kashefi, Chris Heunen, Myrto Arapinis and Petros Wallden will be working on a multimillion project that was announced on 11th July.

Informatics researchers to work on a UK-wide Quantum Technologies Research project

Experiential AI: new research agenda proposed

Researchers from Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt Universities, including Informatics Vaishak Belle, Jane Hillston, Michael Rovatsos and Ewa Luger have proposed a new research agenda in which artists and scientists come together, called Experiential AI.

Experiential AI research agenda to bring together scientists and artists

SUMMA helps journalists monitor media sources

Edinburgh Informatics researchers, in collaboration with colleagues from University College London, University of Sheffield, BBC and Deutsche Welle, have developed a system that will help journalists to monitor media sources – a task that has become too big to handle for newsrooms with the development of the internet and digital media.

SUMMA delivers a state-of-the-art media monitoring system

Ant navigation study published in PLOS Computational Biology

A team of scientists, led by School of Informatics Barbara Webb, used their knowledge of insect anatomy to build a sophisticated computer model determining how they estimate their direction of travel.

Nature’s insect navigators inspire robots that find their own way

Student news

EUFS win again

A team of Edinburgh students has won a driverless race car competition for the second year in a row. The team developed AI software allowing the car to race around Silverstone circuit at the world’s largest student competition – Formula Student.

Edinburgh students win driverless race car competition again

ILCC student nominated for the best paper award

Carol Chermaz's paper "Evaluating Near End Listening Enhancement Algorithms in Realistic Environments” was nominated for the best student paper at Interspeech. Carol is a 2nd year PhD student in speech technology (ILCC) and it's her first paper as a first author.

Speech playback (TV, radio, public address) becomes harder to understand in noise and reverberation. NELE (Near End Listening Enhancement) algorithms modify the speech signal before it is played, in order to make it more intelligible for the listener. Such algorithms are often tested in lab controlled conditions, which do not reflect the issues posed by real acoustic environments. The paper proposes a realistic test platform for NELE algorithms - and possibly other technologies - in order to better understand what are the strategies that improve speech intelligibility in real-life conditions.

Interspeech is the world‘s largest and most comprehensive conference on the science and technology of spoken language processing. The conference features world-class speakers, tutorials, oral and poster sessions, challenges, exhibitions and satellite events, and will gather around 2000 participants from all over the world. 20th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association INTERSPEECH 2019 will be held in Graz, Austria, from Sep. 15-19, 2019. Fingers crossed for Carol!

Interspeech 2019

PPar Student organised the Hybrid Challenge at IHPCSS in Japan

Ludovic Capelli (PPar student) organised the Hybrid Challenge at the International High-Performance Computing Summer School (IHPCSS) in Kobe, Japan, having won the competition last year (then in Czechia) by writing the fastest CPU-based code and having made a few suggestions for improvement of the programming event.

The IHPCSS is a week-long program where approximately a hundred researchers come to learn, practice and improve their HPC skills. Major HPC organisations take part in organising it such as PRACE, XSEDE and SCInet to name a few. This event also hosts a programming competition that runs in the background during all 5 days where participants aim to optimise as much as they can a source code provided using HPC technologies such as MPI, OpenMP, OpenACC, or any combination of the three. 


MInf student among  Code First: Girls Ones to Watch 2019

Adela Rotar, 5th Year MInf student has been nominated by Code First: Girls as Top 25 under 30 - Ones to Watch 2019.  Adela is passionate about IoT and Cyber Security, and Fitness Trackers Security in particular.  She promotes Women in STEM and last year gave a talk to high school girls at our Ada Lovelace Day workshop. Code First: Girls Ones to Watch 2019 features women under 30 who are developing their careers in tech and entrepreneurship. 

Code First: Girls Ones to Watch 2019

Recent CDT in Data Science graduates

Congratulations to recent CDT in Data Science graduates: Sorcha Gilroy, Andreas Kapourani and George Papamakarios, who all passed their vivas this summer!

CDT in Data Science


Teaching achievements' recognition in promotion

Recognition, reward and support for teaching in academic careers have been carried out by a University-wide group. As a result, guidance documents have been produced that outline a career path from Grade 7 to Grade 10 and the distinction of Professor for staff whose roles focus predominantly on teaching.

More information - HR sharepoint

Learning and Teaching Conference resources

If you were unable to attend the University Learning and Teaching Conference in June, you can now access the conference resources. The videos of the opening speeches, the two keynote presentations, slides from many of the parallel sessions and copies of the posters are available online.

L&T Conference resources

National Pay Negotiations

This year's pay negotiations concluded on 30 April with UCEA making a best and final offer of 1.8% on all spine points with higher increases on points 3 to 16, worth up to 3.65%. This offer has been made on behalf of all participating universities and takes into account the financial challenges and uncertainties facing the HE sector as a whole and the broader reward package, including pay progression for staff not yet at the top of their grade. However, since this offer has been rejected by the Higher Education unions, there will now be two further meetings with UCEA. It is therefore not currently possible to say when the University will be able to implement an agreed pay award. However, we will keep you informed as soon as we receive updates from UCEA.

Proposed spine point increases

KB Shuttle bus to stay until the end of 2019/20

Following the original announcement to stop the KB shuttle service, concerns were raised by staff who use the shuttle bus to move between KB and the central area.

University has transport options in place for staff to use across all campuses, including the use of Lothian Buses’ CitySmart card, discounts with Just Eat Cycles and carries out ongoing discussions with Lothian Buses to improve the bus schedules. As part of these arrangements, an additional bus #41 has been scheduled to arrive at KB at 8.44 am.

KB Shuttle Bus schedule

Pre-paid bus tickets

Outreach and Public Engagement

For latest opportunities please check CSE PE blog for more info.

CSE Public Engagement update

Call for evidence - collaborations between artists and researchers, deadline 11th Sept

The National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement currently has a call for evidence around collaborations between artists and researchers (mainly STEM), which will be of interest to many of you! Some desk research has already been undertaken and has formed the basis for this further exploration. Evidence can include examples of current practice; tools and resources; articles; key contacts (within or outwith higher education institutions); etc.

Key questions include:

 - What are the key factors that need to be considered when developing engagement projects involving artists and researchers? 

 - What excellent practice has been missed? 

 - Do you have tools to support people wanting to enhance their work in this area? 

 - Have you come up with ways of addressing the challenges to working in this way?

Further details, including the desk research and the link to the call for evidence

Call for ideas - Edinburgh Science Festival, deadline: 13th Sept

The Edinburgh Science Festival will return on 4th-19th April 2020, and this time the theme is "Elementary", using the ancient classifications of Earth, Air, Fire and Water as a way to explore the roles that creative thinking, science, technology, engineering and related disciplines have to play in addressing some of the biggest global challenges facing our environment. The fifth element 'Aether' will include a particular focus on the digital world.

Further details are in the vision document

All sorts of engagement ideas from discussions to interactive activities, from artistic exhibitions to dedicated workshops for all types of audiences are very much welcomed.

Further details, including the costs of participation, are included in the main call for ideas document

Ideas should be submitted by 5pm on Fri 13th September 

Edinburgh Science submissions

For those in the CSE, who would like to discuss their idea in advance of submission, get in touch with an appropriate member of the Public Engagement Advisory Group.

Public Engagement Advisory Group

However, if you are interested in delivering activities or workshops through the University's annual Family Programme in the Museum, there is a separate process. Details about this will be sent in due course.

Call for contributions - Edinburgh Science Festival - specific programme strands, deadline: 30th Aug

In addition to the general Call for Ideas and the University's Family Programme, there are specific strands of activity that the organisers are seeking expressions of interest for:

A. Aether Artworks

Up to £10k is available for digital art proposals that are inspired by science and engage family audiences using creative technology, tools, techniques, and approaches. Contributing works can be new or existing. 

Further details and the application materials required

Applications must be made by 5 pm on Friday 30th August via email

E-mail Jennifer

B. Digital Immersive Experience

This event must be a new piece of work and suitable for a festival audience. The live experience has to be augmented with digital/creative technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, audio, projections, 360-degree film, app-based interactions, etc. There is a budget of £30k for the creation and presentation of the piece.

Further details and the application materials required

Applications must be made by 5pm on Friday 30th August via email.

E-mail Jennifer

C. Pale Blue Dot Artworks

Through interactive and innovative design, the exhibition Pale Blue Dot will explore and celebrate our seas and oceans, the science of water and current challenges and solutions. New or existing works can be proposed that are aimed at family audiences and relate to marine topics. Up to £20k is allocated to support successful projects.

Further details and the application materials required

Applications must be made by 5pm on Friday 30th August via email.

E-mail Jennifer

Call for participation - Summer Science Exhibition 2020, The Royal Society, London, deadline: 10th Sept

The call for the Royal Society's flagship Summer Science Exhibition in July 2020 is now live. This annual event in London attracts 14,000 visitors every year - including public groups, potential funders, and government representatives - and is featured in national media (TV and print).

If you have innovative research that could be shared on a prominent platform, this could be a great event to be part of. Exhibits should be based on novel research, interactive, and be conceptually accessible to diverse visitors.

Further details

Contact the Royal Society directly

The Great Science Share for Schools 2020 comes to Scotland

The Great Science Share for Schools is an annual campaign to inspire young people to share their scientific questions with new audiences. Hosted by the Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre, the GSSfS Scotland meeting will be held on 8th November 2019. Led by Dr Lynne Bianchi, we will discuss the importance of the Great Science Share for Schools and how we can work together to expand its reach in Scotland. The Roslin Public Engagement team will explain how they have worked with local schools to give their pupils the opportunity to work with scientists and learn about the research happening on our campus: through the design of two research-linked toolkits.

Read more

Sign up

Call for activities - Curiosity Live, Glasgow Science Centre, Thurs 7th Nov

Curiosity Live is a series of engagement events developed by the Glasgow Science Centre, where each event relates to a specific theme. The next event celebrating environmental science (inc. climate change, energy, wildlife, weather, etc.) will take place on Thurs 7th Nov, is aimed at P4 - S2 pupils, and will run 10am-2pm. This call is open to anyone who wants to run tabletop activities, be part of a discussion panel, or create related artworks. A small budget for travel expenses is available.

General information

Contact Sam Langford

List and feedback on the training courses page

We now have a page listing training courses attended by staff. You can submit your own feedback on a particular training you attended. 

List and feedback on training courses

Submit feedback

Mental health and well being

Informatics Staff and Students

If you feel that you are being mistreated at the University because of a factor such as gender, race, age, nationality, religion, sexuality, etc, you are welcome to confidentially contact the InfHR team (for staff members), Student Support Officers (for UG and MSc students), or contact the Graduate School (for PhD students). Details are all provided below:

  • InfHR, Informatics Forum 5.39

Email InfHR

  • Student Support Officers, Appleton Tower, Level 6

Email Student Support Officers

  • IGS contacts, Informatics Forum, 3.42 and 3.43

Contact IGS

  • Staff can also speak to Fiona McGuire in the College HR Office

Email Fiona

The University has a number of HR policies, including the Dignity and Respect policy, and staff are encouraged to review these.

A to Z of HR policies

You can find information about mental health and wellbeing on the Informatics external website.

Mental health and wellbeing

Informatics Social Events

Are you an organiser of a regular social event in Informatics and would like to add it to the list? Let Infcomms know!

Contact Infcomms

Informatics Déjà Brew

Informatics Déjà Brew is a drop-in coffee session. Staff are welcome to come and go as their workload permits. If you are unsure about cover for your office or how long you can come along for, then speak to your line manager. The meet-ups are primarily aimed at all Informatics professional services, technical and computing staff. Bring along your cuppa and see you there!

Informatics Déjà Brew

Informatics Football

Informatics Football is open to all Undergraduate, MSC, PHD and staff members from the School of Informatics.

Informatics Football

Board Game Nights

The Board Game Nights are for those wishing to play some games once a month, in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. There is a good variety of board games available, with regular additions to the collection.

Board Game Nights

Informatics Open Artspace

Informatics Open ArtSpace takes place on Tuesdays, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm in MF1. All materials for acrylic painting, linocut and origami are provided. If you have your own project to work on, you can bring it, too. Everyone is welcome, just come by, hang out, make some art.

Look out for inf-general e-mails from Sabine Weber confirming dates/times.


Inf.write() are an informal Informatics writers group run by Dave Cochrane.  If you would like to come and get feedback on something you have written, please bring paper copies (six should be enough, but there are printers handy if more are needed). If you don’t have writing you’d like feedback on, but would like to come along and hear what people are working on, that’s great too. There are very few limitations on what you can bring. Fiction, poetry, scripts, screenplays and non-fiction are all encouraged. This group is not for getting feedback on the type of work for which there already are established mechanisms for getting feedback within the School. Remember that everyone who brings work needs to get their turn - so if you bring something long, be prepared for the possibility that you may have to spread it between more than one meeting.

Look out for inf-general e-mails from Dave Cochrane confirming dates/times.

Guess who?

Has climbed all the way up to Machu Picchu while on holiday a few years ago (so ask them for tips if you're planning a hike!)

Best of inf-general

Our favourite problem in the last two months was Maria Wolter's iPhone charging slot issue. From the responses, we have learnt that to clean the slot you can use: 

- a paper clip, but stay away from the actual pins

- another implement (preferably a wooden toothpick), because of potential damage to pins by paper clips

- a magnet to get out any metal bits stuck inside

- or go a shop on Nicolson street that can clean it with compressed air

But it turns out that the most probable reason for the slot misbehaving in Scotland with a horizontal rain as a frequent weather feature is that it had been corroded by contact with water! 

So, you might need a new charging dock (£49 from SimplyFixIt on Forest Road).

We have also learnt, accidentally, that there is a source of toothpicks masquerading as the CISA barbecue in MF2. And were reminded not to eat CISA’s food though if you’re not in CISA.

Inf-general is a mailing list used to carry informal discussions, postings, requests to and from staff within Informatics. Not for official purposes. Julian Bradfield is the guardian of inf-general who steps in to point out misuses and confirm when inf-general should most definitely be used. If you’re new to Informatics inf-general emails can be a great source of knowledge for you: ask and you will be informed, but do remember to share the information back with the mailing list users.


Keep in Touch

For all the latest news, keep an eye on our website and social media channels!

Informatics Communications team website





Edinburgh Informatics Alumni group on LinkedIn


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