Informatics Newsletter August 2021

Issue 49 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from Acting Head of School

Picture of Frank Keller

Dear Colleagues,

It's great to have the opportunity to write for the Informatics newsletter while Jane is enjoying her well-deserved annual leave.

August is a bit of a quiet time, and many colleagues are also on holiday, and some might even be travelling. But if you're staying in Edinburgh, I would encourage you to take advantage of this year's Festival. While much smaller (and less noisy!) than in previous years, it does offer a good smattering of music, theatre, and comedy. Venues include the University's own Old College quad, which is currently home to an impressive outdoor pavilion.

I'd also like to highlight a recent grant success, namely the award of a Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellowship to Mirella Lapata. This investment by UKRI will be used to set up ELIAI, the Edinburgh Lab for Integrated AI, which is designed to bring together AI researchers from across all our institutes. This includes cross-institute postdoc fellowships, and the first call for these has already been issued, with a deadline of 13 September. Please get in touch with Mirella or Chris Williams if you have missed it.

The beginning of August also marks the changeover of administrative and leadership roles in the School, and I'd like to thank all colleagues who are taking on new roles. This includes those in senior leadership roles such as Perdita Stevens as Director of Research, Iain Murray as Coordinator of MSc Programmes (a new role), David Sterrat as Deputy Director of Learning and Teaching, Bob Fisher as Director of Internationalisation, and Nigel Topham, who returns to his role as Director of the Graduate School.

I would also like to remind everyone that the TestEd project continues to run a Covid test site in the cafe area of the Informatics Forum. It provides saliva-based asymptomatic testing with high accuracy and short turnaround, and I would encourage everyone to get tested twice a week. This contributes to making Informatics a safer working environment, and helps the TestEd project evaluate new Covid testing protocols. By the time our students return in September, we will also have another TestEd site in Appleton Tower, which will cater to both staff and students. 

Finally, with the lifting of restrictions and Scotland moving to Beyond Level 0, I am looking forward to seeing people back on campus for the new academic year. We are in the process of adjusting our buildings to the Beyond Level 0 measures recommended by the University and anticipate this will be complete by early September. You will find further information in the body of the newsletter.



New Staff

Research Staff

Sabyasachi Kamila started on 1st August as a Research Associate in ILCC

Jan Stankiewicz started on 1st August as a Research Associate in IPAB

Academic Staff

Brian Mitchell started on 9th August as a University Teacher

Professional Services Staff

Stuart McKerlie started on 2nd August as a Web and Social Media Coordinator


Beyond Level 0 measures within Informatics' buildings

To reflect Scotland’s move to Beyond Level 0, which happened on 9 August, here is a summary of updated University guidance on the adjustment of our buildings:

  • There will be no mandated physical distancing requirements, however distancing will be encouraged.
  • Face coverings must be worn in indoor spaces, except when eating or drinking and (for staff in offices) when 1m distancing can be maintained.
  • One-way systems will be retained in a number of areas, but can be relaxed if it improves the management of risk.
  • We will retain one in/one out in our kitchen, pantry and print areas and continue to require individuals to bring their own crockery and cutlery.
  • University guidance requires that records of attendees at in-person meetings is maintained (for Test & Protect purposes); we will provide guidance to meeting organisers on how to do this, along with guidance for PTs who will be meeting with students.   There is similar record keeping requirements for school managed study space which is being implemented and we will clarify details in FAQs we are preparing.

Welcome Week is fast approaching and many colleagues need to return to campus to prepare for teaching and meetings with students.  A number of people are working to undertake the necessary risk assessments, make physical adjustments to our buildings and update the FAQs and induction to reassure you of the safety measures in place.

For those who are already on campus you will progressively see changes being made to the buildings – please follow the signage in place.

Survey on proposed new programme

We would like to hear your views on a potential new postgraduate opportunity in Advanced Robotics.

We invite you to take part in this survey to help us develop a potential new postgraduate opportunity. It will take approximately 5-10 minutes to complete and all of your responses will remain strictly confidential and not attributed to you personally - your participation is completely voluntary. All we ask is that you answer the questions as honestly and completely as you can.

Take survey


Picture of Mirella Lapata
Professor Mirella Lapata

Mirella Lapata will teach machines to reason

Mirella Lapata was appointed one of the first Turing AI World-Leading Researcher Fellows to conduct ground-breaking work on Artificial Intelligence’s (AI) biggest challenges. The fellowship comes with £3.9 million from UKRI to set up Edinburgh Laboratory for Integrated Artificial Intelligence (ELIAI). The new research centre will work towards developing a new class of neural network models and a theoretical framework which explains what it means for neural network models to reason.

"Our first goal will be to develop AI models with reasoning abilities that go beyond pattern matching and show how these improve applications in the fields of machine learning, robotics, computer vision, and natural language processing." - Professor Mirella Lapata

Link to full article

New (and returning) Turing Fellows

Congratulations to four new Turing Fellows from the School of Informatics. We are also pleased to see a number of returning fellows.

Turing Fellows are scholars with proven research excellence in data science, artificial intelligence or a related field whose research would be significantly enhanced through active involvement with the Turing network of universities and partners. All fellowships will commence on 1 October 2021.

New fellows: Oisin Mac Aodha, Diego Oyarzun, Ian Simpson and John Vines.

Returning fellows: Vaishak Belle, James Cheney, Tiejun Ma, Walid Magdy, Mahesh Marina, Subramanian Ramamoorthy, HenryThompson, Chris Williams and Maria Wolters.

InfHR Update

Annual leave recording in People and Money

We are aware of a few ongoing issues with annual leave balances in People and Money and we are awaiting a fix from the systems team. Due to this, InfHR are receiving a high number of annual leave queries and therefore please expect a delay in response to these queries.

For queries regarding working patterns, please email the HR Helpline or raise a service request via the ‘Help Desk’ section of People and Money.

Email HR Helpline

Raise a service request

For further People and Money guidance, please see below.

End to end process user guides

Research Data Management Update

Staff update

The Research Services team is delighted to announce that Sam will fill the Research Data Manager post during Victoria’s maternity leave (from 02 August). The Research Data Officer role will be advertised shortly – if you know anyone who might be interested, please do let them know and direct them to Victoria or Sam with any questions.

Please continue to submit details of recently accepted publications to the RDM email below. Questions related to the RDM’s broader remit should be directed to Sam,

Email Sam Bishop

Open Access requirements

Open Access policies remain unchanged throughout the current COVID-19 situation, and the expectation is that accepted manuscripts are deposited in Pure within three months of the date of acceptance. If there are concerns about meeting Open Access deadlines, please contact Sam (email below) and he will be happy to advise.

As always, please continue to send details of recently accepted papers and open access questions, and Sam will respond to your query.

Contact the RDM Team

Ethics update

Summer Ethics office hours

The Informatics ethics committee will over the summer hold an office hour every first Monday of the month, 4pm-5pm (06 September). The frequency of the office hour will be reviewed again at the start of Semester 1. The session is attended by one member of the ethics committee. Staff and students are welcome to join the office hour via the Teams link below and to discuss questions around ethics and ethics applications.

Link for office hour first Monday of the month, 4-5pm

Please take the time to review the information available on our pages before attending, including the FAQs.

Link to InfWeb Ethics and Integrity pages 

Students should discuss specific ethics questions with their supervisor before attending the office hour (open to both students and supervisors).

Student news

Informatics graduate's contribution to project tackling medical supplies shortage

Nikolas Pilavakis, a summer research intern with the Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science and this year’s MInf (Master of Informatics) graduate, contributed to a collaborative university-NHS-industry project that evidenced the potential of flexible manufacturing for future emergencies such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Lessons learned from the project are presented in a paper published in a special issue of Frontiers in Medical Technology.

"The spontaneous solidarity efforts that emerged in the University during this difficult period have been really inspirational! I’m really happy that I was able to join these efforts and contribute." - Dr Antoine Vallatos, Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

Link to full article

Staff news

Picture of Siobhán Carroll
Siobhán Carroll, Co-chair Disabled Staff Network

Siobhán Carroll shares their involvement with the UoE Disabled Staff Network

The University of Edinburgh's Disabled Staff Network (DSN) provide mutual support for staff with disabilities, restrictive health conditions & caring responsibilities.

DNS maintain close links with Human Resources, in particular the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group. The network work together with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and the Staff Disability Officer to progress disability issues and make improvements.

Co-chair of DSN, our very own Siobhán Carroll, tells us more about the network in a new promotional video.

Watch new promo video for the Disabled Staff Network

Paper by Mahesh K. Marina accepted to MobiCom Conference

Professor Mahesh K. Marina alongside his PhD student, Jon Larrea, and in collaboration with Kobus Van der Merwe (University of Utah) have had their paper titled “Nervion: A Cloud Native RAN Emulator for Scalable and Flexible Mobile Core Evaluation” accepted to the 2021 edition of the ACM MobiCom conference, to be held in person from 31 January - 04 February 2022 in New Orleans, United States. MobiCom is the premier venue for research in the mobile computing and networking field.

Mobile core is the nerve centre for operating a mobile network, handling the essential control functionality (device authentication, mobility management, billing, etc.) as well as bridging data communication between end devices and external networks like the Internet via the radio access network (RAN). While much innovation on mobile core systems design has happened in recent years to gear it for the 5G era, the evaluation of these designs has oddly till date largely depended on “ad hoc” RAN emulators with limited scalability and flexibility. Nervion overcomes this status quo, taking a novel cloud-native approach. It represents what is by far the most comprehensive and versatile RAN emulator supporting scalable and flexible mobile core evaluations at high fidelity.

MobiCom - The 27th Annual International Conference On Mobile Computing And Networking

Sethu Vijayakumar at Automatica Sprint 2021

Professor Sethu Vijayakumar gave a talk on "Shared Autonomy: The Future of Interactive Robotics" as a keynote speaker at the Automatica Hightech Summit. His talk is now available to watch as a recording.

At the Automatica Hightech Summit, leading international masterminds from the field of AI and robotics are invited to discuss their visions, innovations, insights and theories.

Watch recording of Sethu's keynote speech

Picture of Chris Heunen
Chris Heunen, Co-author "Categories for Quantum Theory"

Book co-authored by Chris Heunen translated and published in Japanese

"Categories for Quantum Theory", a book co-authored by Chris Heunen (University of Edinburgh) with Jamie Vicary (University of Cambridge), originally published by Oxford University Press in 2019, has now been translated into Japanese and is being published by Morikita Publishing on 1 September 2021.

The book explores monoidal category theory and how it serves as a powerful framework for describing logical aspects of quantum theory, giving an abstract language for parallel and sequential composition, and a conceptual way to understand many high-level quantum phenomena. In the text, Chris Heunen and Jamie Vicary lay the foundation for this categorical quantum mechanics, with an emphasis on the graphical calculus which makes computation intuitive.

In a review posted on Japanese book forum, one reviewer describes the title as an "epoch-making book", and calls on you to "Please pick it up at once"!

Japanese edition of "Categories for Quantum Theory" via Morikita Publishing

British edition of "Categories for Quantum Theory" via Oxford Press

Sethu Vijayakumar co-chairs online event: AI Research in Japan

Professor Sugiyama Masashi joins Professor Sethu Vijayakumar in this live event introducing the latest research conducted at the RIKEN AIP and its recent achievements and challenges.

Participants were given the opportunity to learn more about Japan's latest research into artificial intelligence (AI) technology and its real-world applications with a live Q&A session held during the event.

RIKEN-AIP was launched in 2016 as the research centre for the MEXT-AIP project which aims to develop and apply next-generation artificial intelligence technology to contribute to solutions for real-world problems, such as disaster resilience and healthcare for the elderly and to advance scientific research. It also conducts research on ethical, legal and social issues caused by the spread of AI technology and works to develop AI-related human resources.

This event was co-organised by The Alan Turing Institute and The Embassy of Japan in UK and hosted by Japan House London.

Stream the session recording on YouTube

Outreach and Public Engagement

If you have participated in an outreach and public engagement activity in the last six months, please make sure it has been recorded by the Comms team in the directory below.

Informatics Outreach and Public Engagement Directory

If you need to add an entry, would like to get involved in a public engagement activity or promote an opportunity that you are aware of, please use the webform below.

Public Engagement webform

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

CSE Public Engagement update

Call for data challenge submissions - Data Fair 2021

Do you have a data set that requires exploration, analysis, and visualization from motivated and creative individuals?

As part of their Data Science for Design course, our Master students in Design Informatics are looking for real-world project collaboration opportunities.

  • The deadline for submitting a brief is Monday 20 September.
  • Chosen briefs to be pitched at the Data Fair on Thursday 30 September. For further details, and to submit a brief see the link below.

View full details and how to participate in Data Fair 2021

Call for content - Edinburgh Impact

Communications and Marketing have launched Edinburgh Impact: an approach to sharing inspirational content that reflects the priorities of Strategy 2030 and our institutional research themes under the following headings: Research with Impact, Inspiring Minds, Our People, Opinion, and Our Shared World. 

The focus is on content (long-form written pieces and video) that has a personal element - it is not about sharing facts and figures. The approach doesn't rely on external audiences navigating our Edinburgh Impact webpages, but through actively sharing content via the University's main social media channels, including paid promotional posts/tweets, and then monitoring what works and doing more of that.

The Editorial Board has access to the REF case studies that have been recently submitted and will be liaising with the people involved in these to publish pieces over the next few months. However, they are also open to suggestions for other new content pieces that align with one or more of the Edinburgh Impact headings.

If you have any suggestions, please email contacts Kasia Kokowska, Informatics Marketing, Communications and Outreach Manager.

Email Kasia

Call for participants - Creative Sparks

Researchers (PhD onwards) from the four Edinburgh universities are invited to apply to the Creative Sparks programme in order to collaborate with artists and develop impactful experiences for different target communities. During the half-day workshop on 22nd Sept, attendees will work in inter-disciplinary groups with an artist to come up with innovative public engagement projects within cross-institute teams. Teams will pitch their idea, Dragons-Den style, to a prestigious panel, who will award £2k to the winning team to pilot their idea.

Further details, and the application process, can be found below. The application deadline is Wednesday 1 September.

Creative Sparks - further information

Call for participants - Bedtime Stories for Very Young Engineers

Bedtime Stories for Very Young Engineers aims to foster interest in engineering through the power of storytelling. This project will give UK engineers the skills, training, information and raw materials they need to create fun and engaging bedtime stories about engineering. The engineers will record themselves reading the stories for a series of videos made freely available online, and might get the chance to publish the stories in a children’s book at the end of the project.

The project organisers want to involve a diverse group of engineers (including apprentices, technicians, researchers) from across the UK and from all engineering disciplines. Further information can be found through the website below. The application deadline is Monday 13 September.

Bedtime Stories for Very Young Engineers - further info

Recorded webinar - Hosting Online Events

Originally part of the University's Digital Skills Festival, the Hosting Online Events session is now available to view on-demand. In this informal session, Lisa Otty (Centre for Data, Culture & Society) and Ben Fletcher-Watson (IASH) share what they have learnt over the past year as they successfully moved their public events programmes online. Access this session - and others as they become available - through the link below.

Digital Skills Festival programme

Call for contributors - Fun Palaces Scotland planning workshop

The Fun Palaces weekend of action is all about connecting locally and celebrating the skills and passions we all have in tiny and not-so-tiny ways for, with and by communities. Fun Palaces offers an opportunity to engage communities on their terms, much more than a science festival would. This year, Fun Palaces is taking place on Friday 1 - Sunday 3 October.

In the lead-up to the next Fun Palaces weekend, there is one remaining planning workshop on Wednesday 1 September focusing on community collaborations and hyperlocal engagement

For further details, and to book your place see the link below.

Fun Palaces workshop

Call for contributors - Global Science Show at Explorathon

As part of Explorathon for European Researcher’s Night, you are invited to be part of the Scottish Research Showcase in collaboration with the Global Science Show, reaching audiences around the Twittersphere. All you have to do is sign up, create a short video of an innovative explanation or demonstration of your research, and post this in your very own timeslot during the Scottish Research Showcase programme on Friday 17 September.

This show is open to researchers of all disciplines. You can sign up as an individual or as a group. All participants will be invited on registration to a special one-off training session to help develop your ideas.

Further details, and registration see the Eventbrite link below.

Global Science Show Eventbrite

Staff Training Courses

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

Informatics Social Bulletin

What does Beyond Level 0 actually mean?

Due to popular demand, we bring you a completely new and refreshed version of our Lockdown Bulletin - Informatics Social Bulletin. We have moved all the content that you found useful to our blog, so head there to find out more.

This month we explain what Beyond Level 0 means and provide links to guidance for other parts of the country, as well as international travel (all in one place!)

Beyond Level 0 - what does it mean?

InfComms blog

Best of InfGeneral

This month's best of inf-general award goes to Jon Larrea for colating the PCR testing info and to Maria Wolters for forwarding a Boots overview of all Covid tests currently available and their purpose. 

Boots Covid testing overview

PCR testing and certificates for travel are available from

If you have received only the first dose, it is possible to get the second dose early in a drop-in clinic (4 weeks after the first), but you will need two/three weeks for the certificate.

Note that this list is intended for certificates to travel *FROM* the UK. Once you return to the UK, you might be required to book PCR tests accordingly to the Scotland travelling rules.

Scottish travel rules

Most of the countries accept lateral flow test certificates, which are cheaper than PCR tests. The airport seems to be the easiest and one of the cheapest ways to get this certificate. It costs 50£, and it takes 30 mins to get the PDF over email

Thanks, Jon and Maria!

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 the inf-general who steps in to point out misuses and confirm when the 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


The newsletter is produced by the Communications team.

If you have any questions or comments please get in touch!

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