Informatics Newsletter August 2023
Issue 71 of our School newsletter for students and staff.
A Message from Head of School
Welcome to the August INFNEWS – the School of Informatics Staff and Student newsletter, and the first newsletter message I write to you as your Head of School. Please join me in welcoming Prof. Matthias Hennig, who also starts this month as Deputy Head of School. I’m looking forward to working with Matthias, and with everyone in the School of Informatics.
Many thanks to our predecessors, Profs. Jane Hillston and Frank Keller, for their hard work and dedication over the past five years.
This summer has brought successes. Highlights include the Edinburgh University Formula Student winning the annual Formula Student competition for driverless vehicle software, for the sixth year running. Congratulations to the EUFS team, this is an impressive feat.
In other news, Dr Elizabeth Polgreen received the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship to work on developing program synthesis techniques that combine the strengths of machine learning and formal methods and deploying these techniques to automatically modernise industrial legacy code. The RAEng Research Fellowship programme supports outstanding early-career researchers to become future research leaders in engineering. Please join me in congratulating Elizabeth.
It is pleasing to see that the University is recognising the vital work that our technicians play in supporting our research and teaching through a series of events in the week of the 4th of September (details below for those who would like to attend) and I’m delighted to see that a number of our colleagues have been nominated for awards. Congratulations to Fraser Yuill, Connor Bakker, Alex Burford and Eilidh Guild.
August marks the end of the Edinburgh Festivals (and a slightly quieter George Square!). We do, however, continue to celebrate 60 years of Computer Science and AI and you should keep your calendars free for one more festival -- our own Imagining Futures: AI on Film Festival. You can book your tickets now to attend screenings and panels in Adam House between the 6th and 10th of September - hopefully, see you there.
Finally, a big thank-you to all colleagues who are working hard to prepare for the start of the new academic year. We are looking forward to seeing our returning students in September, and send a warm welcome to new students, who are starting their University adventure this year.
With best wishes,
Jashn Arora started as a Research Assistant in ILCC on 21 July 2023.
Dongge Han started as a Research Associate in ANC on 01 August 2023.
Kieran Richards started as a Research Associate in ANC on 01 August 2023.
Wenzhi Fu started as a Research Assistant in LFCS on 01 August 2023.
Dimitra Giantsidi started as a Research Assistant in ICSA on 01 August 2023.
Suzanne Perry started as a Projects Manager in IPAB on 14 August 2023.
Stephen McBurney started as a Student Adviser on 31 July 2023.
Lucas Martins started as a Junior Mechanical Technican on 21 August 2023.
We are recruiting for various academic (lecturer/reader) and research (RAs) positions within the School of Informatics, across our research fields.
Elizabeth Polgreen receives the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship
Dr Elizabeth Polgreen a Lecturer in Programming Languages for Trustworthy Systems at the School of Informatics is among ten awardees of the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowships programme it was announced on 24th August.
Engineering touches many aspects of our daily lives and is central to tackling the challenges that we face in the UK and around the world, in healthcare, security, transport, infrastructure, energy and environmental change. I am delighted to see the range of backgrounds and experiences represented from within this cohort of Research Fellowships.
Imagining Futures - AI on Film festival begins in September
Taking place between 6th and 10th September 2023 in Adam House on 3 Chambers St, Edinburgh, the 5-day AI on Film festival will showcase classic and contemporary films about AI and invite AI experts to lead the debate on whether they hit or miss the mark of AI fact. Panel discussions about the human tools we use to machinate AI like games, narrative and ethics will encourage the audience to reconsider what they know about AI.
From 1927 silent masterpiece Metropolis to 2022 Sundance London’s Audience Favourite Brian and Charles, the programme spans decades and genres: it includes sixteen screenings of sci-fi and anime cult classics, comedies, thrillers and documentaries, accompanied by talks and panels.
Edinburgh University academics and invited guests: Professor Mirella Lapata (Chair in Natural Language Processing) and Dr John Zerilli (Chancellor’s Fellow in AI, Data, and the Rule of Law) among others will introduce the films and guide the audience to challenge their own views on AI whether drawn from cinema or elsewhere.
Edinburgh Climate Research Leaders
Edinburgh Climate Research Leaders programme 2023-24 is a new collaborative leadership programme for women in climate research (grades 8 – 10). The programme will run from January - May 2024.
Recognising that women are currently under-represented in this area, the University is keen to support women to grow, as well as recognising and seeking to change the barriers placed on them by systemic inequality. The programme has been co-designed with women from across the University and will support participants to develop new skills and knowledge, build their confidence and capacity for developing ambitious research programmes and create a network of support as they grow ideas for impact.
Online information session: Monday 11th September at 11:00 -12:00
Programme application deadline: Monday 2nd October 9:00am
Elevate: A Senior Leadership Programme for Women of Colour
Elevate is a senior leadership programme for women of colour at the University of Edinburgh. The programme will run from January - June 2024.
Following the success of its 2021 pilot we are bringing back our senior leadership programme for women of colour for new participants in 2024. This programme is designed for women of colour, who are at grades 8-10 and are aiming to move forward in their academic leadership. Taking place over 6 months, the course offers the opportunity to develop a cohort of 20 peers, receive specialist training, hear from inspiring speakers and take part in both 121 coaching and action learning.
Online information session: Friday 22nd September at 10:00 -11:00
Programme application deadline: Monday 2nd October, 9:00am
Research Data Management update
Please continue to notify RDM of any recently accepted papers so that they can be added to Pure.
Questions about Open Access, Pure, or REF are welcome at any time. Please contact Victoria and Katarina using the button below.
Health and Safety update
We all understand the need to train new staff and students, as without an element of training they won’t be able to perform their role. Health and safety training is a vital part of successful research and learning; safe people lead to safe work which means no gaps in work caused by accidents or incidents. All informatics staff and PGR students should undertake H&S training relevant to their job role, which is set out in the training matrix which can be found using the link below.
Current personnel need to complete the relevant courses by the end of 2023 so please check the dates offered and sign up, or start working through the online modules. If you don’t think you’ll be able to do that, please get in touch so we can discuss and find a way forward.
What’s the fuss over pronouns? - new People & Culture blog post
Ahead of the new academic year, for colleagues who are perhaps unsure about how to address students they don't know, the new blog post from People & Culture about the use of pronouns is an interesting read.
"All good questions. You can refer to me as Jonathan, him, him over there, that guy in IGS, the tall one, him and that makes sense because I look like what people think a guy should look like. I like to wear a spikey rainbow ear stud I got at Belfast City airport Claire’s Accessories (classy!) and wear a Progress Pride flag lanyard (hands up who knows what that’s all about) but generally my attire is your boring jeans and shirt/t-shirt. I’m wearing blue today. It’s probably easy to get my gender right from a glance."
Meet our professional services - new blog post
As we are going through some restructuring at the moment, and with our buildings occupied once again as part of hybrid working, we thought this would be an ideal opportunity to reintroduce you to the Professional Services teams within the School of Informatics.
Our next post is brought to you by Technical Services.
Stay tuned for an introduction to a different professional services team with each newsletter.
Edinburgh Formula Student team triumphs at Silverstone
Edinburgh University Formula Student (EUFS) were crowned top student team in the UK for driverless vehicle software at the annual Formula Student competition for the sixth year running.
The prestigious summer event organised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), held at Silverstone Racetrack, invites students from universities across the world to compete across different race car challenges.
We are incredibly proud of our performance at Formula Student UK this year. We are now at the point where our autonomous driving software can push the competition car to its physical limits, something that no other student team in the competition has come close to achieving. What remains is to complete our own self-built autonomous electric vehicle, a car that we have made great strides in developing this year.
It’s a testament to EUFS’s interdisciplinary makeup, which spans the schools of Engineering, Informatics, Physics, Mathematics, and many other schools from across the University of Edinburgh. We are now aiming in 2024 to be the first UK-based team in Formula Student UK history to enter a completely self-developed autonomous electrical vehicle in the FS-AI competition.
Bálint Gyevnár wins TAS Early Career Researcher Award
Bálint Gyevnár, PhD student, CDT in Natural Language Processing was awarded the UKRI Trustworthy Autonomous Systems Early Career Researcher (ECR) Award under the Knowledge Transfer track.
The TAS Early Career Researcher (ECR) Award scheme was launched to recognise significant contributions to TAS-related activities by PhD students and postdoctoral researchers across five impact categories. The winners were announced by Dr Horia Maior and Professor Elvira Perez Vallejos at the TAS’23 Symposium in Edinburgh.
Bálint will receive £4k to use towards relevant TAS-related research and professional development activities. He believes that TAS are essential for seeing modern AI-powered autonomous systems proliferate in the real world, and this award gives him an excellent opportunity to spread awareness around the real-world issues of autonomous systems, clear some of the fog around what trustworthiness is, and to further my research of building TAS.
Winning this award will help me attend conferences on these topics and run experiments with human participants to understand how explanations really impact their experiences with autonomous systems.
LFCS project highlighted by Scientific American and IEEE Spectrum
Informatics project that studies how generative AI models degrade as more AI-generated content appears on the internet and is used to train new generations of models gathered attention and was included in a feature in Scientific American. According to Rik Sarkar, who was interviewed for the piece, it may not be an issue right now but it will become a consideration in a few years
Dr. Rik Sarkar, Dr Marc Juarez, PhD student Lauren Watson, and visiting student Gonzalo Martinez from LFCS worked on the project.
Edinburgh researchers win multiple awards at ACL 2023
Two papers by the School of Informatics’ academics were awarded Outstanding Paper at the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL'23) which took place in Toronto, Canada from 9th to 14th July 2023.
Extrinsic Evaluation of Machine Translation Metrics by Nikita Moghe, Tom Sherborne, Mark Steedman and Alexandra Birch
Compositional Generalization without Trees using Multiset Tagging and Latent Permutations by Matthias Lindemann, Alexander Koller and Ivan Titov
Additionally, three Edinburgh PhD students were awarded Outstanding Reviewer: Verna Dankers (University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom) Vivek Iyer (The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom) Tom Sherborne (University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
ACL is the flagship conference of the Natural Language processing community and to receive an award at this conference is a widely recognised badge of honour and recognition of exceptional research effort. To have two papers within this subset (less than 100 of ~5000 submissions) is a high achievement for the department. The Best reviewer awards also highlight the exceptional quality of training in undertaking NLP research which happens at Informatics.
Leonid Libkin wins SIGMOD 2023 Best Paper Award
The paper 'PG-Schema: Schemas for Property Graphs' co-authored by Leonid Libkin, a professor at the School of Informatics, won the Best Paper award for the industry track of the SIGMOD 2023 conference.
The paper is the result of an industry/academia collaboration within the Linked Data Benchmark Council whose main goal is to influence the next generation of graph query language standards. Among members of the working group who produced the recommendations for a new schema language for graph databases are also 4 Edinburgh alumni: Domagoj Vrgoč (PhD 2014) and former postdocs Victor Marsault, Filip Murlak and Sławek Staworko.
The annual SIGMOD Conference was held in the Seattle metropolitan area, Washington, USA, on June 18 - June 23, 2023. It is a leading international forum for database researchers, practitioners, developers, and users to explore cutting-edge ideas and results, and to exchange techniques, tools, and experiences.
The Bayes Centre Welcomes Professor Ruth King as its New Director
The Bayes Centre, the University of Edinburgh’s Innovation Hub for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence is delighted to announce that Professor Ruth King, an international leader within the field of statistics, will take up the position of Director in August 2023.
Professor Ruth King is Thomas Bayes' Chair of Statistics in the School of Mathematics and an international leader within the field of statistics, particularly within the areas of statistical ecology and multiple systems estimation. She succeeds Professor Michael Rovatsos, who has led the Bayes Centre since January 2018.
In 2023, the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh celebrates 60 years of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The School of Informatics celebrates these two vital areas of research that are at the core of its existence by leading on a programme of events and activities throughout 2023.
When: Saturday 5 August to Monday 28 August
Where: Inspace Gallery, 1 Crichton Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9AB
When is a voice authentic? Whose voice is it?
Artists at Inspace Gallery are questioning the authenticity and ownership of AI generated voice.
The Sounds of Deep Fake exhibition, curated by the Institute for Design Informatics, brings together work from the artists Theodore Koterwas, Everest Pipkin, and the creative research studio, Unit Test, among others. Working with sound, voice, and emerging technologies, this exhibition asks what it means, personally and politically, to synthesize, clone, and manipulate voices, to bring together humans and speaking machines, and to literally put words into others’ mouths.
Supported by the Institute for Design Informatics and Creative Informatics.
When: Thu, 7 Sep 2023 09:30 - 12:00 BST
Where: 40 George Square, The University of Edinburgh, LG.08
Students face a rapidly changing world of work in which advance digital technologies are creating new job opportunities and impacting existing occupations. Supporting students to understand and prepare for this changing landscape of work could be beneficial for their future career success. Equally, students' future careers are not only shaped by external forces in the world of work, but they can also positively contribute to the world and sustainable development through their careers. In this knowledge exchange event, we invite you to explore how UoE students' can be supported to prepare for job automation and emerging career opportunities. You will also discover how students could be empowered to contribute to sustainable development through their future careers.
Findings and insights from the recent Sustainable Careers Project will be presented at the event. This PTAS funded project, involving a collaboration between staff at Moray House School of Education and the Careers Service, has included the development of a sustainable career learning intervention. The intervention was developed using participatory approaches with career practitioners and UoE students. It has been designed with the intention of supporting students across the UoE to learn how their future careers can be shaped by new technologies in the world of work, as well as learning how they can contribute to sustainable development. At the knowledge exchange event, we also invite attendees to actively share their insights and explore how they could support students in their respective school/programme/course to prepare for their future careers and contribute to sustainable development.
Lunch and refreshments will be provided at the event!
When: Wed, 13 Sep 2023 09:00 - 16:00 BST
Where: COSLA, Edinburgh Haymarket
A one-day event for academics from the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, St Andrews, and Strathclyde. Hear impact success stories, find a partner from another Scottish university, and access funds for impact collaborations.
When: Monday 25th September from 12pm to 1pm
A panel conversation with opportunity to hear from colleagues with a breadth of experience in research commercialisation. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion. Panel members will include researchers with hands-on experience of entrepreneurship, and staff involved in supporting business development at the university.
Lunch will be provided to registered attendees.
Please register your interest by 5pm on Thursday 21st September 2023.
Registration for the annual European Computer Science Summit is now open. Co-organised by the School of Informatics and Informatics Europe, this is a must-go event for prominent & aspiring informatics researchers committed to advancing the informatics agendas in Europe from academia to industry!
Distinguished speakers include:
- Stefano Ceri
- Elham Kashefi
- Mirella Lapata
- Jochen Viehoff
Limited places available – all successful applicants will be fully funded to attend the event by Postdocs to Innovators (p2i).
Apply by midday UK time 4 October 2023.
Step out of your day-to-day activities and join likeminded researchers from across Europe at 1,940 m height in beautiful Obergurgl, Austria for the opportunity to see your research through a different lens. Get inspired, work on (your) business ideas, learn new skills, connect with likeminded researchers and business experts. The event combines interactive workshops, teamwork, and panel discussions. You’ll leave with new connections, a renewed motivation and confidence and a set of skills to increase impact from your research.
Outreach and Public Engagement
Tell us about your recent outreach and public engagement activity
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.
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.
Training/refresher course - Public Engagement for data science and AI research
Back by popular demand, three-part training/refresher course Public Engagement for Data Science and AI Research! This course is designed primarily for researchers.
The content builds on our highly influential work with the Alan Turing Institute. It’s bang up-to-date with its focus on co-creation and ethics. Be prepared to think differently about how you might (should?) involve different publics in your research processes and governance, as part of ethical research practice from design through to dissemination and beyond.
- Part 1 – Why all the fuss: Learn why public and community engagement with research means more than just sharing your findings and passion. It's an ethical imperative! (5 Sept, 1230-1400)
- Part 2 – Do it: Learn all the steps in strategic planning, delivery and evaluation of creative and effective public engagement (12 Sept, 1230-1400)
- Part 3 – Change for good: It is hard to escape the pressure to deliver research impact through public engagement. Now's the time to consider indicators of success (26 Sept, 1230-1400)
You can see the full collection by clicking the link below.
Register for Parts 1 & 2 and you’ll get Part 3 for free!
Call for Ideas – Edinburgh Science Festival 2024 (including the University-curated programme)
This is an open call offering you the chance to be part of the 2024 Edinburgh Science Festival, which will run from Saturday 30th March – Sunday 14th April with the theme of Shaping the Future.
Celebrating the power and potential that human creativity, collaboration, innovation and play have to change our world for the better, the 2024 Edinburgh Science Festival will explore the roles of science, technology and their creative cousins in tackling the challenges and seizing the opportunities that our ever-changing world presents.
The call is open to anyone – individuals, groups or organisations – with bright ideas and a passion for communicating them. We are looking for participants from diverse fields across the sciences, arts and cultural sectors.
The submission deadline is midnight on Sunday 10th September 2023. On the page below you'll find all the information you need to find out more about what we're looking for, how to submit a proposal to us and who to get in touch with if you have any questions.
The internal university call is also now open for submissions. If you'd like to submit your idea as part of the University-led programme, fill in the form below.
The University ESF team are looking for applications for the family drop-in sessions at the museum, workshops for children at the museum and adult evening events. Also, applications for in-person walking tours and online tours are welcomed.
The closing date for submissions is 25th August 2023.
If you'd like to discuss your Science Festival idea, please get in touch with Kasia Kokowska.
Interested in outreach in public engagement? Join Informatics Outreach Allies!
Calling all students and staff members interested in outreach and public engagement!
The School is getting queries and calls from local schools, organisations, and festivals looking for scientists to get involved in various outreach and public engagement activities. If you are interested in helping out and spreading the word about your research, perhaps you’d like to become an Outreach Ally? We will have a Teams channel where the calls for help will be advertised and allies will be able to team up and work together.
If you’re interested join the Outreach Allies Team!
Best of Inf-general
This month's best of inf-general goes to Valerio Restocchi for a masterful (and the first confirmed) use of our friendly AI, ChatGPT, to create an inf-general email to sell his Garmin smartwatch in minutes.
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.
The newsletter is produced by the Communications team.
If you have any questions or comments please get in touch.
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