Informatics Newsletter February 2021
Issue 43 of our School newsletter for students and staff.
A Message from the Head of School
Given it appears that the restrictions imposed by the Scottish Government are going to continue for some time yet, the University has made the decision that teaching will remain online for the rest of this academic year. This has been a disappointment for everyone, but the health and safety of staff and students has to be our primary consideration.
When we started the lockdown last March, with just a relatively short time to move teaching online and set all staff up for working from home, I likened the situation to trying to dock a super tanker in a storm. Little did we expect at that time that we would still be in such serious restrictions one year later. Coronavirus has had major impact on all our lives and the effects will be felt for many years to come yet.
I have been immensely proud over the last year to be in charge of the Informatics super tanker and thank both staff and students for your resilience and good humour. Everyone has been faced with challenges but there has been a strong sense of community and collective effort for which I commend you. Spring is now in the air, and vaccines are being rolled out in the UK and elsewhere, so I am optimistic that some restrictions will be lifted soon and I look forward to being able to meet at least some of you to thank you face to face.
Personally I am very disappointed that there has been a decision to cancel the graduation ceremonies in 2021. Although it is a little stressful to be responsible for reading the names of all the graduating students - hopefully get close enough to the correct pronunciation that their parents and friends recognise the name - it is still always one of my favourite days of the year. It is a privilege to be part of this rite of passage for our graduating students, and to see their faces filled with pride and joy when they come up the ramp in the McEwan Hall to receive their degree. Given the remaining and predicted restrictions on social distancing it is understandable that the ceremonies cannot take place in person again this year. We will make an online alternative as we did last year. If you have any suggestions for elements to include in that celebration please do let me know.
As the days continue to get longer, the snow has melted and the weather improved (at least temporarily), I hope that everyone is taking the opportunity to get outside for some fresh air if you can, and discover the snowdrops that were hidden under all that snow. The Meadows are bejewelled with crocuses. As always, be kind of yourself and to others.
With best wishes,
Ross Anderson started as Chair in Security Engineering on 1st February. He will join the Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation.
Sam Lindley started as Reader in Programming Language Design Implementation on 1st February. He will join the Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science.
Antreas Antoniou started as a research associate with the Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation on 1st February
Hector Fried started as a research associate with the Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation on 1st February
Daniel Hillerstrom started as a research associate with the Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science on 1st February
Hannah Jones started as a research associate with the Institute for Computing Systems Architecture on 1st February
Chau Luu started as a research associate with the Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation on 1st February
Xue Li started as a research associate with the Artificial Intelligence and its Applications Institute on 8th February
Theodoros Stouraitis started as a research associate with the Institute of Perception, Action and Behaviour on 8th February
Guillaume Terradot started as a research associate with the Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science on 15th February
Kaushik Chakraborty started as a research associate with the Laboratory for Foundations of Computer Science on 18th February
Professional Services Staff
Rebecca Norman started as Facilities Assistant and Receptionist on 20th February
Stephanie Hunstone started as School Officer Secretary
Louise Foster started as Portfolio Manager with the Institute of Perception, Action and Behaviour
People and Money Update
We have received confirmation that the public holidays and Christmas closure leave have been added to annual leave records in People and Money however we are still aware of issues within the system that are causing inaccurate annual leave balances, that the University is looking into. We will confirm once this has been fixed, please continue to book leave on People and Money in the meantime.
Annual leave is linked to your work schedule therefore it is important to check that this is correct and to also keep it up to date. To update your work pattern if incorrect you will need to submit a service request.
To view your work schedule in People and Money, go to ‘Me’, ‘Show more’ and then ‘Team Schedule’. Please note that this will show you work schedules for staff members with the same line manager as yourself.
New staff/on-boarding tasks
InfHR sent out an email with some guidance around notifications within People and Money that you would expect to see as a line manager.
Personal information updates
We recommend that you check your personal information (address, emergency contacts) is up to date.
Getting in touch
We still advise that if you have any questions you check the 'My Knowledge' section within PaM. Alternatively you can check the University PaM FAQs.
Undergraduate student Sarah Lappin kickstarts career in Aerospace with Brooke Owens Fellowship
Fourth-year Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence student Sarah Lappin has been named a Brooke Owens Fellow for 2021, earning a coveted internship in the US Aerospace industry. Sarah was chosen out of over 800 applications received by the Fellowship this year, from talented students at high-performing universities and education institutes all over the world. As a Brooke Owens Fellow, Sarah joins a professional network of women and other gender minorities in space and aviation, helping to kickstart her career in the industry. The Fellowship also gives Sarah the opportunity to complete an aerospace internship; she will work at Loft Orbital in San Francisco, CA.
The Brooke Owens Fellowship is a non-profit organisation based in the USA that encourages exceptional female and gender minority undergraduate students to join the space and aviation sector with internships, senior mentorship and a lifelong professional network of support. The Class of 2021 marks the fifth round of "Brookie" Fellows, who are selected through a competitive application process of written and creative submissions, interviews with the Fellowship’s leadership team and its close network, and interviews with the companies that will host the Fellows for their internships. In addition to her studies Sarah is an active member of the University of Edinburgh community: she is President of Edinburgh University Women in STEM and co-founder and co-director of Hello World Hack, a hackathon event for beginners. Sarah has a passion for making all areas of STEM welcoming and inclusive for all and was first drawn to the Aerospace industry by its global impact. Sarah has previously completed internships at Pixalytics Ltd. and Amazon.
Sethu Vijayakumar leads new Horizon 2020-funded project into using assistive robotics to enhance healthcare
Professor of Robotics Sethu Vijayakumar takes the lead on new Horizon 2020 project Harmony which will develop autonomous robots to enhance the human-centred environments found in healthcare. The project started in February 2020 and will last for three and a half years. Sethu leads the Edinburgh-based team including Alex Li, Vladimir Ivan and Mohsen Khadem, who will collaborate with project partners ETH Zurich, TU Delft, University of Bonn, University of Twente, CREATE, ABB and more. The project has received total funding of €7.2million, with Edinburgh's share at €950,000.
The central goal of the Harmony project is to enable robust, flexible and safe autonomous mobile manipulation technology for use in human-centred environments. The team aim to make fundamental contributions in cognitive mechatronic technologies, and the success of the project also relies on integrating these technologies into a user-intuitive framework that will ultimately enable robotics mobile manipulation systems that can seamlessly integrate into our existing spaces. Edinburgh's role in the project is focused on developing robust, flexible and adaptive dual arm manipulation on mobile loco-manipulation platforms, addressing both compliant, real-time control and dynamic motion planning under challenging environments. Target use cases for the project lie in the healthcare domain, and the consortium will work with partner hospitals to deploy and test robots in real-world settings.
ACRC research programme led by Jacques Fleuriot uses AI to enhance health and care
Director of the Artificial Intelligence and its Applications Institute Jacques Fleuriot is an Academic Lead at the University’s new Advanced Care Research Centre, and takes the lead on research into new care technologies for people in later life. Jacques is joined on the project by Informatics colleagues including Jane Hillston, Petros Papapanagiotou, Subramanian Ramamoorthy, Bob Fisher and Sohan Seth. Working with PhD researchers, our academics will develop practical, care-driven technologies that are fit for people in later life, addressing challenges of frailty, multi-morbidity and cognitive impairment. The project, entitled new technologies of care, aims to create a community of multi-disciplinary academics, people in later life and their families, health and social care professionals, and relevant businesses in order to design and deliver insight-driven products and services that support independent living and enhance the well-being of people in later life. The team will explore and develop Internet of Things (IoT) platforms that can produce accurate data about all aspects of later life that may impact upon care, from instant events such as falls to the short-term activities of daily living and long-term activities such as hobbies or exercise. By creating a digital platform that collects comprehensive, accurate data researchers will be able to extract predictive information and patterns of behaviour, which could then be used as a basis for preventative actions and effective interventions. The process puts the focus on the individual, creating more personalised care that will better support the needs and desires of the person in later life.
ASIMO's 20th Birthday
Twenty years ago Honda unveiled its Advanced Step In Innovative Mobility humanoid robot, ASIMO. To celebrate 20 years of the world's most advanced humanoid robot we look back to 2009, when ASIMO came to McEwan Hall as part of Edinburgh Science Festival. Facilitated by School of Informatics' Sethu Vijayakumar, the Live Experience drew an audience of over 9000 people keen to learn about robotics and meet the robot itself. ASIMO's 20th anniversary serves as a timely reminder of the importance of sharing research with the public, and the impact it can have on the researchers of tomorrow.
Research Data Management
The Researchfish submission is due in 2 weeks, with a hard deadline of 4pm on 11 March. Relevant PIs and students have received direct communications from Sam Bishop, who is on hand to advise on the process. Given current circumstances, there are additional exceptions for staff PIs who cannot submit a return, but these must be logged with the RDM team by 04 March. Details have been provided in the email to PIs, and are included on the InfWeb Researchfish pages.
Student submissions are recommended but voluntary this year.
Full details are available via the InfWeb Researchfish pages, and Sam and Victoria can be contacted for any further questions.
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 Victoria and Sam on firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be happy to advise.
As always, please continue to send details of recently accepted papers and open access questions, and Victoria or Sam will respond to your query.
Currently, while the latest lockdown restrictions are in place building access is as follows:
- All attendees must sign in/out
- Access outwith 08:00 to 20:00 Monday to Friday must also involve a call in to Security (0131 650 2257) on arrival and another on departure as well as the regular sign in/out.
- Access on Saturday at any time must involve a call in to Security (0131 650 2257) on arrival and another on departure as well as the regular sign in/out.
- No access is allowed on Sunday, or overnight on any day (22:00 to 06:30). Anyone found in the building outwith the agreed times risks having their access removed.
If you can work from home, please do so. If at work then spend only the time there that is necessary to use whatever facility/equipment is required.
Appleton Tower (AT)
Building is closed, no cleaning services are taking place. Access is only for essential purposes. All attendees must sign in/out, cleaning and waste removal must be done by attendees
Informatics Forum (IF)
Essential access only; limited cleaning services in operation. Front door and reception are currently closed. All attendees must sign in/out.
Bayes Centre (BC)
Essential access only; limited cleaning services in operation. All attendees must sign in/out. Access must be via the Forum and Informatics sign in procedures. Do not use Bayes QR codes!
Forum server rooms are open. Booking via Computer support webpage
Bayes Robotics' lab access is Monday to Friday 09:00 to 17:00. Booking is via Teams' shifts
Forum open labs are G.13, G.17, 1.17, 1.30, Forum Basement labs
Some labs do not yet have associated risk assessments and booking methods and as such are closed. Please do not access these spaces until they are open.
A list of closed lab space is as follows:
If in doubt ask the lab manager for a copy of the risk assessment, rules and the booking procedure.
Informatics student volunteers teach coding club for primary school children
Students from the School of Informatics have organised Scratch from Scratch, a series of fun programming classes for primary school children in P6/7. The classes aim to introduce children to coding through the visual language and environment of Scratch, with the hope that the kids will then be equipped with the skills needed to explore on their own. Lessons started on the 10th February for a month, with each multiple student mentors available in each class to provide attentive support.
Sethu Vijayakumar discusses how robots could tackle healthcare challenges and save lives for The Scotsman
In an article written for The Scotsman, Sethu Vijayakumar discusses how the latest advances in robotics have the potential to solve some of the greatest challenges in healthcare today. Sethu's article is the first instalment in a series written by Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the product of a partnership between the Society and The Scotsman newspaper. The collaboration aims to highlight the human and social impact of scientific research, offering thought-provoking scientific commentary from experts in their field.
A shift towards personalisation to make medicine and treatment more effective has opened the door for robotics to play an increasingly significant role in the healthcare sphere. By exploring current treatments for cancers and lung diseases, the latter particularly pertinent due to Covid-19, Sethu shows the unique advantages that come with using robots to develop healthcare solutions. Radiotherapy can become more targeted through the use of robot arms that navigate narrow, complicated spaces with ease, while the repetitive cycle of sensing, monitoring and delivery of drugs to treat lung diseases could be protected from human error by automated, autonomous navigation systems. Robotics could hold the key to solving some of the biggest and most intriguing healthcare challenges of our generation, with the potential to provide simple solutions to complex problems.
Sharon Goldwater and colleagues take a computational approach to understanding how infants learn language
Sharon Goldwater and colleagues use computationally-based modelling to gain deeper understanding of early language acquisition. Collaborating with colleagues from the University of Maryland and Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, Professor of Computational Language Learning Sharon Goldwater has presented a computationally-based modelling approach to early language acquisition that facilitates deeper understanding of how infants acquire language. The team’s innovative approach shifts focus from what infants are learning about language to how they are learning it, leading to new evidence that challenges previous scientific accounts of early language learning. The study introduces a quantitative modelling framework based on a large-scale simulation of the language learning process of infants. A paper of the study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
Nadin Kokciyan selected for the New Faculty Highlights Program at AAAI-21
Lecturer in Artificial Intelligence Nadin Kokciyan has been chosen for the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence invited speaker program. This new program puts the spotlight on AI researchers who have just begun careers as new faculty members of the equivalent in industry. New Faculty Highlight participants submitted pre-recorded videos outlining their research for viewing at AAAI-21, which took place 2-9th February, as well as contributing an article to a corresponding series in AI Magazine. Nadin is one of 18 speakers chosen and one of just two from Europe.
Elham Kashefi interviewed by the Quantum Communications Hub
Professor in Quantum Computing Elham Kashefi was recently interviewed by the Quantum Communications Hub for their Wider Community and Schools blog. In the interview Elham discusses her academic career, firstly in computer science and then quantum, and explains why quantum computing is such an exciting field to work in right now. The Quantum Communications Hub's Wider Community and Schools blog collects interesting stories and interviews from key figures in the field of Quantum Computing, from academics like Elham to industry experts, entrepreneurs, science communicators and even a 7-year-old quantum reporter!
Ajitha Rajan and colleagues from IGMM and NHS Lothian awarded Horizon 2020 funding for KATY Project
Ajitha Rajan and colleagues have been awarded Horizon 2020 funding for their Knowledge At the Tip of Your fingers: Clinical Knowledge for Humanity (KATY) project. Over the next four years, KATY will be supported by € 8.5 million in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme. The project is coordinated by the Tor Vergata University of Rome, and involves twenty partners across Europe. The project has set out to build a precise personalised medicine system empowered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The novel AI tool aims to predict the response of kidney cancer to targeted therapies and identify the molecular evidence to support these predictions. Most importantly, the KATY system will offer human interpretable knowledge that clinicians and clinical researchers can trust, adequately evaluate and effectively use in their everyday working routine. Based on the molecular characteristics of a patient’s tumour, these characteristics are then translated into an appropriate therapeutic choice applicable in the clinic.
Vijay Nagarajan awarded funding from EPSRC for two of his projects
Vijay Nagarajan has been awarded ESPRC funding for two projects on Correct- and Secure-by-construction Microprocessors. The C6 project, led by Vijay Nagarajan and Tobias Grosser, will look at how to automatically generate coherence protocols for heterogeneous multiprocessors. The project will propose an entirely new way of designing coherence protocols - instead of manually designing them and verifying them later, it proposes an automatic method to generate them correctly. The method is based on a new foundation called compound consistency models, which formally answers the question of how distinct coherence protocols should compose.
The Dijkstra's Pipe project (led by Vijay Nagarajan, Sam Ainsworth, Tobias Grosser, and David Aspinall) will address the security crisis facing the microprocessor industry using a secure-by-construction approach, exploring a new way of designing processors that are guaranteed to be timing-secure by design. The approach is based on a new foundational specification, called a timing influence model that specifies how speculative instructions are allowed to impact other instructions.
University of Edinburgh's Blockchain Technology Laboratory has record number of papers accepted to FC21
Congratulations are in order for the Blockchain Technology Laboratory, who have had a record-breaking 7 papers accepted by Financial Cryptography and Data Security 2021. FC21 is a major international conference covering all aspects of securing transactions and systems. The accepted papers are titled, Somewhere Statistically Binding Commitment Schemes with Applications; Another Look at Extraction and Randomization of Groth's zk-SNARK; Mining for Privacy: How to Bootstrap a Snarky Blockchain; SOK: Communication Across Distributed Ledgers; Efficient State Management in Distributed Ledgers; Fast Isomorphic State Channels and Multi-Instance Publicly Verifiable Time-lock Puzzle and its Applications.
"When deep learning meets logic" virtual workshop co-organised by Vaishak Belle
Vaishak Belle was a co-organiser of "When Deep Learning Meets Logic", a virtual workshop on neural-symbolic integrations which took place 15-17th February. Sponsored by Samsung Research, the three-day event was the first workshop to cover all aspects related to the integration of deep neural networks with logic and computation. The effort to integrate logic with deep learning has intensified in recent years and has the potential to give rise to a new computational paradigm in which symbolic knowledge is used to assist deep learning systems or extend their capabilities, while offering, at the same time, a path towards the grounding of symbols and the induction of knowledge from low-level sensory data. The workshop had three main aims: to present the applications enabled by this new computational paradigm; to explore the state-of-the-art and understand its level of maturity by the industrial sector; and to identify some of the big questions in this area, singling out problems for further investigation. The programme featured many exciting speakers, including Turing Award winner Professor Leslie Valiant.
Cyber Scotland Week, 22-29th February
22-28th February is Cyber Scotland Week, a series of events and activities that aim to make Scotland cyber aware and cyber resilient. The week-long event has three key aims:
- To increase cyber awareness and improve cyber resilience knowledge, behaviours and practices
- To showcase innovative work from Scotland's cyber sector
- To share opportunities for skills development and careers in cyber security
The extensive programme events includes something for everyone, from businesses and organisations to individuals looking to kickstart a career in cyber. Head to the Cyber Scotland Week website to view the full programme and get involved.
Hack the Burgh VII, 6-7th March
Hack the Burgh, one of the largest student-run hackathons in the UK, returns for its seventh iteration on the weekend of 6-7th March 2021. The event is organised by CompSoc, the University's Computing Society, and sees technology enthusiasts come together to be creative, build innovative programming projects, learn new skills, and network with tech companies. Students work in teams of up to 4 people and compete in various challenges presented by the event's sponsors, including BlackRock, Optiver and Hackathons UK. Although Hack the Burgh took place in the Informatics Forum in previous years, like many events the team have had to move online.
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.
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.
For latest opportunities please check CSE PE blog for more info.
Call for volunteers - Community Engagement partner organisations
As previously highlighted, the University's Community Plan encourages all staff to use their Day to Make a Difference: an entitlement for an additional day of paid leave to volunteer for a charity, organisation, or other good cause. This time can be taken as a single full-day or split over different days.
If you would like to use your Day to Make a Difference but are unsure what to do or you would (understandably) prefer to be part of a more sustainable and regular effort, a collection of organisations with which the University has ongoing partnerships is now available through the Volunteering Sharepoint page. One option that could particularly appeal to mailing list members is Data Kirk, a STEM community education project that is seeking volunteers/mentors for guiding their learners. If you do offer to get involved, then it would be appreciated if you could email the Community Engagement Team so that they are aware.
Call for proposals - Ecsite Conference 9th-11th June, application deadline: 31st March
The European science engagement conference is open to all professionals who engage audiences with science and technology. In 2021, the conference will be online and offer around 100 inspiring sessions, debates, workshops, and a range of unique cultural events and networking opportunities.
The call for proposals is live until 31st Mar with a number of formats and topics - including reopening, global challenges, communities and cooperation - of interest to the organisers. The call for proposals page also offers ways to connect with others and collaborate on submissions.
Training - Standing Up for Science 26th March, application deadline: 1st March
Sense about Science are hosting their first Standing up for Science online workshop of the year on 26th Mar. Aimed at early career researchers (PhD, post docs in first post), participants in this workshop will learn how to effectively engage with the media, understand how evidence is used by policymakers, and confidently communicate their research. As part of the Voice of Young Science, a 4000+ network of Early Career Researchers from across Europe, this workshop encourages early career researchers to make their voices heard in public debates about science. During this half-day event, participants will meet scientists who have engaged with the media and learn from respected science journalists, hear from policymakers on how to inform policy, and talk about involving citizens in communicating research with public engagement experts.
Training - Rethinking ethics in participatory research
In Nov 2020, Pradeep Narayanan presented a session called "Developing community-led ethical review processes in India: Issues and challenges". For those interested in the ethical issues participatory research approaches can pose - especially in terms of an external perspective of UK-based ethical frameworks and what communities want to achieve from their involvement in research - a recording of the session is now available on YouTube, as well as an extensive blog post.
A second online workshop "Partnership and collaboration in participatory health research (PHR): insights from a reflective journey" will be delivered by Barbara Groot on 21st Apr, in which she will share her experiences of the important role of communities of practice in learning about ethics. Find further details and register through the Eventbrite booking page.
Training - Engaging Participants in Online and Blended Environments, UWE Bristol April-May, application deadline: 29th March
UWE Bristol’s Science Communication Unit is holding a three-part online training session to improve participants' confidence, knowledge and enjoyment of online/digital engagement. Over three short sessions, plus one short networking event, they will build a community to safely explore the technology that can be drawn, the existing skills that can be built on and come up with new plans for delivering engagement in online and blended environments.
The course costs £150. You can find further details (including the registration link) in a summary course PDF.
Other training courses offered by the Science Communication Unit can be found on the Science Communication Building Blocks page.
Training - Public Engagement Masterclass with Wellcome Genome Campus 19th-21st July, application deadline: 18th May
Wellcome Genome Campus' Public Engagement Masterclass – now in its fifth year – supports researchers (PhD level upwards) from all disciplines who want to embed public engagement as a leadership quality in their career portfolio. The rationale for why and how we build connections between research and communities - based on research interests and societal priorities and/or changes - has never been more important, and will underpin the narrative for the 2021 Public Engagement Masterclass.
Taking place 19th-21st Jul, and facilitated by leading UK and European engagement specialists, this virtual course will feature a mix of expert insights, inspirational case studies, practical sessions and bespoke support for every delegate to craft a personalised public engagement plan. The course fee is £150, with bursaries available.
For further details, including the application process (which opens soon), visit the Masterclass page.
Guidance - Good Research Resource Hub, UKRI
UKRI aims to foster a research and innovation system where diverse and dynamic people and ideas can thrive. To support this aim, they are developing a good research resource hub that brings together policies, standards and guidance to support researchers, innovators and organisations. Within this collection of resources is specific advice around public engagement (e.g. best practice, ethics, etc), which also includes further sources such as the Benefits of Public Engagement document that focuses on how researchers benefit from public engagement interactions by drawing on the genuine experiences of researchers directly. There is also a separate page that emphasises the key principles of co-production in research, a type of collaborative approach to research and innovation.
Guidance - Advice on Policymaker Engagement
On the CSE Public Engagement SharePoint, there is now a new page focusing on Policymaker Engagement, which signposts existing advice from the bodies that support the UK and Scottish Parliaments about to engage with their institutions. The guidance should be useful to anyone who is considering engaging policymakers as part of their overall impact strategy and would like to know about the formal and informal mechanisms that could be employed.
Guidance - crafting approaches to public engagement
Craft-based approaches to engagement have been increasing in recent years, including during lockdown circumstances. If you are already using the type of approach - or considering it - then you might be interested in the open access Stitching Together Good Practice Guidelines, which provides advice for facilitators of participatory textile-making workshops/projects. Structured via four principles and eight sections of guidance, the publication aims to highlight all the aspects of a participatory textile making project that need to be considered in order for it to work well from the point of view of the participants, the facilitator and any partner organisation/funder.
The Good Practice Guidelines publication is available as a free pdf, and hard copies can be requested free of charge, from the Stitching Together website.
Funding - The Ideas Fund Information Session, 26th Feb
In recent weeks, The Ideas Fund has been mentioned within these update messages. As a reminder, the Ideas Fund is a partnership between the British Science Association and Wellcome that aims to support communities in tackling issues that matter to them by connecting them with researchers. Initially, a total of £3.29m is available to fund grants up to a level of £90k to support community initiatives that relate to mental wellbeing in four geographical areas of the UK: North West Northern Ireland, the Scottish Highlands and Islands, Oldham (Greater Manchester) and the city of Hull. Full details, including eligibility and application information, can be found on the Ideas Fund website.
An information session aimed at researchers and public engagement professionals is taking place on 26th Feb at 10-11am on Zoom. There'll be an opportunity to hear more about the Fund and partners, what ideas and themes are developing from community applicants across the Highlands and Islands, how researchers can be involved, and ask any questions you might have. If you are interested in attending, email Stuart Dunbar (email@example.com) before 9am on Friday 26th Feb and the details will be forwarded to you.
Funding - UoE Community Grants Scheme, next call opens 8th March
The next round of the University's Community Grants scheme will open on 8th Mar. The scheme helps the development of projects, community activities and sustainable local action through funding and collaboration, within Edinburgh and the surrounding local authorities. Applications up to a maximum of £5k are welcome and need to be led and submitted by not-for-profit organisations and social enterprises.
Further information can be found on the Community Grants page. For applications of less than £500, the micro-grants scheme is open all year round. A broader range of funding options can be found on the NCCPE Funding pages.
Academic paper - Public Engagement Training through the Future of Our Seas Programme
Co-written by Laurence De Clippele in GeoSciences, this practical paper analyses the benefits of the Future of Our Seas training programme from the perspective of early career marine-environment researchers. The programme included: a focus on the types of roles that researchers can take in public engagement settings; the importance of personal values when engaging non-specialists; active and beneficial collaboration with artists (rather than solely commissioning pieces); and exploring interdisciplinary themes within engagement.
This paper offers a useful insight into how public engagement is perceived by a group of committed early career researchers, including the value of developing an elevator pitch for the research to overcome issues of overwhelming people with too much technical detail (too soon) and building story arcs to communicate ideas. The paper also highlights how refining approaches and materials in light of feedback enhances the engagement. With respect to environmental sciences in particular, the authors advocate for avoiding pessimistic outlooks and instead focus on potential solutions that could inspire positive action. The paper is open access.
Academic papers - new Research for All journal
The above paper from De Clippele et al is published within the new issue of Research for All: a journal which focuses exclusively on public engagement with research in all disciplines. The contents list for the current issue (which is Open Access) captures everything that has been published this month.
Of particular interest (in addition to the De Clippele et al paper above!) is the article "Going beyond the one-off: How can STEM engagement programmes with young people have real lasting impact?" by Archer et al which argues that although one-off STEM interventions aimed at children and young people can have positive impacts, the legacy for long-term aspiration change is minimal. It's worth considering this quote from the paper: "... any potential impact of a one-off experience can be extended by linking to other experiences that young people may have, both shorter term and longer in duration. In other words, while one-off experiences can be worthwhile experiences, it is important to be realistic about what they can achieve by themselves – and thus to maximize the opportunities they offer and their potential impact by linking to other aspects of young people’s lives and experiences." Even highlighting the ways that children and young people can follow any interests that are sparked through one-off activities - e.g. related YouTube videos, books or TV programmes on the topic, other local events, online courses - could lead to improved influences on the people we engage. This aligns with the advice that came out of the Young SAGE collaboration with a group of local young people.
Academic paper - the Positioning of Public Engagement Professionals
Recently published online, a new paper from Watermayer and Rowe focuses on the roles of Public Engagement Professionals (PEPs) and the challenges that they feel within universities. Through focus groups held with PEPs in 10 universities (two of which were in Scotland), the paper suggests that PEPs struggle with the recognition of their specialist expertise within the academic community, an issue reinforced by the lack of explicit senior leadership for public engagement and the sometimes precarious nature of PEP contracts. This struggle is exacerbated by the lower 'prestige' of public engagement in comparison with the more institutionally advantageous work of research income and publications.
In between the concerns however, there is also recognition of the important flexibility of PEPs in engaging different communities (academic / non-academic) and overcoming potential barriers.
In order to properly embed public engagement within university structures, the authors argue that attention needs to turn from the goal of 'culture change' to 'organisational change': "A failure on the part of institutions to engage with structural reforms related to PEPs as a particular cadre of professional service staff, is argued herein to form perhaps the greatest barrier to the formal embedding of public engagement within universities."
The full paper can be read online (note: you will need to be logged in to your UoE account to access the paper).
Practice - example of environmental citizen science
The Storymap on the River Chess is a NERC-funded project that has brought together various stakeholders around a specific river. Academics from QMUL have been supporting local citizens to monitor water quality, with the co-produced Storymap now providing a narrative platform through which findings are being shared with stakeholders and other interested parties.
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.
Informatics Social Bulletin
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.
Open Art Space have been back the last two weeks, creating art and chatting through the discord server. Keep an eye for an email from Sabine in inf-general if you'd like to join their sessions.
EUSA have kindly collated a list of ways in which you can explore Scotland from home. You might say we've done it all in the last year - but have you? Check the link below.
Best of InfGeneral
Inf-general has been void of drama this month (or drama has moved elsewhere) and so we were pleased to see the usual advice threads. This month's best of inf-general goes to Naomi Saphra who collated info on shipping a big crate to NY. Recommended services are as follows:
Send My Bag (has student discount)
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.
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