Informatics Newsletter February 2023
Issue 64 of our School newsletter for students and staff.
A Message from Head of School
I hope that everyone has been able to have a break of some sort during February, whether that was actual time off or a change in routine due to the Festival of Learning. There is an old saying that a change is as good as a rest. As someone who is perpetually sleep-deprived I’m not sure I entirely agree with that, but it is true that stepping out of our usual routine can bring the stimulus that we need to think and act a little differently, sparking creativity and innovation.
Last week I did take some time off and spent a long weekend in Venice. It is a city I always enjoy as it seems to symbolise the triumph of innovation and optimism over the mundane. It is hard to imagine the imagination and creativity that went into building such a fantastic city on a series of low lying islands in the northern Adriatic, not to mention sheer determination. What the Venetians built were not just shelters to survive in, but amazing palaces and churches that remain today. But this was not all about show, it was also extremely practical. I don’t anywhere else where there are thoroughfares, complete with street lighting, across expanses of water, such as those that exist out to the smaller islands of Murano and Burano!
Reflecting on this in the context of our 60 year celebrations, I think that we can credit the early founders of AI and CS at Edinburgh with similar creativity and ambition. The intellectual edifices that they constructed were every bit of as ambitious and glorious as the Venetian palazzos. Before the 60 year anniversary event last month I had not fully appreciated the analog nature of Michie’s work on Menace, based on matchboxes. As a discipline develops the islands suitable for development and thoroughfares through the sea become better marked but I think that it is important that we still allow the possibility of striking out in new directions. I hope that the 60 years anniversary gives all the stimulus to think about how we may innovate across all areas of the School to ensure that the next 60 years are just as successful.
With best wishes,
Andrey Elizondo Solano started as a Research Associate in IPAB on 1 February 2023.
Daxin Liu started as a Research Associate in AIAI on 1 February 2023.
Anant Gupta started as a Research Assistant in ICSA on 6 February 2023.
Mojtaba Jafarzadegan started as a Research Associate in LFCS on 8 February 2023.
Carlos Rosuero started as a Junior Research Assistant in LFCS on 13 February 2023.
Sandor Felber started as a Junior Research Assistant in IPAB on 13 February 2023.
Katarina Scaife started as a Research Data Officer on 13 February 2023.
Hao Zheng started as a Research Assistant in ILCC on 20 February 2023.
Viveka Gosami started as a Research Assisatant in AIAI on 24 February 2023.
Opeyemi Osakuade started as a Research Assistant in AIAI on 24 February 2023.
Milad Jabbari started as a Research Assistant in AIAI on 24 February 2023.
Julia Sorensen started as an Events Manager on 20 Febraury 2023.
Chrissy Harris started as a Student Advisor on 20 February 2023.
Audry Dasnoy started as a Finance Business Support Administrator on 20 February 2023.
We are recruiting for various academic (lecturer/reader) and research (RAs) positions within the School of Informatics, across our research fields.
Link to School of Informatics vacancies website
Help us spread the word about 60 years of Computer Science & AI at Edinburgh - use the branding toolkit!
In 2023, the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh celebrates 60 years of Computer Science and AI research. We will be celebrating in many different ways, and you can help us spread the word as well. The easiest way to do it is to use the branding toolkit that we have specifically prepared to be used throughout the year.
We encourage all staff members to add branding to their email signatures. There are two versions you can use: a school one and a corporate one.
We also encourage everyone, especially events organisers, to use other assets in the toolkit. As above there are two versions: a school one and a corporate one. The School version of the toolkit is specifically designed for internal use: any internal events connected to the celebration should be making use of this toolkit. The corporate toolkit is public-facing, so if you'd like to mark the celebrations and events, presentations etc. that you will be participating in this year, that are aimed at an audience external to Informatics - please use the corporate toolkit. There are guidelines for both toolkits provided.
If you're not sure, email the Informatics Communications team and we will advise you on the most appropriate version of the celebration branding, or indeed whether it is appropriate to use the branding.
Informatics Branding Toolkit (Informatics Branding Toolkit can also be accessed via the Corporate Toolkit link)
Please note that the celebration badge must be used in conjunction with a full UoE or School logo and cannot be used as a stand-alone graphic unless on the University/School digital estate.
Please make sure that you include the link to the 60 years of computer science and AI website.
Head of School recruitment - invitation to input into criteria for a new HoS
The Head of College and Head of School selection panel would like to hear from you, with particularly interest in your views of the criteria you feel are most important in relation to your understanding of the current and anticipated future needs of the School and University. This will ensure that they are able to represent the views of the School throughout the process.
The following opportunities for you to engage with the Head of College and Head of School selection panel have been arranged:
- Thursday 2 March (10am to 11.30am) – open meeting for all staff in G.07 – hybrid meeting – you can join online via the Teams details emailed to all staff from Informatics dops on Friday 24 February 2023.
- Tuesday 8 March – drop-in session with Professor Frank Keller (intended as an opportunity for a 1:1 conversation) – IF 3.27A (Frank’s office)
- Thursday 9 March – drop-in session with Samantha Inch (an opportunity for a 1:1 conversation) – IF 5.13
You can also use the email account firstname.lastname@example.org in confidence if you would like to communicate directly with the staff representatives. A general synthesis of the views emailed here will be discussed before the shortlisting meeting on 17 March.
In addition, the Head of College, Professor Iain Gordon (email@example.com), is very happy to receive emails from anyone who would like to discuss any specifics about the Head of School role and this process.
Frank, Sam, Joy and Iain are currently finalising arrangements for the school visits for the shortlisted candidates. They anticipate that the school visits will be within the period 13-17 April (interviews are being held 18 April) and will advise you as soon as practical.
EFI's Love Machine is open for booking
The Edinburgh Futures Institute's Spring programme of events, created in collaboration with partners will run between March and May 2023. The Love Machine season, and 13 specific events in it, is part of the University of Edinburgh's 60 Years of Computer Science and AI research celebrations. All events are free but ticketed so grab yours while they last.
Opening the season, held over two sessions in March 2023, the fourth Edinburgh Futures Conversations Series will feature a panel and performance that reflects on how AI and humanity can evolve alongside each other. The panel brings together leading experts from the worlds of science, politics, and civil society to debate what our AI futures may bring. The dance performance explores the delicate and intricately evolving relationship between humans and machines, through a dynamic dance between a dancer and a soft robot as the focal point.
Link to the general public events celebrating 60 years of computer science and AI
Link to the Love Machine programme
Two ICSA papers recognised by IEEE MICRO
Every year the computer architecture community selects a set of papers published in the previous year in the top computer architecture conferences. These are "significant and insightful papers that have the potential to influence the work of computer architects for years to come." This year 12 Top Picks and 12 Honorable Mentions were selected. Two ICSA papers were among those recognized.
Co-authored by Nicolai Oswald (ICSA PhD student), Vijay Nagarajan (ICSA faculty), Dan Sorin (former ICSA visitor), Vasilis Gavrielatos (former PhD student), Carr Reece and Theo Olausson (former Edinburgh undergrad students) was recognized as a Top Picks. The work provides a formal foundation of what it means when two of more processors (e.g., CPUs and GPUs) share memory (compound consistency models), and automatically synthesizes implementations (heterogeneoys coherence protocols) to match this meaning.
Co-authored by David Schall (ICSA PhD student), Artemiy Margaritov (former ICSA PhD student), Dmitrii Ustiugov (former ICSA PhD student), Andreas Sandberg (collaborator at ARM), and Boris Grot (ICSA faculty) was recognized with an Honorable Mention. The work provides a characterization of serverless functions, proposes hardware support to optimize their execution, and unveils benchmarks and simulation tools to enable computer architecture research in the serverless domain.
Research Data Management
New staff update
The RDM team are delighted to welcome Katarina Scaife, our new Research Data Officer, who joined us on 13 February.
Katarina joins us from a similar role in CAHSS, and will bring valuable experience of Pure to the School. As ever, the RDM team – and Katarina in particular – will be happy to assist with Pure entries and advice around open access.
We also wish Andrew Castle (our previous Research Data Officer) all the best, as he will begin Police College after his last day in Informatics on 28 Feb.
Recently accepted papers
Please continue to notify the RDM team as soon as your paper is accepted for publication (include the date of acceptance and the accepted manuscript if ready), and Katarina or Victoria will help deposit it in Pure and ensure open access is achieved in line with University and funder requirements.
Informatics Business Development Team
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 the Business Development Team.
Stay tuned for an introduction to a different professional services team with each newsletter.
Why Fairness Matters - new blog post by Informatics People & Culture
People make the School of Informatics. Whether academic, professional services, or student, without people teaching and research would halt. And people are at their best when they feel they belong in the School’s culture. At the root of an inclusive culture lies fairness, which brings out the best in people. Fairness matters, as any child knows instinctively.
Link to People & Culture blog post
Our Mind Scholarship programme launched
Funding available for short projects to allow undergraduate and postgraduate students in any discipline and year of study at the University of Edinburgh, the opportunity to undertake short 2-month-long projects to reflect, explore and engage with others, in particular the public, on questions concerning Our minds. Please spread the word amongst people who might be interested.
Deadline for application submission- 5pm, 20th March.
Link to further information about this scholarship
Justas Zelnia wins SICSA Programming Challenge
The Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA) hosted their Fourth SICSA Programming Challenge “humble Hamming” this month. Informatics student Justas Zelnia won first place at the event, which featured problems which required good knowledge of algorithms and data structures.
I decided to participate, because I enjoy participating in various competitive programming contests. I had a great time solving the problems and I am happy to have placed 1st due to a lot of practice in similar competitions.
Paul Patras and student Haoyu Liu research how top Android phones from China collect more user data than previously thought
Phone makers like Xiamoi, OnePlus, and Oppo Realme, some of the most popular in China, are all collecting large amounts of sensitive user data via their respective operating systems, as are a variety of apps that come pre-installed on the phones. Paul Patras and his student Haoyu Liu, with their collaborator Doug Leith of Trinity College Dublin, have been researching privacy of the Android OS firmware, examining those versions available on the Chinese market.
Their recent research, findings of which will appear in ACM WiSec later this year, looked into how smartphones commercialised in China behave and how they may track their users. This information is collected even when the owners are outside of China.
Volunteer with Scouts like Douglas Armstrong
Staff at the University of Edinburgh are entitled to one day of paid leave to volunteer and Professor Douglas Armstrong from the School of Informatics has been using his to volunteer at a Scouts camp. You might think that a mixture of survival camp and teenage party is not your cup of tea but there’s many ways in which you can get involved.
Over the last 8 years Douglas has participated in 30 different Scouts events, some as long as 5-8 days at a time. This year he went to the Scouts camp at the Auchengillan Outdoor Centre near Glasgow.
Europe Regional Datathon
Monday 13 - Monday 20 March 2023 Virtual event open to undergraduates, graduates, PhD, and post-doc researchers
Datathons are data science competitions that challenge students from the world's best universities to tackle real-world social challenges in topics such as urban traffic, renewable energy, and education.
Prizes : $15,000USD + Exclusive recruiting opportunities with Citadel and Citadel Securities
Europe Regional Terminal
Tuesday 11 April - Tuesday 18 April 2023 Virtual event open to undergraduates, graduates, Ph.D., and post-doc researchers
Terminal Live is an online game where software engineers and computer scientists (or anyone else interested in coding!) build an algorithm to play a tower defense game in a team-based setting.
Prizes : $15,000USD + Exclusive recruiting opportunities with Citadel and Citadel Securities
Diego Oyarzún will be running a Turing Workshop 'AI, Engineering Biology & Beyond'
Monday 13 - Tuesday 14 March 2023
Recent years have witnessed massive advances in lab automation and high-throughput DNA synthesis and sequencing. The scale of such biological big data has triggered interest in the use of AI and machine learning for the design of biological circuitry.
The Turing Workshop on AI, Engineering Biology & Beyond will gather leading experts at the interface between AI and biological design. This is the first of its kind in the UK and will showcase recent success stories of how AI can help to accelerate biological design.
Invitation to workshops on experiential learning
Workshop 1: Friday 3rd March, 10.00 to 12 noon;
Workshop 2: Friday 10th March, 09.30 to 11.30;
Workshop 3: Friday 17th March, 10.00 to 12 noon.
Explore from your perspective as staff or student, what is working well, the resources needed to run experiential learning, the challenges and opportunities presented by experiential learning as a core element of the student experience, and how experiential learning can support and extend disciplinary knowledge and skills. We will also share the results of research undertaken by the Working Group, including findings from interviews undertaken with universities across the globe which deliver experiential learning at scale and for credit within their degree programmes. The learning from the workshops will inform a report which is being prepared for the Curriculum Transformation Project Board, and this report will be shared with Schools as well as workshop attendees.
Experiential Learning Sign-Up Form
Quantum Computing for Chemistry and Materials Science: Resource Estimation and Outlook
- A talk by Phalgun Lolur from the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC)
Tuesday 28 February 2023, 14:00
In-person: Bayes Centre room 5.02 Online: https://ed-ac-uk.zoom.us/j/87913124722
Meeting ID: 879 1312 4722 Passcode: kw2anu3L
As we approach the limits of classical computing, quantum computing offers an alternative to solve certain types of problems. From the very onset of the field, quantum computing is expected to provide an advantage in simulating many body physics of quantum systems. This is relevant to several problems within physics, chemistry, materials science, and beyond. In this talk, I will provide a summary of today’s computing prospects for chemistry and materials science problems. I will then highlight the prospects of quantum computing for improving such simulations along with the capabilities of the current noisy intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ) computing devices. I will also provide resource estimates for running industrially relevant problems to identify practical quantum advantage.
African Caribbean Society Ball
Saturday 08 April 2023 Venue: National Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh)
The Scottish Universities African and Caribbean Societies Ball is an annual black tie event held by 7 Scottish University ACS Societies in Scotland.
This year, the ball is being hosted by Edinburgh ACS and will be held at The National Museum of Scotland. 7 ACS Societies of Scottish Universities will come together on the 8th of April for Afrofuturism: A Black-Tie Affair. This will be a night of cultural celebration and exposition, held at The National Museum of Scotland.
Link to full event details and registration
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.
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 activites. 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 InfGeneral
This month's best of inf-general award goes to Steven Chien for sharing his experience of dealing with false hotel charges.
Steven stayed in a hotel in England that somebody else booked for him. He used his credit card to pay for a coffee in the hotel bar. he found later that the hotel excused him of smashing a TV in his room, and proceeded to charge him £200 for that (on the credit card that he did not consent for the hotel to put any charges on). Fast forward: Steven got his money back. Below is Steven's summary of his main findings and lessons learnt.
The main lesson learned for the future is to always use a UK credit card to benefit from section 75 of the consumer credit act, where a credit provider (e.g. the bank) is jointly liable to any disputes and claims (over £100) with the merchant. In case of an eventual court claim, they can be listed as the co-defendant as the merchant. While there is a chargeback mechanism for debit card, it is much weaker as it is a volunteer scheme provided by the bank, between banks.
It is clear that the hotel has no evidence to hold me responsible for the broken TV, as they simply have a picture of a random broken TV somewhere. A court claim can be made. However, since the defendant is in England, any eventual claims must be filed in English court.
The hotel tried to flash their T&C during check-in to justify grabbing my card details from an unrelated transaction after I checked out. Common sense stipulates that mining someone's card info from a terminal for an unauthorized transaction cannot be okay. But specifically, it is against PCI-DSS standards to handle payment details like that. A violation can be reported to the information commissioner's office and the payment network over abuse of card machines.
Since the incident happened at an operating hotel with an establishment that sells food and alcohol. Complains can be made to the council which issues all their licenses.
Dishonest business practices can be reported to trading standards.
This can be done through a consumer helpline (in England), or Consumer Advice in Scotland https://consumeradvice.scot They are also helpful in individual cases of consumer rights issues.
Complaints and reports can be made to relevant local trade organizations or chambers of commerce. If applicable, a police report should be filed.
Booking.com has not been the most helpful in our case. They simply forwarded our complaints to the hotel and forwarded back their decline of refund. In any case, do not count on the booking website or travel agent as a helpful intermediary
I will be paranoid and take comprehensive videos before checking out any hotels in the future.
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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