Informatics Newsletter July 2023

Issue 70 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

 A Message from Head of School

Jane Hillston

Dear All,

At the beginning of this month it was a pleasure to take part in the graduation ceremony celebrating the achievements of all our graduands.  Completing a degree or receiving an honorary degree is a significant milestone in anyone’s career, and it is an honour to share that.  It was great to see a good number of both academic and professional service staff taking part in formal aspect of the celebration as members of the academic procession.  No matter how many times I do it, there is always a mixture of solemnity and excitement as we walk down the magnificent sweeping staircase and process into the McEwan Hall.  The anticipation of the students and their families and supports is palpable and even though I have heard the graduation choir’s songs and the Vice Chancellor’s speech many times before, it is always an engaging experience.

I am similarly reaching a significant milestone in my career as I step down as Head of School after my five-year term.  This is longer than any of my degrees, and although I have had research projects/fellowships that have lasted as long they were not quite so all-consuming as the Head of School role.  Although there will not be a procession (as far as I know), I am pleased that there will be celebration to mark the end of my term. Major transitions are always worth celebrating.  The past five years have been momentous for me personally and for the School, and I am proud of what we have achieved collectively.

In future monthly newsletters the message will come from our new Head, Helen Hastie.  I am sure that she will benefit from the same support and positive attitude from across the School as I have done. I wish her, and the School, every success.  And I will still be around and look forward to continuing to interact with many of you, albeit in a new capacity. 

Thus, I am bringing the supertanker into dock for one last time to allow for a change of skipper.  Good luck to the good ship Informatics, and all who sail in her!

With best wishes,


New staff

Current vacancies

We are recruiting for various academic (lecturer/reader) and research (RAs) positions within the School of Informatics, across our research fields.



AI on Film Festival poster

Imagining Futures: AI on Film Festival marks 60 Years of Computer Science & AI at Edinburgh

Tickets are now on sale for Imagining Futures: AI on Film Festival, taking place 6-10 September 2023 in Adam House on 3 Chambers St, Edinburgh. The 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.

Link to further details


Chancellor's Fellowship Scheme - Round 2 now open

Round 2 of the University of Edinburgh's Chancellor's Fellowship Scheme is now open. Up to 18 new 5-year fellowships are available in the College of Science and Engineering for early career researchers, aimed at fostering cutting-edge interdisciplinary Research & Innovation. Closing date: 28th August 2023

Link to further information

Research Data Management update

Projects on Pure/Edinburgh Research Explorer

Due to a delay in the integration between P&M and Pure, the team are manually creating project records in Pure for recently awarded grants. Data from Worktribe will be reviewed on a regular basis to determine which new projects need to be added to Pure. Victoria sent an email to all research-active staff on 12 July with more details.

If you notice that a project is missing or spot any inaccuracies in your existing project records, please contact Victoria.

Email Victoria Lindstrom

Quarterly Open Access check

Our quarterly Open Access check is currently underway, with an email from Katarina to all research-active staff on 03 July. If you haven’t already done so, please complete the Publications Check form via the link below.

Publications Check form

Questions about Open Access, Pure, or REF are welcome any time. Please contact Victoria and Katarina using the link below.

Email RDM team

Health and Safety update

Keeping cool this summer

We’re at the height of summer and happily getting some warmth, even occasional sunshine! The downside to this is that when we’re at work, our offices might become uncomfortable to work in.  The University of Edinburgh Health and Safety department’s temperature guidance document gives hints and tips on things we can all do to keep our work space cool.

Link to Temperature Guidance Document (pdf)

Meet our professional services - new blog post

Research Data Management

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 Research Data Management team.

Link to blog post

Stay tuned for an introduction to a different professional services team with each newsletter.

Collage of photographs taken at Graduation 2023

Link to blog

Student news

Informatics Class of 2023 Graduation

Congratulations to the Informatics class of 2023, whose Graduation ceremony took place on Monday 3 July!

We are proud of you and can’t wait to see what you go on to do next.

Join your Alumni community

Jonghyuk Park and colleagues receive Best Paper Award at IWCS

Jonghyuk Park, Alex Lascarides and Subramanian Ramamoorthy received the best long paper award at the 15th International Conference on Computational Semantics (IWCS 2023) in Nancy, France for their paper Interactive Acquisition of Fine-grained Visual Concepts by Exploiting Semantics of Generic Characterizations in Discourse.

One fundamental limitation of the large-scale pre-trained vision and language models is that it takes significant efforts by ML experts to adjust their behaviours before they are deployed in unfamiliar domains. 

In their paper Park, Lascarides and Ramamoorthy investigate how autonomous agents with pre-trained models can learn via natural language dialogues with human users and quickly adapt to new domains, as long as they are equipped with an appropriate logical reasoning faculty. In particular, they explore how generic statements (e.g., "brandy glasses have short stems") may significantly boost how quickly agents learn to identify objects that they were unaware existed at the start of the learning process. They also show that agents learn to identify objects even quicker if they also take into account what's implied but not explicitly said, given the discourse context in which the generic statement is uttered.

The empirical results suggest it pays to study phenomena in natural language dialogues not only as data consumed for training neural models for relevant tasks, but also as a communication channel through which task knowledge is communicated.  In other words, investigating 'language about tasks' is as important as investigating 'tasks about language'.

Link to the paper

Staff news

Ram Ramamoorthy among Asian Tech Pioneers 2023

Professor Ram Ramamoorthy was included in the Asian Tech Pioneers 2023 created every year by equality charity Diversity UK.

Twenty of Britain’s leading UK tech stalwarts were honoured as Asian Tech Pioneers 2023 by equality charity Diversity UK, in association with law firm Eversheds Sutherland and Cambridge-based Biorbyt, one of Europe’s largest bio-reagents supplier. The event took place in Central London on Wednesday 5 July 2023 and simultaneously saw the release of the Top 100 Asian Stars in UK Tech 2023 list. Now in its ninth year, the list celebrates the outstanding contribution made by British Asians to this country’s digital economy. 

Link to full article

Chris Williams and Mirella Lapata talk to The Scotsman about the history of AI at Edinburgh

As Edinburgh strives to become the data capital of Europe, those leading the charge into the future can take inspiration from the past, looking back to the days when the city was a global pioneer in artificial intelligence (AI).

Chris Williams (Professor of Machine Learning, School of Informatics) and Mirella Lapata (Professor of Natural Language Processing, School of Informatics) spoke to The Scotsman about the history of AI at Edinburgh.

There were only about four places in the world doing AI in the 1960s. Three were in the US – MIT in Boston, Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and Stanford, California. Edinburgh was a world-leading centre.

Chris Williams, Professor of Machine Learning, School of Informatics

Link to article on the Scotsman website

Paper "BPM: Blended Piecewise Möbius Maps" won the Runner-Up Best Paper Award at SHP2023

Co-written by Amir Vaxman, Reader in The Institute of Perception, Action and Behaviour at the School of Informatics, with Shir Rorberg and Mirela Ben-Chen, the paper concerns finding continuous interpolators for discrete conformal maps that have guarantees on consistency and reproduction of conformality.

The authors propose a novel Möbius interpolator that takes as an input a discrete map between the vertices of two planar triangle meshes, and outputs a continuous map on the input domain. The output map interpolates the discrete map, is continuous between triangles, and has low quasi-conformal distortion when the input map is discrete conformal. Their map leads to considerably smoother texture transfer compared to the alternatives, even on very coarse triangulations. Their approach also has a closed-form expression, is local, applicable to any discrete map, and leads to smooth results even for extreme deformations. Finally, by working with local intrinsic coordinates, their approach is easily generalizable to discrete maps between a surface triangle mesh and a planar mesh, i.e., a planar parameterization. They compare their method with existing approaches, and demonstrate better texture transfer results, and lower quasi-conformal errors.

Link to the paper

Paper by Sethu Vijayakumar published in the Royal Society Open Science

Daniel Gordon, Andreas Christou, Theodoros Stouraitis, Michael Gienger and Sethu Vijayakumar had a paper titled Adaptive Assistive Robotics: A Framework for Triadic Collaboration Between Humans and Robots published in the Royal Society Open Science.

In their paper, the authors propose a framework for optimising the behaviour of robots and complementary assistive technologies in systems comprising a mix of human and technological agents with numerous high-level goals. The framework uses a combination of detailed biomechanical modelling and weighted multi-objective optimization to allow for the fine-tuning of robot behaviours depending on the specification of the task at hand. The authors illustrate the framework via two case studies across assisted living and rehabilitation scenarios and conduct simulations and experiments of triadic collaboration in practice. Their results indicate a marked benefit to the triadic approach, showing the potential to improve outcome measures for human agents in robot-assisted tasks.

Link to the paper


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.

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

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.

Collection - Public engagement for data science and AI research

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 30 March – Sunday 14 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 10 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.

Edinburgh Science Festival Call for Ideas

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 25 August 2023.

Link to the University ESF Sharepoint

Link to the submission form (University-curated ESF programme)

If you'd like to discuss your Science Festival idea, please get in touch with Kasia Kokowska.

Email Kasia

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!

Outreach Allies on Teams

Best of Inf-general

This month's best of inf-general goes to Maria Wolters for her advice about booking foreign trains through diversity travel.

If you research the connection you need and give them the trains, they will give you a quote and collect booking information (codes etc) from you. I have a BahnCard which gives me reduced prices, they were able to process that information.

They will however not advise you about different types of tickets, and book the cheapest most restrictive version without alerting you to other options. They will also tell you in their standard email that tickets can be retrieved from Fast Tucket machines. This is wrong. There are no such machines in Germany.

So there you have it. I recommend asking for a Flexpreis with City Ticket by the way. I went with the cheap ticket as I know Deutsche Bahn fairly well.ä and can help myself in case of irregular operations.

Maria Wolters

Link to BahnCard website

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

Keep in Touch

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

Informatics Communications team website






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