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Informatics Newsletter June 2021

Issue 46 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from the Head of School

Photo of Jane Hillston sitting at a desk

Dear Colleagues,

One of the things that I like about working in the University is the passing of the seasons. Mirroring the changing seasons around us — cherry blossom on the Meadows, giving way to buttercups in George Square — the work and activity in the University goes through seasons too.  June brings the season of Exam Boards, and after them, relief for both staff and students.  It is a disappointment to me that we will once again not have a graduation ceremony this year.  Reading the names in the ceremony in the McEwan Hall is one of my favourite duties as Head of School, and it is always a privilege to share the day with the graduands and their families.  Everyone always looks suitably proud and happy, and it is an occasion for all the School to participate in their success.  Although we will not have a graduation ceremony, the School is very proud of the achievements of the fourth and fifth year students who have completed their degree in 2021.  They have persevered through very difficult circumstances to reach the end of their degrees and we wish them all the very best in their future endeavours.

Another seasonal occupation I have been involved in recently is strategic planning with funders and learned societies as they take stock after the pandemic and think about the priorities for the years to come.  I have attended a number of workshops and round table discussions in the last few weeks and it is interesting to see how central Informatics has become to many areas of research and the future vision for society.  One interesting discussion was around Digital Technology and the Planet, organised by the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.   This was stimulated by a recent report from the Royal Society of the same name, with the subtitle “Harnessing Computing to Achieve Net Zero” (link below).  This report makes clear that the inventive use of data, computer-based analysis and modelling, as well as innovative digital services and tools, will be essential if the net zero target is to be achieved.  This is just one example.  We are fortunate to be in a discipline that is so much in demand and that has so much capacity to change the world for the better.

Digital technology and the planet Harnessing computing to achieve net zero

Before the pandemic Michael Rovatsos and I used to sometimes joke that we were the best paid tour guides in Edinburgh because we seemed to spend quite a lot of time showing visiting politicians and dignitaries around the Bayes Centre and the Forum, telling them about the Data-Driven Innovation programme and Informatics.  Of course, all that stopped in the last sixteen months during the pandemic.  It is perhaps a sign that things are returning to normal that this week we have had a visit from a government minister, Amanda Solloway MP, who is the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation in the UK Government.  As always, the Valkyrie robot somewhat stole the show!

Whatever change June has brought for you, I hope that you can look to the future with optimism and enjoy the summer weather when you can.

With best wishes,

Jane

New Staff

Professional Services

Valsamis Paraskevopoulus started as a Computing Support Officer on 1st June

Sraddheya Gurung started as a Communications Intern on 31st May

Research Staff

Gideon Ogunniye started on 1st June as a Research Associate in AIAI

Ross Grassie started on 1st June as a Research Associate in LFCS

Theresa Ikegwuonu started on 1st June as a Research Associate in ILCC

Kaushik Halder started on 15th June as a Research Associate in LFCS

Jaehyun Shim started on 20th June as a Lab Software Engineer in IPAB

Youcef Benkhedda started on 21st June as a Research Associate in ILCC

Highlights

Informatics Staff Awards

The response to the awards was greater than anticipated, with 70 nominations received. Five teams and 13 individuals were selected for awards. You can see who they are, as well as a list of all nominees below. Congratulations to all winners and nominees!

List of awardees and nominees

Fire stewards and first aiders needed

Keeping our community safe has been a recurring theme through the last year, and will continue to be so as we return to working on campus. Key to our health and safety in the buildings are the voluntary roles of Fire Steward and First Aider, and we are looking for new volunteers for both of these roles.

Fire Stewards: the role of fire stewards is to make sure that a designated area of the building, close to their office, is clear before leaving the building themselves.  It is not their role to tackle the fire although they may assist anyone who has mobility difficulties to evacuate.  The training is light-weight, just a couple of hours or less.  All categories of staff are eligible including research staff, academic staff and professional service staff.

First Aiders: this role is more substantial and there is a small salary supplement (currently £135pa) to reflect that.  The responsibility is to provide first aid if it is required or call for help — University Security and Ambulance Service — for more serious injuries, assisting the person until professional help arrives.  There is substantial training (three days) provided and paid for by the University and many employers value this on a CV.  Again all categories of staff are eligible; they should discuss availability for the training with their line manager.

Unfortunately, we are currently short of volunteers in both roles and as we move to hybrid working we are likely to need more volunteers since not everyone will be on campus every day.

If you can volunteer for either of these roles please contact Carol Marini in the first instance.

E-mail Carol

Mental Health First Aiders 

This is just a reminder, that if any colleagues struggle with their mental health they are welcome to contact our Mental Health First Aiders. There are several colleagues that have attended First Aid Mental Health training run by MHScot, funded by the School. The aim of this training is to look at ways to help others (and ourselves) in the event of anyone developing a mental health problem, experiencing a worsening of an existing mental health problem or in a mental health crisis until appropriate professional help is received or the crisis resolves.

The network is aimed at Informatics staff and we encourage students to continue to use their student support contacts via the Student Support Team, who have also attended this training.  

Contact Mental Health First Aiders

Contact Student Support Team

Staff Mental Health

Research Data Management Update

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 (email below) 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.

Contact the RDM Team

Ethics update

New Ethics office hours

The Informatics ethics committee will now hold an office hour every Monday 4 pm-5 pm. The session is attended by one member of the ethics committee every week. Staff and students are welcome to join the office hour via the Teams link below, and to discuss questions around ethics and ethics application.

Join the office hour Mondays 4-5 pm on Teams

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

InfWeb Ethics and Integrity pages

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

Student news

SigInt win Le Tour Du Hack 21

Congratulations to Sigint the official cybersecurity society for fetching the first place in Le Tour Du Hack 21 hosted by ENUSEC (Edinburgh Napier Security Society).

Other SIGINT achievements include :

  • 1st place in the HackTheBox Uni CTF 2021 Finals

  • 1st place at DeloitteCTF 2019 finals

  • 1st place at Hackback2

Informatics intern to examine the email phishing banner

Nikolas Pilavakis, who has just completed his MInf degree will be working over the summer on the project looking at the positive and negative impacts of the "This email was sent to you by someone outside of the university..." email banner. During his internship, Nikolas plans to collaborate with IS to evaluate different aspects of the banner, such as effectiveness and usability. Results of his research will be shared with IS.

Read more about the collaboration between the School and IS

CDT in data Science student in the final of 3MT

Zack Hodari, CDT in Data Science student was in the final of 3MT (3-minute thesis). Zack researches speech synthesis, focusing on prosody: the use of intonation and rhythm to convey additional meaning. His thesis looks into why synthetic voices perform badly and how to improve their prosody. 

Watch Zack's presentation

Staff news

Lynda Webb and Nigel Goddard to work on a UKRI-funded project to provide age-friendly innovative homes

UKRI announced funding for five trailblazing new projects to help us all live longer, healthier and more connected lives as we age, with a £23m investment through the Healthy Ageing Challenge. One of the projects, £12.5m collaboration between Blackwood Housing and Care in collaboration the University of Edinburgh and industry partners (half of the funding from UKRI and matched funding from project partners), will see Informatics researchers, Nigel Goddard and Lynda Webb, building upon their SMILE project to provide age-friendly homes with innovative technology, products and services to support healthy, independent living and reduce social isolation.

Read more about the project

Antonio Barbalace in Computer Weekly

Antonio Barbalace was interviewed by Computer Weekly about computational storage. He commented on how to identify what part of an application can be offloaded to storage, challenges of successful computational storage deployment and Catalina - the first computational storage device that is running an operational system.

Full article

How to build eco-friendly cryptocurrencies

Aggelos Kiayias is featured in the University Impact feature talking about his research into green crytpotcurrency in the wake of Bitcoin being singled out for its carbon footprint. Edinburgh Blockchain lab works on cardano ledger, an alternative to Bitcoin that uses virtual resources to stake (equivalent to bitcoin mining). By swapping the physical resource of computing power for a virtual resource, the protocol has minimum energy expenditure but retains all the benefits of Bitcoin in terms of inclusiveness and decentralized operation.

Read the whole feature

Taku Komura ranked among the world's top researchers in AI

Taku Komura was named among the world’s top researchers in AI 2000 Most Influential Scholars list. Taku was ranked 15th in area of Computer Graphics. The AI 2000 Most Influential Scholar list ranks the world’s top-cited research scholars in the field of artificial intelligence. The list is conferred in recognition of outstanding technical achievements with lasting contribution and impact. Inclusion is determined solely based on the Tsinghua AMiner academic data, which indexes more than 133 million expert profiles and 270 million publications.

SLMC present a whopping nine papers at one conference

Nine papers from just one research group (Statistical Learning and Motor Control) in Informatics were presented at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2021) held in Xi'an, China. The conference was held in a hybrid format, including simultaneous on-site and virtual meetings. 

Read more on SLMC website

Outreach and Public Engagement

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

Informatics Outreach and Public Engagement Directory

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

Public Engagement webform

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

CSE Public Engagement update

Call for ideas and information session - Explorathon 2021, late Sept (deadline: 30th Jun)

Explorathon is a Scotland-wide festival that celebrates the research happening in our universities through a lively programme of free public events. Funded by the European Commission, the festival is part of 'European Researchers' Night', which will take place on Fri 24th Sept 2021. The organisers are looking for events, activities and resources from across Edinburgh’s universities and research institutes that can take place online, or potentially in-person, inspiring and sharing our research with audiences across Scotland and beyond. Given the Covid-19 crisis and continued physical distancing, it is anticipated that events will be delivered largely online.

Most activity should fall within the week 20th-25th Sept 2021, although 'teaser' events are also welcome. This is also climate week in the build-up to COP26, so contributions that align with climate, nature, and wellbeing, would be particularly welcome. All research disciplines can get involved, as well as collaborators from across Europe and beyond. There will also be opportunities to be involved in centrally coordinated events such as an online quiz (in collaboration with You Call That Radio), a Pecha Kucha Night (a presentation format based on 20 images being shown for 20 seconds each), and a Global Researcher Showcase on Twitter in collaboration with the Global Science Show.

To register your interest in running your own event or being involved with centrally organised plans, please complete the form below by 30th Jun. If you have any queries, please email the organisers.

Online registration form

explorathon@hw.ac.uk

Calls for nominations - Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering, deadline: 31st Jul

The Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering (QEPrize) is currently seeking nominations from the public that celebrate a wide variety of engineering innovations across all sectors of the profession, and breadth of nominators from all corners of the globe. The £500,000 prize is the world’s most prestigious engineering accolade, awarded to up to five engineers responsible for a bold, ground-breaking engineering innovation of global benefit to humanity. The only limitations are that self-nomination and posthumous nomination are not allowed.

Full background and eligibility criteria are under the link below. The deadline for nominations is 31st Jul.

The QE Prize nominations page

Webinar - Science Capital in Practice, 6th Jul

Over the last couple of years, a group of 15 science centres from across the UK have been part of the Science Capital in Practice programme, which has been trialling the practical implications of the Science Capital concept - why some people engage more with science, while others do not - in their centres. In this webinar, taking place on 6th Jul, several of the participating centres will present what they have been doing as part of the project.

Register your free place through the page below.

The sign-up page

Call for inputs - A Scientist Just Like Me

The Primary Science Teaching Trust is developing a new resource aimed at primary school children called A Scientist Just Like Me. The aim is to encourage learners to find out more about the work of real scientists and help to broaden their understanding of what a scientist does.

The aim will be achieved through a series of short slideshows (example here - UoE login required) to introduce children to a diverse range of current scientists. They are including people of different genders, ethnic backgrounds, declared disabilities, and from many different fields of science. They envisage that the slideshows will be used by teachers in different ways – perhaps as stand-alone fifteen-minute discussion activities or included in a unit of work that relates to the work of the scientist.  

If you would like to be part of the collection, register your interest through the page below where you can also find out more about the project.

A Scientist Just Like Me page

Funding - advance notice, Ingenious Public Engagement Awards, opening: 30th Jun (deadline: 8th Sept)

Ingenious is an awards scheme for projects that engage the public with engineers and engineering while providing engineers with skills and opportunities in public engagement. The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) prioritises projects that reach diverse and underrepresented audiences including communities in the most deprived neighbourhoods in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and that engage with engineers and people of different genders, ages and ethnic backgrounds. Funding ranges from £3k to £30k.

The call opens on 30th Jun and will close on 8th Sept.

Details on RAEng page

Communicating the Future, Engaging the Public in Basic Science, 27th-28th Jul

Focusing on engagement around basic (fundamental) science, this conference offers two days of plenary discussions, parallel sessions, and brainstorming about whether communication around basic research needs different approaches in comparison with applied science, health and medicine, technology, and contested science. This conference - free, open to all registrants, virtual - will set the stage for new scholarship, training programs for scientists who do basic research, and new strategies for effectively engaging the public about science that may have little or no personal relevance or practical application, yet provides the building blocks on which applied science and technology advances depend.

Topics include different modes and models of public engagement; motivations and incentives for communicating about basic science; developing and using metrics to evaluate the impact of public engagement; assessing diversity, inclusion, and equity in both the communicators and audiences for basic science; and the value of curiosity and awe as drivers for public engagement.

The timings of the sessions will more closely align with working hours in the USA. Further details, and registration, can be found below.

The SciPEP website

Call for volunteers - Data Kirk

Data Kirk’s mission is to create a hands-on environment for people to get curious, creative and confident with data. There are two fantastic opportunities for students/staff to get involved: Data Mentors and/or STEM Education Tutors. Contact details below.

Email Chuks Ododo 

The Data Kirk volunteering page

Members of staff can use their Day to Make a Difference for their involvement: this is an additional day of paid leave to volunteer for a charity, organisation, or other good cause. The time can be taken as a single full-day or split over different days.

Call for content - Edinburgh Impact

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

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

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

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

Email Kasia

Staff Training Courses

We now have a page listing training courses attended by staff. You can submit your own feedback on a particular training you attended. 

List and feedback on training courses

Submit feedback

Informatics Social Bulletin

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

This month we have some reminders about current restrictions, tests and vaccines as well as tips for sports 'doers' and those of you who prefer to watch and are supporting a team that hasn't crashed out of Euro yet...

Latest Social blog

InfComms blog

Best of InfGeneral

This month's inf-general has been full of the old school inf-general content: vivas, garage sales, office 365 issues... But this month best of inf-general award goes to everyone who helped Maria Wolters find the perfect Chinese characters package supported by Overleaf in ***less than 24 hours***.

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

Keep in Touch

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

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The newsletter is produced by the Communications team.

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