Informatics Newsletter March 2020
Special COVID-19 issue of our School newsletter for students and staff.
A Message from Head of School
I hope you are all staying safe and healthy.
I am sure that many of you, like me, will have found this a strange and exhausting week. Our mode of operation has changed and there will be a continuing process of adjustment as we all get used to this new form of working. It is well known that settling into a new job is especially tiring at first because there are many new things to be learned and new ways of doing even familiar tasks, and the situation we currently find ourselves in is very similar. On top of that, I know that many of you will be working in less than ideal environments and perhaps also facing responsibilities for homeschooling and caring for dependants as well. Please be reassured that no-one is expecting you to be super-human and we should all do the best that we can but be careful of not placing too high expectations on ourselves or others. Please all be kind to yourselves and to one another as we adjust to our new ways of working.
The complete closure of the building from Tuesday was more sudden than we had expected, but essential in order to comply with the instructions from Government. I wanted to reassure people that “complete closure” does allow for essential workers to enter when it is deemed necessary (and supported by University Security). So for example, if there is a major failure with our servers, members of the Computing team will be able to enter the building to address the problem. However, this access is will be very restricted and subject to stringent constraints. Alastair has asked me to pass on the following message "This will significantly impact our responsiveness to fixing problems with the School's computing services. We ask that people bear with us during the inevitable breaks in service. Be assured that we will be doing our best to bring back any affected services as quickly as we possibly can.”
In the last School newsletter, I discussed how precious our School community is and how we all have a responsibility to cherish it. That is true now more than ever. We are living through unprecedented circumstances and we need to work through it together. If anyone is feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope with their current situation please talk to your line manager. More broadly in the University there is a lot of useful information for staff on the University’s Covid-19 website, including a section on wellbeing, advice and support services.
Have a good weekend,
COVID-19 Informatics Information Hub
We have created a COVID-19 information Hub on the Infweb homepage for your convenience. Here you can find updates specific to the Informatics community including undergraduate students, postgraduate students and staff. There are also links to the central University guidance and advice relating to COVID-19.
Stay connected from your kitchen table!
In this current period of social isolation it is crucial to remain connected and communicating, not just with work colleagues but friends and relatives that you would normally meet and spend time with. There is a variety of software out there to facilitate, each with their own perks and drawbacks. We've put together a chart to help you choose the best programme for your acitvity, be it business or leisure:
This is by no means exhaustive, so if we've missed anything you like/ find useful, let us know! Email email@example.com so we can update our resources and help keep the Informatics community connected!
Emergency updates and contacts
Computing Team have now created a micropage with updates on working from home arrangements.
Please submit all relevant documents for payments electronically.
Expenses: Informatics to permit self-submission/electronic submission of expenses with immediate effect. Staff may take photos of receipts to submit claims electronically to either the eExpenses system directly or to the relevant finance contact.
You can find the most relevant latest advice form InfHR on our Covd=19 website in the FAQ section.
Also please check the university guidance on the website below.
The College and University are working to put together a cohesive statement on implications for research projects (including ethics). In the meantime, please follow government advice and avoid in-person contact with persons not of your household.
Please continue to send details of recently accepted papers and open access questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and Victoria or Sam will respond to your query.
As always, questions and comments on PURE, open access and REF are all welcome at any time.
Closure of all Informatics buildings
All the Informatics buildings are now closed. Please refer to the website below for more information.
Corporate H&S staff working from home
In line with the current Government advice, all staff in the corporate Health and Safety Department are now working from home. We will be issuing more detailed guidance soon on how we envisage health and safety being managed as we go forward during this difficult time.
Whether you are working from home or required to come into work, here are some key areas you may wish to look at for yourself and staff in your areas, as follows:
- Working from home guidance – available on the covid-19 website in the staff section.
- Lone working arrangements – both for those working from home but also for any critical staff who may still be required to come into work.
- Leaving equipment in a safe state – now that buildings are being closed, users of equipment must ensure these are left in a safe state. (There has already been an instance where hotplates have been left on in an unoccupied laboratory). Also, if equipment requires a specific procedure for safe shutdown, then that should be set out beside the equipment, so that if it does have to be switched off, that can be done safely. You may have to liaise with facilities managers and Estates colleagues on this.
As always, our website is available for guidance in the first instance, with general queries sent via email or direct to any of the professional members of the Department as applicable. We are also available on MS TEAMs as we cannot be contacted via telephone.
From 23 March, the vast majority of teaching at the University will be carried out remotely, supported by the Library’s provision of online access to resources.
The Library provides access to more than:
- 1.4 million ebooks
- 185,000 ejournals
- 700 licensed databases
- 84,000 streaming videos
- 6,000 scanned book chapters and journal articles
Temporary access to additional ebooks and other e-resources
Some additional e-resources are being made temporarily available by publishers to support teaching, learning and research during COVID-19.
Resource Lists provide easy access to key course readings. Where possible access is provided to online materials including ebooks and scans of essential chapters. Resource Lists can be accessed from courses in Learn or from the Resource List homepage:
Subject Guides help you to get the best out of the library with selected information resources for your subject, as well as information on finding academic literature, referencing and more.
Use DiscoverEd to find books, ebooks, ejournal articles and more. Sign in using EASE to access your Library Account and to discover the vast range of online content the library provides to support teaching and research.
Exam Papers Online
For use as a study aid Exam Papers Online provides University staff and students with access to the collected degree examination papers of the University from 2004 onwards.
Request a Book / Interlibrary loans
While the University is delivering services online, if the Library does not provide online access to resources required for teaching, the Acquisitions and Interlibrary loans teams will try to source online access if available.
Mental health and well being
Coronavirus and your Mental Health
- Speak with your line manager if you have concerns
- the University Chaplaincy's Listening Service is available online (it doesn’t matter if you are not at all religious, they are there to support all members of the University community)
- Staff Counselling Service have lots of advice on managing stress and anxiety online
Self-help and online resources:
- Big White Wall
- Speak to the student support team in your School
- The Chaplaincy’s Listening Service will continue remotely throughout the Covid-19 closure period. If you would like an appointment with the Listening Service, please email: email@example.com
- The University Chaplaincy is also creating blogs to help us through Covid-19 lockdowns and meltdowns, and to raise our spirits
- the Residence Life team (if you are staying in University accommodation)
- the Students’ Association Advice Place is also running their service remotely and can be contacted via phone or email during their usual opening hours
- Student Counselling Service have lots of advice online about managing stress and anxiety
- The Student's Association have some dedicated Covid-19 webpages that cover taking care of your mental health during this challenging period and ways to volunteer in the local community
Information (in Chinese) on the services available to students can be found on these leaflets:
Self-help and online resources:
- Big White Wall
- Feeling Good App
- The Blurt Foundation
- SAMH: Coronavirus and your mental health
- MIND: Coronavirus and your wellbeing
Student and staff news
Applications open for Edinburgh Local Community Grants
Edinburgh Local are receiving applications for their Community Grants scheme from now until Friday 17th April. The scheme aims to support the development of projects, activities and sustainable action that benefits the local community and creates and better Edinburgh, through funding and collaboration. The three main goals of the Community Grants scheme are:
- To increase engagement between the University and local communities.
- To have a positive social impact.
- To create learning opportunities (including informal and non-traditional forms of learning).
Applications are welcome from any project that will involve and/ or benefit the community of the Edinburgh City Region (including the City of Edinburgh, Fife, West Lothian, Midlothian, East Lothian and the Scottish Borders), and not-for-profit organisations and social enterprises are welcome to apply. If you have an idea for a project or acitvity that would benefit the local community, head to the Edinburgh Local website to find out how they could help and support your vision.
RSE honours Chair in Design Informatics in 2020 Fellowship List
Professor Chris Speed, Chair of Design Informatics based at the Bayes Centre, has been named a Fellow by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) in their latest election. The RSE is Scotland's National Academy and their Fellows are leading thinkers and experts from Scotland, chosen in acknowledgement of the significant impact their work has had on our nation. This new intake of Fellows will join the current roll of about 1,600, together representing the broad spectrum of physical and life sciences, humanities, social sciences, education, professions, industry, business and public life.
Professor Chris Speed is the current Chair of Design Informatics, based at the Bayes Centre, and leads the Design Informatics Research Centre where his research revolves around the Network Society, Digital Art and Technology, and The Internet of Things. Chris is joined on the RSE Fellows list by Professor Mari Ostendorf, who gave the Distinguished Jon Oberlander Memorial lecture in December 2019 here at Informatics and has been named a Corresponding Fellow in this year's list. We would like to congratulate all of the new RSE Fellows featured on this year's list, including both Chris and Mari.
SigInt Cyber Security Society's CTF Tournament a Resounding Success
Students from Edinburgh University Cyber Security Society (SigInt) hosted their first Capture the Flag competition which was a resounding success, bringing together over 60 undergraduate participants in 20 teams representing 8 Scottish universities. The large inter-university competition, called PwnEd, was held in the Informatics Forum over the weekend of 15th – 16th February. This was the first event of its kind organised by SigInt, who stepped in when the usual hosts, Abertay University, were unable to commit to organising such a large, complex event. The overwhelming feedback from participants was that everyone learned somethign new and were looking forward to participating again next year.
Kite nominated for best-paper award at PPoPP
Kite, lead by ICSA PhD student Vasileios Gavrielatos, was chosen as one of the 5 best paper candidates at the 2020 Principles and Practice of Parallel Programming (PPoPP) symposium. PPoPP is the premier forum for leading work on all aspects of parallel programming, including theoretical foundations, techniques, languages, compilers, runtime systems, tools, and practical experience. It was held Saturday 22th Feb - Wednesday 26 February 2020 in San Diego, California, United States.
Two ICSA papers accepted at ASPLOS 2020
Two papers have been accepted to this year's Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS). ASPLOS is the premier forum for interdisciplinary systems research, intersecting computer architecture, hardware and emerging technologies, programming languages and compilers, operating systems, and networking . The two accepted papers are:
Hermes: A Fast, Fault-Tolerant and Linearizable Replication Protocol
A. Katsarakis, V. Gavrielatos, M.R.S. Katebzadeh, A. Joshi, A. Dragojevich, B. Grot and V. Nagarajan
Lazy Release Persistency
M. Dananjaya, V. Gavrielatos, A. Joshi, and V. Nagarajan
IPAB lecturer has paper accepted in IEE Transactions on Robots Journal
IPAB lecturer in Robotics Steve Tonneu has had his paper 'C-CROC: Continuous and Convex Resolution of Centroidal Dynamic Trajectories for Legged Robots in Multicontact Scenarios', published in the IEEE Transactions on Robotics journal. The journal covers theory and applications. Topics include kinematics, dynamics, control, and simulation of robots and intelligent machines and systems.
Experiential AI research in 2020
The Experiential AI team at Edinburgh are working with the Turing Institute to establish a new AI & Art Group. The group is driven by two overarching questions: (i) How can AI augment and be enriched by the arts? And (ii) How far can data science and the arts help to answer each other’s questions?
In pilot research activity, internationally acclaimed artists Caroline Sinders and Anna Ridler have responded to the Experiential AI research theme Entanglements – Fair, Moral and Transparent AI. This pilot is delivered in partnership with Ars Electronica as part of the European ARTificial Intelligence Lab. In a second pilot, artist Jake Elwes was commissioned to present a world premiere of his latest artwork, Zizi, in Edinburgh.
Share your news with us!
We are desperate to hear from you. Once we all settle into this new working model, please do keep us up-to-date with your latest news, successes and research prospects.
Outreach and Public Engagement
For latest opportunities please check CSE PE blog for more info.
Call for contributions - EdSciFest Online, 4-19 April
As many of you will already be aware, the Edinburgh Science Festival is planning to deliver an online programme of events and activities related to their Elementary theme, provisionally through a main 4-19 April period, but also beyond. Through this headline theme, the Festival will explore the challenges and opportunities facing us as individuals, societies and a planet through the lenses of Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Aether, plus of course highlight interesting science of all sorts for all ages.
Therefore, if you already have existing materials that could be delivered online as part of this new festival approach, or would be interested in delivering new bespoke content, then please get in touch with Conor from ESF as soon as possible, and also cc Stuart if you are in CSE/CAHSS or Hazel if you are in CMVM.
In your email, please either: a) include links to your resources with a brief (2-3 sentences) description; or b) provide a 2-3 sentence overview of your proposed new activity/talk.
Potential contributions could be pre-existing or new short video or audio interviews/podcasts, downloadable experiments and resources for use at home, blogs, book/film recommendations, etc. This list is by no means exhaustive and we are open to offers so let us know your thoughts. (However, live content will be trickier to deliver in the current context, so recorded on-demand content is preferred.) We are exploring what support Communications and Marketing can provide for presenting new content, and will update soon.
To ensure you are appropriately recognised for your resources/contributions, it would be advisable to include some details about your status in the resource/contribution, as well as the UoE logo, versions of which can be downloaded from the University communications and marketing website.
Cc Stuart for CSE/ CAHSS - firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc Hazel for CMVM - email@example.com
Call for competition entries - Science-me a Story, deadline: 20th April
Run by the Society of Spanish Researchers in the UK, Science-me a Story is a writing competition that was born in 2017 with the aim of promoting scientific engagement in a fun and engaging way appropriate for primary school children. The ultimate goal of the contest is to promote the scientific spirit and inspire the next generation through the communication of scientific achievements, findings, methods, and anecdotes in the form of short stories (in either English or Spanish). As well as the glory of winning, there are also cash prizes to be won!
The deadline for submissions is 20th April. Further details, including the rules, past winners, and the judges, can be found on the website.
Covid-19 - assisting local communities engage with the science and advice
With a rapidly increasing wealth of information out there about the coronavirus outbreak, there is a need to identify what is robust information and advice, and what is simply 'fake news'. Consequently, community-led groups are starting to appear throughout Edinburgh (and the rest of the country) to provide practical support and help cut through the fog of information.
To help with this process, the Facebook group "Coronavirus Volunteering Edinburgh" has set-up a specific group for members to discuss primary sources of information with a view for group peer-review before sharing more widely. You can offer your support - especially if you have a relevant academic background and experience of peer-review processes - by joining the group. Please share this group with others who could be in a good position to help.
On a related note, there is a step-by-step storyboard that may be of interest to some of you in discussing Covid-19 with others.
In response to the current physical-distancing measures, a number of large events I've included in these public engagement updates over the past few months have already cancelled or been postponed. For one upcoming example, the Edinburgh Science Festival are now looking to deliver an online programme over the Easter break (see above). Here's a brief summary of some other updated plans.
Pint of Science - postponed from May until 7-9 September.
Falkirk Science Festival - postponed from May until 12-20 September. The school events are cancelled, but the public-facing events are provisionally being rearranged for these September dates. I will share a new call for ideas/contributions when this is formally launched.
Inverness Science Festival - postponed from May. New dates to be announced.
Meadows Festival - June 2020 event cancelled and looking to return in June 2021.
Edinburgh International Film Festival - postponed from June and looking to deliver elements later in the year.
European Science Engagement Conference (in Cork, Ireland) - postponed from April until 29-30 October.
Being Human festival - still planned for November, but some application deadlines may be put extended.
List and feedback on the training courses page
Did you know staff can access a multitude of courses available online? You can sign up through MyEd, Learn and LinkedIn.
How to enroll:
Go to News and Events/Training and event booking
Go to MyEd/Teaching and Research/Learn/Self-Enroll
3. LinkedIn Learning
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 Events
We are working on bringing you your favourite Informatics social events virtually - watch this space!
Best of inf-general
Inf-general has always been a wonderful source of support and debate and remains so in these difficult times. Thank you all for helping Kami identify best online conferencing tools, dropping off a monitor for Laura and telling us about your students successful Skype vivas and Covid-19 related projects you are involved with. Keep up the good work - we will all appreciate inf-general chats in the coming weeks.
Inf-general is a mailing list used to carry informal discussions, postings, requests to and from staff within Informatics. Not for official purposes. Julian Bradfield is the guardian of inf-general who steps in to point out misuses and confirm when inf-general should most definitely be used. If you’re new to Informatics inf-general emails can be a great source of knowledge for you: ask and you will be informed, but do remember to share the information back with the mailing list users.
Keep in Touch
For all the latest news, keep an eye on our website and social media channels!
The newsletter is produced by the Communications team.
If you have any questions or comments please get in touch!