Informatics Newsletter March 2023

Issue 66 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from Head of School

Jane Hillston

Dear All,

March has been a slightly strange month for me.  I have previously talked about the School being a bit like a supertanker — it sometimes feels large and cumbersome, difficult to steer, but full of precious cargo that must be successfully brought into dock on a regular basis.  It takes a huge crew to keep the supertanker on track and of course the crew are a key part of the precious cargo.  As the captain of the ship, I rely heavily on, and work closely with, my co-pilot — our very capable Director of Professional Services, Joy Candlish.  Joy and I catch up at the start of each working day, and often confer during the course of the day as well.  The reason why March has been a strange month for me is because Joy has been on annual leave for most of the month, making a very special trip to Australia and New Zealand.  Fortunately, she left everything very “ship-shape”, and the supertanker has a lot of momentum, so I think that we have managed to stay on course during her absence, but I will be happy to have her back next month!

One of the pleasures of March has been the “catch-up” graduation ceremonies that are being held for graduates from 2020 and 2021 who were not able to celebrate the completion of their degrees in the traditional manner at the time.  In three ceremonies in McEwan Hall on 23rd, 25th and 28th March, the achievements of graduates from across the College of Science and Engineering are being acknowledged and celebrated.  On Thursday 23rd it was a lovely occasion with approximately 40 former Informatics students returning to attend the ceremony.  Many thanks to the ITO for arranging a reception afterwards in Appleton Tower for the graduates and their families.  It was great to catch up with some of my former personal tutees and hear about their careers since finishing in Edinburgh.

Another highlight for the end of the month was the publication last week of the QS International University subject rankings.  This year for the first time the rankings reported both "Computer Science and Information Systems” and “Data Science” (new).  The School was place 20th in the world for Computer Science and Information Systems, up from 23rd last year, and for Data Science we were ranked 15th in the world, 2nd in the UK.  So well done everyone, and congratulations. 


With best wishes,


New staff

Professional services

  • Christopher Milne started as a Computing Support Assistant on 06 March 2023
  • Liam McCabe started as a Student Advisor on 21 March 2023


  • Jan Bobolz started as a Research Associate in LFCS on 01 March 2023
  • Seyed Amir Hosseini Beghaeiraveri started as a Research Associate in LFCS on 01 March 2023
  • Sean Adamson started as a Research Associate in LFCS on 20 March 2023

Current vacancies

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



QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023 - School of Informatics 15th in the world for Data Science

Informatics shines in the 2023 QS world subject rankings

The School of Informatics is ranked 15th in the world in the QS ranking for Data Science, a new subject addition to QS annual subject rankings. The School has also improved its standing in Computer Science and Information Systems moving up by 3 ranks to 20th in the world.

Data Science is a new discipline in the thirteenth edition of the global higher education analyst Quacquarelli Symonds’ World University Rankings by Subject. The School of Informatics is ranked 2nd in the UK, behind Oxford (ranked 4th), followed by Imperial (16th) and UCL (17th).

In the Computer Science and Information Systems rankings we are 4th in the UK, with Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial ranked 5th, 7th and 15th respectively. In a similar ranking last year (that still included Data Science) we were ranked 23rd.

I am delighted that Informatics at Edinburgh has again placed highly in the QS World Rankings, climbing to place 20 in Computer Science and Information Systems and entering at place 15 in the new Data Science category. It this is testimony to the quality and breadth of research and teaching in the School of Informatics.

Professor Frank Keller, Deputy Head of School of Informatics 

Link to full article

Yoga classes moved to Tuesdays

Carol Marini's yoga classes will now take place every Tuesday, 12:00-12:45 in MF2.

Register on the day at reception for £2.

Email Carol Marini


Professors Alex Lascarides and Ross Anderson and Dr Fiona McNeill from the School of Informatics

Three Informatics academics elected as RSE fellows

Professors Alex Lascarides and Ross Anderson and Dr Fiona McNeill from the School of Informatics are joining the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, it has been announced on 21st March 2023.

The new Fellows join around 1,800 of the greatest thinkers, researchers and practitioners working in or with Scotland.

The School of Informatics is delighted that three of our colleagues have been honoured by fellowship to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s National Academy, this year.  Ross Anderson, Alex Lascarides and Fiona McNeill are recognised for contributions including ground-breaking research, government policy formation and curriculum development, representing some of the breadth of impact created within the School.  Many congratulations to all of them.

Professor Jane Hillston, Head of School of Informatics

Link to full article

Informatics research will bring high speed broadband to rural areas

The technology that was developed as part of Dr Mohamed Kassem’s PhD at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, supervised by Professor Mahesh Marina, will be used to bring high speed broadband to hard-to-reach areas.

Spinout WhiteHaul, supported by Edinburgh Innovations, the University’s commercialisation service, has been awarded £275,000 in funding from Scotland’s national economic development agency, Scottish Enterprise.

WhiteHaul will play an important role in supporting the UK Government’s ambition to bring gigabit-capable coverage to 85% of the UK by 2025, and close to 100% as soon as possible thereafter. We have seen from previous work the vital importance of rural connectivity for agriculture, businesses, healthcare and education.

Mahesh Marina, Professor at the School of Informatics

Link to full article

Quantum and AI centre launched with Cisco

The University has established a new software centre of excellence with technology giant Cisco.

The centre will fund research projects over the next five years to deliver leading-edge software solutions, with particular focus on quantum computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and cyber security. 

This new centre represents the next step in our journey with Cisco. Over the last five years we have developed an extremely successful partnership, with potential benefits across a wide range of applications. Software now touches most areas of daily life and it is essential that we maintain our research efforts to ensure that the software developed and deployed is of the highest standards. We are grateful to Cisco for joining us in this endeavour.

Professor Jane Hillston, Head of School of Informatics

Link to full article

Health and Safety update

New safety measures on the use of batteries

The Fire Safety Unit have issued new guidance on safety measures around using large or lithium-type batteries.  These are a fire risk and so special care needs to be taken to manage that, with batteries included in the risk assessment for the work activity.

Link to the guidance note (PDF)

Drone management

Anyone using drones as part of their work needs to have an adequate risk assessment for the activity.  If drones are to be flown outdoors, they are also subject to regulation by the Civil Aviation Authority so any operators in the School should read the drone management SharePoint pages (link below) to ensure they are meeting regulatory requirements.

Link to drone management SharePoint pages

Research Data Management update

Plan S

The RDM team have updated the webpages for Plan S, and encourage researchers to have a look to learn how Plan S principles have translated into practical changes for open access.

Link to Plan S pages


Please continue to send details of recently accepted papers to the team by email. Katarina or Victoria will create an entry in Pure for you. The RDM team also welcome all researchers to get in touch before submission to your chosen journal or conference to confirm how your work can be made open access.

Please get in touch with the RDM team with any queries on Pure, Open Access, and REF too.

Email the RDM team

Meet our professional services - new blog post


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 Facilities team.

Link to blog post

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

Link to blog

Student news

ELLIS PhD student awarded 2023 Apple Scholars in AI/ML PhD fellowship

Congratulations to Yifu Qiu, recipient of the 2023 Apple Scholars in AI/ML PhD fellowship, recognizing emerging leaders in computer science and engineering and their cutting-edge machine learning research.

Yifu Qiu is an ELLIS PhD student, advised by Dr Shay Cohen, Prof. Anna Korhonen and Dr Edoardo M. Ponti. His research primarily focuses on language generation in the context of multilinguality, including improving the model's fundamental abilities in generalization, few-shot learning and controllability.

Apple Scholars in AI/ML are selected based on their innovative research, record as thought leaders and collaborators, and commitment to advancing their respective fields.

Link to Apple announcement

Call for abstracts and student support at this year's CloudEARTHi conference

The CloudEARTHi Conference will take place on 23-25 May 2023 at the University of Alicante, Spain. Conference organizers are looking for abstract submissions from our researchers on this year's theme of 'Towards a sustainable society'.

This conference is an opportunity for researchers and masters students or above to present research or simply to participate in a conference. What’s great about this opportunity is that we are offering support for writing and submitting your abstract, and network with entrepreneurial students and staff from across Europe. There are two options to attend: in person for those that have the budget to go to Spain (the event itself is free to attend but travel costs are not covered), and remotely: all sessions will be broadcast live.

For researchers interested to showcase their work, please submit an abstract by 15th April 2023:

Abstract submission for those who wish to present or display a poster at the conference are welcome for research covering:

  • Society Circular economy
  • Supporting innovation in sustainability
  • Net-zero transition
  • Blue growth
  • Green transition
  • Big Data & AI for sustainable development

More information:

To register:

Staff news

Picture of Mirella Lapata

Mirella Lapata's comment on ChatGPT goes viral

Mirella Lapata, Professor of Natural Language Processing at the School of Informatics and Director of Edinburgh Laboratory for Integrated Artificial Intelligence went viral today as her comment on ChatGPT was used by numeorus outlets around the world.

With GPT-4 we are one step closer to life imitating art. In Charlie Brooker’s science fiction series Black Mirror, AI technology can reconstruct one’s voice, style of speaking, facial expressions, and personality traits from their online data profile (episode “Be Right Back”). GPT4 is now multimodal, it has been trained on more data, and is apparently more reasonable. Humans are not fooled by the AI in Black Mirror but they tolerate it. Likewise, GPT4 is not perfect but paves the way for AI being used as a commodity tool on a daily basis.

Mirella Lapata, Professor of Natural Language Processing at the School of Informatics

Link to full article

Leonid Libkin

Leonid Libkin Awarded 'Test of Time'

Leonid Libkin's paper "Querying graph databases with XPath" received the Test of Time award.

Presented by the International Conference on Database Theory (ICDT), this award recognizes a paper presented 10 years prior at the ICDT conference that has best met the "test of time" and had the highest impact in terms of research, methodology, conceptual contribution, or transfer to practice over the past decade.

The paper was published in ICDT 2013, co-authored with Domagoj Vrgoč (who was my PhD student back then) and Wim Martens, professor at Bayreuth who was visiting Informatics. The paper is cited as one of the key influences on the forthcoming ISO standard for graph query language, called GQL.


Hello World Hackathon

When: Saturday 01 April, 09:00 - 21:00

Where: Appleton Tower

The Programming Society and Women in STEM at the University of Edinburgh are excited to announce that sign-ups for the 2023 Hello World Hackathon are open!

Hello World is a 12-hour hackathon aimed at beginners. There will also be workshops and a chance to network with sponsors! Lunch and dinner will be provided.


Scottish AI Summit 2023

When: 28-29 March 2023

Where: Glasgow in-person, or online

As we celebrate 60 years of computer science and AI at Edinburgh, join us at the Scottish AI Summit and hear from the University of Edinburgh speakers. Our experts will share their insights and expertise and offer a glimpse into the future of AI.

Event details


When: 12-14 May 2023

Where: Barcelona

Students! Unleash your inner architect and create something truly amazing at HackUPC in Barcelona.

Enhance your creativity, coding skills and immerse yourself in the hacker community. HackUPC is a space for students of all experience levels from all around the world to come and improve and learn new skills, meet awesome people, and overall have a great experience!

Apply now

60 years of computer science and AI events

In 2023, the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh celebrates 60 years of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence (AI). The School of Informatics celebrates these two vital areas of research that are at the core of its existence by leading on a programme of events and activities throughout 2023.

Link to programme of events for 60 years

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

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!

Outreach Allies on Teams

Best of Inf-general

This month's best of Inf-general award goes to everyone who helped Lynda with advice on German e-SIMs, especially Christina for sharing a discount code (and Lynda for sharing it back!).

Airalo e-sim was recommended by a few. Some recommended buying a sim locally, though this was of more value if you were staying for some time and needed ID and possibly a German Bank account.

No one mentioned HolaFly, which was quite expensive unless you need unlimited data. However, there was no feedback with regards to if they were good or not.

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





Edinburgh Informatics Alumni group on LinkedIn


The newsletter is produced by the Communications team.

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