Informatics Newsletter May 2022
Issue 57 of our School newsletter for students and staff.
A Message from the Head of School
Recently I have been reflecting on the unpredictability. It is certainly true that the last couple of years have underlined the unpredictability in the world. Particularly at times like the present, with war in Ukraine, another virus emerging in the northern hemisphere and spiralling cost of living, it can feel that unpredictability is necessarily a bad thing. On the other hand, given enough information all these things were perhaps predictable.
Often when we are making decisions we have to do so with less than enough information and this can increase our feeling of helplessness in the face of unpredictability. But as I have grown older I have learned to embrace unpredictability as bringing both good and bad. This is not merely a matter of taking a glass half-full rather than a glass half-empty view of the world. There are genuinely unexpected good things that happen, as well as unexpected bad things, and I have certainly experienced some of the former in the last couple of years. I have also found that knowing that the decisions that we make provide a direction of travel but not necessarily a final destination, takes a certain amount of pressure off decision making. We simply need to make the best decision we can with the information we have and set sail confidently.
As someone whose technical work focuses on predictive modelling, it is perhaps a bit ironic that I have become so relaxed about unpredictability. But there is a well known quote that says “All models are wrong, but some are useful” (George Box). Similarly all predictions are bound to be wrong, but some are useful since they allows to chart a course even with imperfect data.
This is the approach that we take in developing strategy for the School. Over the last few months the members of strategy committee have participated in a number of workshops to set the course for the School for the next five years. Even in the time that we have been developing the strategy the context in the world and in the University has been shifting, but we are close to completing the document and will be releasing it next month.
So whether you are making life changing decisions like what job to take or where to study next, or less impactful ones like what to eat for dinner, I hope you can make your choices adventurously and enjoy the journey.
With best wishes,
Ioannis Kolotouros started as a Research Assistant in LFCS on 1 May 2022.
Jack McMillan started as Web Project Officer on 1st May 2022.
Amy Lawson started as Receptionist and Events Assistant on 2 May 2022.
Ammir Barakat started as Junior EDI Officer on 16 May 2022.
Informatics REF2021 results: global reach, genuine impact
The School of Informatics remains among the top Computer Science and Informatics research institutions in the UK, according to 2021 Research Excellence Framework results. Our research was recognised as world-leading for research impact and environment. Times Higher Education (THE) named us the top Computer Science and Informatics department in terms of quality and breadth of our research, known as research power.
Jane Hillston elected a Fellow of the Royal Society
Professor Jane Hillston, Head of School of Informatics, has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. She is one of only five female fellows whose research falls into broad computer science or computational sciences fields. Jane joins existing fellows from the School of Informatics: Alan Bundy, Peter Buneman, Wenfei Fan and Gordon Plotkin as well as notable past fellows: Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Charles Babbage, Dorothy Hodgkin and Stephen Hawking.
Fiona McNeill named the Teacher of the Year (CSE) at EUSA Teaching Awards
Congratulations to Fiona McNeill, Reader in Computer Science Education at the School of Informatics. Fiona won the award for Teacher of the Year (College of Science and Engineering) in the Edinburgh University Students' Association Teaching Awards 2022.
Staff play a pivotal role in the student experience at Edinburgh, from lecturers and tutors to supervisors and Personal Tutors, and professional services staff. The annual Teaching Awards provide students with an opportunity to thank staff for their hard work and celebrate the very best of teaching and support at the University.
A number of staff and students from the School of Informatics received nominations in this year's student-led EUSA Teaching Awards.
List of nominees from Informatics
Teacher of the Year
Philip Wadler, Fiona McNeill (won), Ava Khamseh, Walid Magdy, Stephen Gilmore, Ajitha Rajan, Sam Ainsworth, Alex Lascarides, Kartic Subr, David Henty, Vassilis Galanos, Pavlos Andreadis, David Henty, Arno Proeme, Ben Auns, Mark Bull, Adam Carter, Michael Gutmann, Sharon Goldwater, Jennifer Williams
Zhibin (Alex) Li, Walid Magdy, Bjorn Ross, Michael Gutmann, Adam Carter, Frank Keller, Judy Robertson
Student Tutor of the Year
Bence Szilagyi, Dee Yeum, Ramon Fernández Mir, Mario Guran, Marko Mekjavic, Apurv Mishra, Dan Wells, Hal Conklin
Supervisor of the Year
Benjamin Bach, Ian Simpson, Pavlos Andreadis, Raul Garcia-Patron Sanchez, Matthias Hennig, Chris Xiaoxuan Lu, Richard Shillcock, Donald Scobbie, Chris Doyle, Ajitha Rajan, Frank Mollica, Michael O'Boyle, Peter Bell, Amir Shaikhha, Paul Jackson
Winners were announced at an online Ceremony which was aired on the Students’ Association Facebook today at midday.
School of Informatics – 2022 Staff Award
Nominations for the Staff Awards 2022 are now open.
Please use the form below to submit nominations for staff awards to recognise a staff member (including members of teaching support staff) or team who have offered outstanding performance over the past academic year. This may be through taking additional work to support their team, students or colleagues, or through putting extra effort into ensuring we maintain our School community. Nominations must be submitted no later than Wednesday 15th June for review by the School Executive.
Data Science Clinic
Tell the Data Science Unit about your data and research problems and they will support you to find solutions.
If you plan on analyzing data using state-of-the-art AI, statistical machine learning, and data science tools, but you are unsure of how the recent advances in these fields can help with your research, then the Data Science Unit at the School of Informatics encourage you to attend a clinic session.
The Clinic is a free consulting service for students, academics and research staff. During the initial session, they will discuss your research problem and ideas and assess what your data science needs are. Find out more and book a meeting by clicking on the link below.
Meet our professional services
New blog - First up is User Support and Procurement
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 first post is brought to you by Carol Dow as she tells us what happens in User Support and Procurement.
Stay tuned for an introduction to a different professional services team with each newsletter.
Research Data Management
New Open Access policies and compliance guidance for Informatics researchers
This is a reminder that from 1 April 2022 two new policies governing Open Access were introduced; the UKRI Open Access policy which applies to all UKRI funded research, and the University’s Research Publications and Copyright policy which applies to UoE members of staff with a responsibility for research. The RDM team have put together some guidance to help Informatics researchers comply with these policies which includes a FAQ for any common issues that arise.
If there are any concerns about these new policies, please contact Sam or Andrew in the RDM team and they will be happy to help. As always, please continue to send details of any new papers as soon as possible after receiving notification of acceptance.
Ethics office hours
The Informatics ethics committee will continue to hold an office hour every first Monday of the month, 4pm-5pm (6 June, 4 July). These sessions are attended by one member of the ethics committee. Staff and students are welcome to join the office hour via the Teams link below and to discuss questions around ethics and ethics applications.
Please take the time to review the information available on our pages before attending, including the FAQs.
Students should discuss specific ethics questions with their supervisor before attending the office hour (open to both students and supervisors).
Informatics PhD student wins 3rd prize in the Shape the Future of ITS Competition
Bálint Gyevnár, a first-year PhD student in the School of Informatics won the 3rd prize in the 2021 “Shape the Future of ITS” Competition organised by IEEE – ITSS and aimed at young professionals, practitioners, researchers and students. Participants were asked to present their futuristic vision on Intelligent Transportation System (ITS).
Women in Technology - Informatics alumna wins Empowerment Award!
Congratulations to Hanne Carlsson, recipient of the Empowerment Award at HSBC's first ever Women in Technology Awards.
In 2018, Hanne graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science at the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh. Today she works as a Data Scientist within the Wealth & Personal Banking department at HSBC.
Informatics researchers awarded for their seminal work on effect handlers
Gordon Plotkin and Matija Pretnar (a former PhD in the Laboratory for the Foundations of Computer Science at the School of Informatics) were recognised for their ground-breaking 2009 paper Handlers of Algebraic Effects which received the Test of Time Award at the ETAPS conference.
AI & Society - Kobi Gal contributes a piece on Reasoning in Human-Computer Systems in Daedalus
Kobi Gal (Reader in Artificial Intelligence and Human-Machine Intelligence in the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh), together with Barbara Grosz (Professor of Natural Sciences in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University), have contributed a piece on Reasoning in Human-Computer Systems in the Spring 2022 issue of Daedalus, Journal of American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
This essay describes technical advances in computer-agent representations, decision-making, reasoning, and learning methods and highlights some paramount ethical challenges.
Raul Garcia-Patron Sanchez and colleagues find that quantum advantage is still some way off
Quantum advantage – the moment when quantum computers can solve problems classical computers find impossible – is still some way off, a study by Raul Garcia-Patron Sanchez from the school of Informatics and Daniel Stilck França from the University of Copenhagen suggests.
Stefano Albrecht nominated for IJCAI-ECAI 2022 Computers & Thought Award
Dr Stefano V. Albrecht, the lecturer in Artificial Intelligence and leader of the Autonomous Agents Research Group at the School of Informatics, has been nominated for the IJCAI-ECAI 2022 Computers & Thought Award.
The award recognises contributions in decision making, learning, and inference in complex multi-agent systems.
The IJCAI-ECAI 2022 conference is the 31st International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence and the 25th European Conference on Artificial Intelligence, the premier international gathering of researchers in AI. It will be held on July 23-29 2022 in Vienna, Austria.
AI & Innovation: Humanity Reimagined
8-10 June 2022, Online and in-person
Professor Sethu Vijayakumar from the School of Informatics will deliver the opening keynote of Dev<Talks/> - the largest expo conference for software developers and IT professionals in Romania.
ELLIS Doctoral Symposium 2022
19 - 23 September 2022, in-person Alicante, Spain
The ELLIS Doctoral Symposium is an annual conference for ELLIS PhD students and other PhDs in the network to meet in person and share knowledge about Machine Learning. The ELLIS Doctoral Symposium 2022 (EDS22) is the second edition, and will be held in Alicante, Spain. It is expected to host 200 attendees during one week in September. The conference will take place from the 19th to the 23th of September. Apply by Friday 20 May.
The theme of this conference is AI for Good.
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.
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.
Meadows Festival – 4th – 5th June
The University always has a stall, so if you are interested in doing some outreach into the local community (lots of people stop by, including kids), please get in touch with Stuart Tooley to share the UoE stall. No need to commit for the whole weekend.
Our Edinburgh Neighbourhood
This ESALA-run project is going to have an Urban Room set up in Waverley Market.
Contact Stuart Tooley if you would like to get involved with a public engagement activity.
Liberton Primary Summer Fair - Sat 11th June 2-4pm
Liberton primary school (near Cameron Toll) are looking for volunteers to come along to their Summer Fair with some hands on science (or other fun things).
NB: It is a summer fair, so the other stands will be games, tombola, bouncy castle etc.
- No charge for having a stand (on the basis that no profit would be made)
- The Parent Teacher association would be able to implement a charging/reimbursement system, if you need to charge a fee to cover costs of materials (but this is a very diverse area of the city, with many unemployed/refugees/low income families etc, so if you decide to charge, please keep the cost as low as possible. Above £1.50 would be prohibitive).
- The organisers would need details of the proposed activities so they can assess for health and safety and add to risk assessment.
- Please let them know of any specific equipment you would need / number of tables / chairs etc.
- Preference of an indoor or outdoor space for the activities?
If you are interested in taking part or with to discuss practicalities / logistics, please contact Jane Foley, president of Parent Teacher association, or call +44 787 6785 349.
The Energy Sport and STEM Festival - 30th-31st July
The Energy Sport and STEM festival is an outdoor adventure festival, encouraging those of all ages to get involved in sports and STEM related activities, to improve overall health well-being. We are located at the North Inch, Perth, Scotland, and have been running for the past 3 years, with over 1500 attendees.
As a non-profit organisation, we are looking for local STEM providers, who could possibly get involved and help us put on some workshops/seminars/activities within our STEM tent.
We are being sponsored by Scottish and Southern Energy Network and have access to power generators.
The festival will take place on 30th and 31st July 2022 from 10am-4pm.
If you are interested in getting involved (or have any questions) please email Kirsten Sime, Energy Sport and STEM Festival Marketing and Events Co-ordinator
Maths Week Scotland
Maths Week Scotland runs from 26 September to 2 October 2022
If you're interested in participating, get in touch with Katie Oldfield, Maths Week Scotland Co-ordinator
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.
Best of InfGeneral
This month's Best of Inf-general award goes to Craig Strachan for telling us about his great success at bristlenose plecs breeding! We hope that the extra creatures found a new home and Danny's suggestion for controlling the population was not used.
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 Informatics Communications Team.
We welcome stories from all staff and students!