Informatics Newsletter November 2021

Issue 52 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from Head of School

Photo of Jane Hillston sitting at a desk

Dear All,

After a mild start, November is ending in wintry form.  Storm Arwen blew in on Friday and reminded us how punishing the Edinburgh wind can be and set us scrambling to find hats, gloves and scarves, or better still resolving to just stay indoors until the storm was over.  The snow yesterday morning was a nice surprise, but the icy pavements that it left behind this morning were treacherous.  

This made me think about the much longer storm we have been surviving through the last two years, as the Covid pandemic has raged around the world.  There have been lulls in the storm and periods when we felt some movement towards normality but the recent discovery of the omicron variant has made clear that the storm is not over yet.  Just as with a physical storm we need to take whatever precautions we can to keep ourselves and others safe, through complying with all the guidance that exists to protect us, taking advantage of offered vaccines and boosters, etc.

Despite the threats from bad weather or pernicious viruses the arrival of December does bring many cheerful prospects.  I am looking forward to a couple of weeks when my alarm won’t go off at 6:30 in the morning and I might get a chance to read some of my accumulated set of novels recommended by friends.  I’m sure everyone has something that they have been promising themselves for once semester is over.

As the end of 2021 approaches, I hope that everyone gets a chance to spend time — in person or remotely — with loved ones, and recharge their batteries over the festive season, and I look forward to welcoming you back for 2022.

With best wishes,


New Staff

Research staff

Richard Schmoetten started as a Research Assistant in AIAI on 1st November.

Carlos Tiseo started as a Research Associate in IPAB on 11th November.

Florent Le Moel started as a Research Associate in IPAB on 11th November.

Resul Tugay started as a Research Assistant in AIAI on 12th November.

Dagmara Panas started as a Data Scientist on 22nd November.

Martin Namukombo started as a Research Assistant in ILCC on 29th November.

Administrative staff

Kerry Fernie started as a Teaching Organisation Administrator on 29th November.


New staff learning apps launching in November

This November, the HR Transformation Programme team are launching new staff learning tools in People and Money. Employees will be able to use the new apps to sign up for courses and record skills and qualifications needed for their roles. Managers will be able to use the apps to assign and track the completion of learning. We expect to launch the new tools on the 25th of November.

LinkedInLearning content will be available in the Learning app from launch. Teams that provide learning opportunities for staff –such as e-learning and training materials– will load these into the Learning app gradually during this academic year, so they will not all be available straight away. This is part of a broader University drive to transform our HR and finance services.

The new HR services are now live, and you can access them through the People and Money system in MyEd.Visit the latest overview on what’s coming and to subscribe to email updates.

Log in to People and Money


Professor Barbara Webb, CDT in RAS Equality and Diversity Lead, Professor of Biorobotics at the Institute for Perception, Action and Behaviour in the School of Informatics

2021 Minerva Informatics Equality Award goes to EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and Autonomous Systems

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Robotics and Autonomous Systems won the sixth edition of the Minerva Informatics Equality Award. This year’s Minerva Award was presented at a ceremony on 26 October 2021, during the 17th European Computer Science Summit (ECSS 2021), a hybrid event in Madrid and online.

The award, presented by Informatics Europe and sponsored by Google, recognises best practices in departments or faculties of European universities and research labs that encourage and support the careers of women in Informatics research and education.

The candidates for Minerva Award are considered in a three-year cycle, with each year’s focus dedicated to a different stage of the academic career: developing the careers of female faculty, supporting the transition for PhD and postdoctoral researchers into faculty positions, and recruiting and retaining female students in Computer Science/Informatics programmes.

The winners are selected by a team of prominent international experts in an evaluation process that run each year from May to August.

The award carries a prize of 5,000 Euros. The grant is to be used for further work on promoting gender equality.

Read full article

School of Informatics graduates from 25 years ago meet online

2021 marked 25 years since the University of Edinburgh Computer Science, Joint Degrees and M.Eng. Class of 1996 graduated. The occasion called for a reunion and as the pandemic got in the way of meeting in person, an online reunion was hosted on 16th October 2021.

A long and colourful history of the School of Informatics and computer science research and teaching in Edinburgh means that when our alumni reflect on their experiences, they differ substantially from our current students’ experience.

The event included personal introductions by alumni participants that underscored the wealth of their accumulated knowledge, academic and industry achievements and experience, as well as a wonderful, nostalgic virtual tour of the university created for the reunion by Mr. Neil Guthrie, videos and class photos from former classmates, and breakout sessions, which were a great opportunity for alumni and lecturers to reconnect, share memories and catch up.

Read full article

Research Data Management

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 Sam (email below) and he will be happy to advise.

As always, please continue to send details of recently accepted papers and open access questions, and Sam will respond to your query.

Contact RDM Team

Ethics office hours

The Informatics ethics committee will continue to hold an office hour every first Monday of the month, 4pm-5pm during semester 1 (06 December). The session is 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.

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

Matt Timmons-Brown

Matt Timmons-Brown awarded UKNEST Scholarship

Third-year Computer Science student, Matt Timmons-Brown won a scholarship from the UK Naval Engineering, Science and Technology (UKNEST) forum.

The scholarship comprises a grant worth £1,500 per academic year, as well as individual mentoring from UKNEST members. This will include site visits, potential for work-placements during vacations and support for project work. Matt will also be “buddied” with graduate employees within the sector. He is one of 12 applicants to be selected for this funding UK-wide. 

The scholarship competition encouraged Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics undergraduates to submit their CVs and an essay. A panel of experts, drawn from UKNEST Members selected successful applicants based on their essays.

Matt applied to the UKNEST scholarship enthused by a combination of a generous bursary and career mentoring from top defence companies, he felt that this was a fantastic opportunity. As an undergraduate research student keen to explore potential areas of employment after University, Matt foresees that having the advice and mentorship of companies such as Lockheed Martin and Rolls-Royce will prove invaluable.

Matt plans to use the bursary money initially to fund his applications for graduate study. With the potential for work-placement with a UKNEST Organisation, the areas of business that the consortium represents could well align to his own interests and career aspirations.

Read full article

Ioannis Pisokas awarded RSE Saltire Early Career Fellowship

As recipient of a RSE Saltire Early Career Fellowship, Ioannis Pisokas from the School of Informatics will visit the lab of Giacomo Indiveri at the Institute of Neuroinformatics (INI) in Zurich (affiliated with ETH and University of Zurich) as part of his research into neuromorphic hardware design with local memory for controlling robots.

During this project, Ioannis will design a new neuromorphic microprocessor that uses memristors to store data. In conventional microprocessors, the memory is located outside the processor cores and data need to be transferred between them. Memristors are a new technology Ioannis will utilise to colocate processing and memory in order to avoid the data transfer bottleneck and reduce the associated energy consumption that plagues conventional microprocessors.

The expected gains in performance and energy efficiency are significant, opening the way to ecologically friendly computing.

Read full article

Staff news

SpectraGAN paper to be presented at 2021 ACM CoNEXT conference

A paper on SpectraGAN will be presented at the 2021 ACM CoNEXT conference which will be held virtually 7-10 December 2021. The paper, authored by ANC and ICSA researchers (Kai Xu, ANC PhD student is the lead author) concerns SpectraGAN, a deep learning based high-fidelity and generalisable synthetic mobile network data generation model.

SpectraGAN targets the problem of generating city scale spatiotemporal mobile network `traffic’ data, which has numerous applications within and beyond networking. Traffic data generation in SpectraGAN solely relies on publicly available context data for the target region (population census, points of interest, etc.) and focuses on synthesising significant frequency components in the frequency domain representation of the traffic data, thereby faithfully capturing repeatable patterns inherent to the traffic data in the time dimension.

SpectraGAN and other models have been developed as part of a unique ongoing research project that addresses the problem of access to real-world mobile network data which is limited due to operators’ concerns around leakage of commercially sensitive information.

The project is led by Prof Mahesh Marina, involving ANC and ICSA PhD students, Hakan Bilen (IPAB), collaborators from IMDEA Networks Institute (Spain), Samsung (UK) and Orange (France).

Link to the conference website

Paul Patras

Net AI snaps up £750K to cut cost and carbon footprint of 5G telecom providers based on research by Paul Patras

In a mission to become the market leader in analysing traffic across 5G mobile networks, revolutionising the management of software-based mobile infrastructure and enabling mobile network operators (MNOs) to meet stringent customer requirements in a cost-effective manner, Edinburgh-based startup Net AI has raised £750,000 in pre-seed funding.

The round was led by Techstart Ventures, with Nauta Capital, Creator Fund, Old College Capital, and Edinburgh Technology Fund also participating. Dr Paul Patras, Associate Professor at the School of Informatics, is co-founder and CEO of Net AI.

Read full article

Nadin Kokciyan and Michael Rovatsos help make autonomous systems more responsible

Nadin Kokciyan and Michael Rovatsos will be working on one of the strands of a multi-disciplinary project that seeks to address responsibility gaps in autonomous systems. Informatics researchers will focus on the development of new techniques and tools for making autonomous systems more answerable. The project is led by Professor Shannon Vallor, Director of the Centre for Technomoral Futures at the Edinburgh Futures Institute.

Drawing on research in philosophy, cognitive science, law and AI, the project will develop new ways for autonomous system developers, users and regulators to bridge responsibility gaps by boosting the systems’ answerability.

Read full article

Ross Anderson

Ross Anderson looks into impact of client-side scanning on citizen’s privacy

In a recent report Ross Anderson and colleagues analyse solutions for mass surveillance through software embedded in users’ devices, as opposed to the current practice of monitoring people’s communications.

The report is published in response to law enforcement and national security agencies arguing that the spread of cryptography has hindered access to evidence and intelligence.  

In the report Anderson and colleagues look at CSS (client-side scanning) and its implications for citizen’s security, privacy and freedom of speech as well as lack of guarantees that it will effectively prevent crimes. 

Authors of the report note that there are multiple ways in which client-side scanning can fail, can be evaded, and can be abused. Systems trained on images of child abuse that are illegal can be manipulated by editing images to create both false negatives and false positives. 

Read full article


Informatics Circle

3rd Informatics Circle

In December, the School of Informatics will be running the 3rd Informatics Circle with fun games introducing topics like word-embedding and logic gates.

The Informatics Circle is an online event for children aged 7-14 (and their parents) to take part in activities all about computer science. There will be fun and challenging games introducing topics like code-breaking, binary numbers, building efficient networks, word-embedding, logic gates and more. In each activity, one of our hosts will support participants to solve a new puzzle.

Sat, 4 December 2021

Event details and registration

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 latest opportunities please check CSE PE blog for more info.

CSE Public Engagement update

74th Language Lunch @ Edinburgh - Call for abstracts

The Language Lunch @ Edinburgh is an informal session giving you the opportunity to present your work to an interdisciplinary audience in an intimate and feedback-rich setting. Talks are welcome on any area of language research from postgraduate students (Master’s, PhD).

If you would like to present your language-related research, please fill out the form below by Wednesday, 5th January 2022.

Submit your abstract - Complete form

Sci Comm Group - PhD students and PDRAs wanted to help source science stories

The School of Informatics are establishing a Sci Comm Group and we are looking for PhD students and PDRAs to join in to support sourcing and developing of diverse science stories coming out from the school. If you’re interested in science communications please do read on.

You don’t need any formal training to join the group. All members will be offered media training developed in-house by the InfComms Team with support from the University Press Office and advice.

You can find more details about the group and a registration link below:

Informatics Sci Comm Group

We will close the recruitment to the group on 8th December. If we don’t get reps from every institute by that point, we will issue another call for volunteers. If we get more reps than we need, Vijay and Kasia will select reps based on their answers to the questions we ask in the registration form.

If you have any questions about the group, please email Kasia or Vijay.

Email Kasia

Email Vijay

Digital Innovation and Engagement Fund

For those already collaborating with museums, you might like to know that the Museums Association has partnered with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and creative design agency The Liminal Space to launch a new £400k Digital Innovation and Engagement Fund for their institutional member museums. The new fund will provide a series of grants of up to £50k to scale up and evaluate the new ways of working that museums have developed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Further details about the Digital Innovation and Engagement Fund

Tam Dalyell Prize - Call for Nominations

The Tam Dalyell Prize for Excellence in Engaging the Public with Science is an annual prize to recognise and reward the University of Edinburgh’s outstanding science communicators.

The award is open to any individual or group employed by or studying at the University and covers the very broad scope of public engagement and/or science communication activities. These activities must have a primary objective of enhancing public engagement with research led at the University of Edinburgh. This includes working with schools or other community groups, publishing, broadcasting, organising/ participating in public events such as lectures, demonstrations and debates. Preference will be given to early-career researchers (undergraduates, postgraduate students or those in the first six years after their PhD). Group submissions are welcome. 

The recipient or the winning team will give a high profile presentation as part of the Science Festival 2022 followed by an award presentation on Sunday 17th April 2022 in the Playfair Library Hall. This will be a key University event. 

The award consists of a medal(s) and a grant of £500 for the winner’s public engagement or science communication activity.

Deadline for nominations of Friday 14 January 2022. All nominations must be sent through the Head of School or Head of College.

The nomination form below includes the criteria for the Tam Dalyell Prize

Open Call for proposals – Do you have an idea to engage public audiences with science and research?

The British Science Festival are now accepting event proposals for the 2022 Festival in Leicester, hosted by De Montfort University.

The Festival celebrates science in its broadest sense. They are looking for proposals from individuals, researchers, industry professionals, artists, writers, organisations, charities, academic institutions, and more.  

Festival proposals should be aimed at non-specialist adults (16+) with a broad interest in science. They are looking for events that showcase cutting-edge science, celebrate the latest developments in science and technology and engage their audience in open discussion about relevant issues that affect culture and society. They aim to programme a range of formats from talks to drop-in activities and creative content that challenges perceptions of what science is and can be.

More information, including how to submit a proposal, can be found below. The deadline for proposals is 17.00 on 14 February 2022.

Link to British Science Festival website

Link to details of BSF application

Award Lectureships at the British Science Festival 2022

Every year the British Science Association asks for applications for the seven Award Lectureships available to early career academics who are skilled at engaging people with their research. These Award Lectures aim to promote open and informed discussion of science and related disciplines. Awards are available in seven different areas (social sciences, engineering, technology and industry, environmental sciences, agricultural, biological and medical sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, digital innovation, science and the arts) 

The selected lecturers receive an all-expenses-paid trip to the British Science Festival where they will present their lecture, as well as public speaking coaching and a £250 honorarium. There may also be other opportunities to present the Award Lecture at other science festivals in the UK. 

The deadline for applications is 17.00 on 6 December 2021. 

More information, including the application process, can be found below. You can contact Hannah Lawrence for more information.

Link to information about the BSF award lectures

Email Hannah Lawrence

STEM for Britain

STEM for Britain is an annual poster competition, open to early-career researchers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. The annual event is run by the House of Commons Parliamentary Scientific Committee and the Engineering session is supported by the Academy.

The competition provides an opportunity for early-career researchers to present their posters and winners receive Gold (£1000), Silver (£750) or Bronze (£500) Awards. The overall aim is to encourage, support and promote Britain’s early career researchers.

Deadline: 6 December 2021

Link to STEM for Britain website

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

Best of InfGeneral

This month's best of inf-general award goes to Gregor Hall for the kind words sent in his farewell message during his last day working with us on Friday 26th November. After seven years with the School of Informatics, Gregor marked his last day with us at the Pear Tree for a shandy.

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!

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