Informatics Newsletter November 2022
Issue 63 of our School newsletter for students and staff.
A Message from the Head of School
The end of semester is in sight, but there are still some weeks to go before we can really relax and consider the work of the semester over. At this time of year the days are getting shorter and the darkness can bring a feeling of oppression, especially when combined with the pressure of deadlines and workloads. I hope that everyone can maintain a sense of perspective and take some encouragement from the lights and festivities that remind us that this period will pass and the end of year celebrations are not far away. But conscious that this can be a time of year that feels quite bleak, now is a good time to remind people of the support that is available if you are feeling overwhelmed.
For students, within the School you are encouraged to contact the Informatics Student Support Team using the email address below:
You can also speak to your supervisor or your friends. An important aspect of being a community is that everyone should feel that they are able to reach out when they are in need, and that others should feel comfortable responding to such requests. Or even pre-emptively checking on someone if they seem not to be themselves. Just asking how someone is doing, sharing a kind word or a smile, can make a world of difference. Beyond the School, the University offers a variety of well-being services — details can be found on the webpage below:
For staff there are similar webpages detailing a variety of forms of support, and proactive measures that can be taken to maintain good mental and physical health.
These pages also provide advice on how to support others who may be experiencing problems with their mental health, and we fortunate to have within the School a number of mental health first aiders.
PGR students wanting to contact a mental health first aider should contact the student support team in the first instance:
I appreciate that for staff and PGR students, the recent introduction of the financial component of People and Money has created additional problems and stresses. Do reach out to your line manager or supervisor if this is having an impact on you. It is important that we work together to overcome the problems, and I would like to remind everyone to be kind and patient with each other.
With best wishes,
- Octave Mariotti started as a Research Associate in IPAB on 1 October 2022.
- Cheng Wang started as a Research Associate in IPAB on 10 October 2022.
- Aditya Rajagopal started as a Research Associate in ICSA on 10 October 2022.
- Jacob Walters started as a Junior Research Assistant in LFCS on 10 October 2022.
- Saber Mirzaee Bafti started as a Research Associate in IANC on 21 October 2022.
- Irina Dudina started as a Research Associate in LFCS on 24 October 2022.
- Foivos Tsimpourlas started as a Junior Research Assistant in LFCS on 24 October 2022.
- Irina Dudina started as a Research Associate in LFCS on 24 October 2022.
- Changjian Li started as a Lecturer in Graphics, Simulation and Visual Computing on 18 October 2022.
Professional Services Staff
- Lewis Brown will start as ISS and Teaching Support Administrator on 31 October 2022.
To view current job opportunities within the School of Informatics, please click on the link below.
Congratulations to all our Winter Graduates
The School is immensely proud of the achievements of this year’s winter graduates and we wish you the very best for the future!
The winter graduation ceremony for Informatics took place in McEwan Hall on the morning of Thursday 24 November, bringing the usual sense of celebration and pride for our graduating students and their friends and family.
The ceremony was followed by a prize-giving and reception in the Informatics Forum in the afternoon.
Call for nominations for Staff Awards - deadline 9 Dec
School Executive would like to invite nominations for staff awards, to recognise a staff member or team (including members of teaching support staff) who have offered outstanding performance or gone out of their way, during semester 1, to ensure we maintain our school community or support their team or colleagues.
Please use the following form to submit nominations.
Nominations must be submitted no later than 5pm on Friday 9 December. Awards will be announced at the School’s end of year celebration on 15 December, and all nominees will receive notification of their nomination, but you can choose whether this is done anonymously.
Quantum lab led by Professor Elham Kashefi set to boost discoveries
The Quantum Software Lab, in collaboration with the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) and based in the School of Informatics, will identify key challenges in the adoption of quantum computing and investigate new ways in which quantum computers can provide benefits, beyond the reach of traditional computers.
Researchers from the Lab will work closely with industry partners to understand how quantum computers might help address their problems.
Advancements in science may enable new applications, and new applications may inspire new research directions, the team says.
The Lab’s theoretical research pillars will develop necessary tools for identifying and demonstrating any quantum advantage that one might obtain in a provable and reproducible way for specific industry situations.
The new lab, to be launched in January 2023, will be led by Professor Elham Kashefi with support from a team of leading researchers: Dr Chris Heunen, Dr Myrto Arapinis, Dr Raul Garcia Patron, Dr Petros Wallden from the School of Informatics and Dr Oliver Brown from EPCC. Professor Kashefi has also been announced as NQCC Chief Scientist by the national centre on 9th November 2022.
I am thrilled and honoured to join the NQCC leadership team to establish the Quantum Software Lab together with my colleagues at Edinburgh and elsewhere in UK. The new lab will enable us to further quantum software, algorithms, and applications, with specific attention to opportunities in training and research for quantum advantage and removing barriers to successful adoption.
New funding from Input Output Global will boost cryptography projects in the School of Informatics
Input Output Global (IOG), the creators of Cardano, the world-leading sustainable blockchain platform are partnering with the School of Informatics on a number of projects. They are funding a new ZK-Lab, supporting the launch of the blockchain industry’s first ‘decentralization index’ and last but not least, investing $4.5M to create a blockchain research hub in Edinburgh
Meet our Professional Services
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 Head of Research Services, Kirstin Unwin, telling us all about the portfolio managers.
Stay tuned for an introduction to a different professional services team with each newsletter.
Health and Safety Update
We’re deep into autumn and fast approaching winter, and it’s getting colder by the day. We all want to stay warm but please don’t forget that ventilation is a key element of UoE’s covid protection measures, so it’s important to continue opening windows in offices.
It doesn’t need to be wide open; a gap of just 2cm can increase the airflow and help prevent the spread of winter illnesses. Make use of warm clothing and hot drinks to stay cosy and if you have any issues with the temperature in your room (that can’t be attributed to open windows or not having the radiator on J) contact the relevant email address below or for these to be investigated.
Annual leave and carry over
Ideally, all leave should be taken at regular intervals within the current leave year however staff can carry over 5 days to 2023 (35 hours for full-time or pro-rated hours for part-time staff). In order to carry over leave into 2023 you must seek your manager's approval and then email InfHR to confirm.
InfHR will review all carry-over in the new year and ensure that balances are correct and up to date. Please note that carried-over leave must be used by 31 March 2023, or it will be lost.
Please also ensure that the Christmas closure is booked into your PaM record (both annual leave and public holiday requirements), InfHR will do a quick review of everyone’s record to ensure it is logged, and ensure that you are looking at the correct balance available in PaM. You should be looking at the balance as the ‘last calculation date’ rather than the ‘current date' as the current date will not include any future leave booked for 2022.
If you have any questions or require any help please do not hesitate to get in touch with InfHR.
Please see the University’s Annual Leave Policy and Christmas closure webpage for more information.
Promotions, Regrading and Contribution Rewards
The 2022-2023 internal deadlines and timelines for promotions, regrading and contribution rewards for all staff can all be found via the below link. There are also links at the bottom to the forms and guidance notes.
Research Data Management Update
Research Data Management policy
The University’s new Research Data Management policy came into effect in January 2022. This policy confirms the expectation that researchers produce a data management plan (DMP) to outline how research data will be collected, stored and disseminated.
Beyond policy requirements, writing a data management plan will help you meet the expectations of funders. For example, EPSRC grant holders are expected to include a statement in published research outlining how supporting research data may be accessed. The University Research Data Support team provide advice on writing so-called ‘data availability statements’, along with further guidance related to research data.
Support and training
Informatics will hold a research lunch focusing on DMPs on 09 January 2023 – please save the date.
This will include a talk from Simon Smith (Research Data Support Officer) with an overview of the UoE policy and how to write a data management plan.
Simon is available to assist all researchers at any time with their DMPs, and welcomes requests to speak to research groups, committees, and PGR cohorts. If you would like to speak with him regarding your own DMP, or training within your research group or institute, before or after the research lunch, please email him directly.
Open access check
We are currently conducting one of our regular open access checks. Although REF2021 is behind us, it is still important that all research papers are made open access, to meet both funder and University requirements, and indeed to ensure eligibility of papers for the next research assessment exercise (REF or similar).
If you haven’t already done so, please complete the Publications Check web form by Friday 09 December.
Please also continue to regularly send details of all papers accepted for publication to the RDM team, and they’ll work with you to ensure open access compliance. As always, you are welcome to contact Victoria or Andrew with any questions regarding open access.
Ethics office hours
The Informatics ethics committee will continue to hold an office hour every first Monday of the month, 4pm-5pm (5 December). 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 Student wins Best Student Paper Award at Interspeech
Sarenne Wallbridge, a third-year PhD student in ILCC, won the Best Student Paper Award at Interspeech this year. Sarenne's project is supervised by Peter Bell and Catherine Lai.
In the paper Sarenne and the co-authors look at the relationship between human comprehension behaviour and language models holds when applied to dialogue. Most studies that support the claim that language model (LM) representations align with human perception despite communicative interaction being the primary form of language use. In the paper, researchers demonstrate that people can make accurate predictions about upcoming dialogue and that their ability differs between spoken transcripts and written conversations. They also investigate the relationship between global and local language model representations and human acceptability judgements, finding a combination of both to provide the most predictive power.
Informatics entry into Edinburgh Futures Institute Student Photography Competition
Two atmospheric photos by Callum Leask, a third-year BSc in Artificial Intelligence student have been featured in the Edinburgh Future Institute’s first Student Photography Competition, with the theme of 'The Future of Climate Justice'.
“I’m a Shetland-born photographer with a love for all forms of photography, especially analog, spending a lot of my time developing at home. I also have a love for art and music, alongside tech and computing.”
You can see Callum's photos, alongside other entries into the competition on the EFI blog.
ERC Starting Grant for Antonio Vergari's UNREAL project
Antonio Vergari has been awarded a prestigious ERC Starting Grant for his project UNREAL: A Unified Reasoning Layer for Trustworthy ML.
The aim of UNREAL is to provide the theoretical and practical foundations to design and deploy machine learning (ML) systems that we can trust. A single framework will systematically inspect, reason, and explain different behaviours of ML systems to check if they meet our expectations. For example, the behaviour of a medical diagnosis system can be inspected by physicians by asking queries about the probability of a treatment being effective when some features of a new patient are not available as well as the uncertainty around this prediction. For systems used to predict loans we want to inspect if they are fair for sub-populations of applicants identified by their race or gender. For a self-driving system, queries can be used to certify that it will not fall prey to attacks that compromise its decisions. This will be possible in UREAL by "breaking'' these behaviours into smaller primitives that we can reliably inspect and provably certify.
Learning shapes cortical dynamics to enhance the integration of relevant sensory input - Angus Chadwick
Researchers found that mice's brain activity changes when they learn – a new article from Angus Chadwick et al. explains how.
In order to understand how networks of neurons in the visual part of the brain get better at processing visual information relevant to a task that the animal learns researchers in Informatics developed a theory to show how the brain could do this optimally. They then analysed data from the brains of mice that learn to distinguish visual patterns and showed that their brain activity patterns change with learning in a way that conforms to the predictions of the theory.
Julie-Anne Meaney's online humour paper a runner-up for the Best Paper Award at the Social Informatics
The paper "Don't Take it Personally: Analyzing Gender and Age Differences in Ratings of Online Humor" was a runner-up for the Best Paper Award at the Social Informatics 2022 conference in Glasgow. The paper, authored by J. A. Meaney and others, analysed data from HaHackathon, a computational humour detection challenge, in which over 50 research teams built AI systems to detect and rate how humorous and offensive a set of 10,000 texts was. The texts were shared with 2000 annotators who were asked to mark whether the text was a joke or not and if it was a joke and how funny it was. They were also asked if the text was generally offensive and whether it offended them personally.
The researchers found that if a text was generally or personally offensive, women found it less funny but there was no impact of the general offence on humour ratings for men unless they were personally offended. This replicates previous humour research findings, which suggest that men find it easier to laugh at other people than women do. Women admitted to not get a joke significantly more often than men. This backs up a previous finding in a psychological study which asked people to read nonsense jokes and found that women more readily admitted that they didn't get them than men.
Young people tended to use lower ratings of offence than older groups, and if they found a text offensive, this did not impact their humor ratings. However, the older the annotators were, the more likely they were to be offended, and to find offensive texts less funny. This contradicts the increasingly accepted idea that young people are easily offended and respond negatively to offense.
The annotators were recruited based on their age, and US nationality an the texts they were rating were in American English.
Outreach and Public Engagement
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, please fill in the form below or email Kasia Kokowska
On the webform, please choose ‘I am interested in an outreach/public engagement activity’ in ‘what is your query’.
For more information about Outreach and PE, please follow the link below
Meet the Institutes Administration team for lunch
MF2, Wednesday 07 December 2022, 12:00 - 13:00
The Institutes Admin team are delighted to say that they will be holding a ‘come meet the team’ lunch. They are hosting a light lunch in a relaxed setting where you can pop in to meet the team, talk about anything you wish or just put some names to faces!
The team consist of Kasia Stoinska – Administrative Service Manager (Also leads School Office, Events and Reception), Steph Smith, Euan Morse, Seona Wharrie, Linda Hope, Jodie Cameron, and Heather McCartney.
Please register your interest by visiting the Eventbrite link below, you'll also be asked if you have any dietary requirements.
Should you need any assistance in the meantime, please email Kasia Stoinska.
Best of InfGeneral
This month's best of inf-general goes to everybody who helped Don Sannella with recommendations for a really good private physiotherapist in Edinburgh. Here is a summary of the responses he received.
- I've seen various physios at FASIC (University sports centre) over the years - some have been more helpful than others - but the injuries have been different so it is difficult to compare. Heather was really good with my spine problem:https://www.ed.ac.uk/sport-exercise/fasic/physio/our-team/heather-binnington.
- In general, the FASIC team are fantastic.
- At FASIC, I would recommend Eric White, he is very friendly and professional. Although the term professional would highly depend on the specialities. I had lower back pain, and he assessed my pain and provided me with some training guides. As for magic hands, according to them, that would depend on the type of problem you have-- e.g. if it is a sharp pain within a week, probably rest would be the best solution, and if it is a long-lasting pain, massage or other kinds of treatment could benefit a lot.
- I have had an awful lot of physio over the years and I have found FASIC at the Pleasance, at times, really good. Quality across the physios is variable though. I have had a lot of success with knee and scapula injuries, but they are particular good with finger tendon problems. The sports masseur tried hard but did not make much in-roads into my tight neck. Not too impressed with the podiatrists.
- Bill Taylor has done great stuff with people I know.
- Bill Taylor. He himself is often booked up long in advance, but the others in the practice are also good (Bill teaches physiotherapy and I think recruits the best of his students). I most recently saw Gareth Fitzpatrick, who was excellent.
- If it's something destroyed by decades of sitting in front of the computer, then Bill Taylor in Stockbridge is my recommendation.
- It probably depends quite a bit on what you need treating. When I was really struggling with back problems earlier this year I went to "Edinburgh Sports + Spinal Physiotherapy" who are based in Comely Bank. I would definitely recommend them, the treatment and exercise regime they put together for me has made a big difference.
- I have been visiting this practise. It has perfect 5 star reviews on google. It's quite affordable (even on postdoc salary) and I have been seen by both Zuza and Richard (and one other woman who is now on maternity). Very happy with their service and they have done wonders for me.
- I had the misfortune to injure a couple of nerves recently (neck, shoulder) and went to this place, (as it was the only place that was close enough that I could walk to). The physio who saw me was very good (Kaylan O'Meara). I would recommend her certainly
- I once used Owen Downes for a running-related issue, which seems to be one of their specialties. After several appointments with NHS physiotherapists, I went to Owen and he was the first one to actually come up with a plausible explanation for my problem. He spent with me well over the allocated hour and he was able to find what had missed everyone else I had been seen by (my GP and the physiotherapists at Edinburgh Community Physiotherapy Service).
- My most successful physio experience has been with Clare Pettigrew at Physio Ecosse: https://physioecosse.com/ - but they are out in West Lothian & I went there because they specialise in knee braces - so this might not be appropriate for you.
- I saw Anna at Bodyworks in the west end before the lockdowns and she helped resolve a 2 year injury. She is no longer in the UK but I would recommend the whole team, I’ve had great experiences everytime I’ve gone for sports related issues.
- A couple of years ago my wife had a good experience with "Pilates Plus Physio" -https://www.pilatesplusphysio.co.uk/physiotherapy/ - when she had an ankle problem.
- I'm not sure the difference between a physiotherapist and the kind of massage therapist that specialises in sorting physical problems, but Jill McLaggan at Napiers (across the street) worked a lot better for me than the physio at the Pleasance - they both taught me exercises but Jill was more able to diagnose and convey exactly what was needed.
- Not a physio, but an osteopath who I go to regularly for upper back and shoulder work and 5mins walk from the Forum: https://www.structural-massage-edinburgh.com/
- In Morningside, Jill at therap-ease was great in fixing a long-term rotator-cuff injury
- Carly Cowell from Bodywell Nation is excellent. https://uk.linkedin.com/in/carlycowell
- Not from inf-general, I got a strong recommendation for https://www.harmonicosteopathy.com/ in Charlotte Square
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.
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