Informatics Newsletter October 2018

Issue 19 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

New Staff


  • Milos Nikolic - Lecturer in Databases - started on 6th September 2018
  • Yang Cao - Chancellor's Fellow – started on 1st October 2019

Professional Services

  • Janet Ball - Head of Research Services – started on 1st October 2018
  • Victoria Lindström – Research Data Manager – started on 22nd October 2018


  • Carlo Tiseo - Research Associate - started on 27th August 2018
  • Maria Corkery - Research and Teaching Associate – started on 3rd September 2018
  • Massimiliano Patacchiola - Research Associate - started on 1st September 2018
  • Wolfgang Merkt - Research Associate - started on 1st September 2018
  • Faheem Kirefu - Research Assistant - started on 10th September 2018
  • Xinchi Chen - Research Associate – started on 10th September 2018
  • Kristjan Liiva - Research Associate – started on 10th September 2018
  • Xenofon Foukas - Research Associate – started on 1st October 2018
  • Michael Burke - Research Associate – started on 1st October 2018
  • Ioannis Tselekanis - Research Associate  - started on 1st October 2018
  • Ludovica Luisa Vissat - Research Associate – started on 2nd October 2018
  • Jiawen Sun - Research Associate – started on 8th October 2018
  • Thomas Wakin - Research Associate – started on 8th October 2018
  • Wilmer Ricciotti - Senior Researcher – started on 16th October 2018

Highlights from around the School

Informatics Jamboree

Have you enjoyed the Informatics Jamboree last year? Would you like to get involved in organising next year’s one? We are looking for volunteers to join the organising committee.

If you’d like to get involved and make the Jamboree 2019 even more successful, please email us.

Contact Infcomms

School General Meeting

If you’ve missed the last General Meeting, check the slides:

Research successes

Broader Web-Scale Provision Corpora for European Languages project

Kenneth Heafield and Phillipp Koehn will be working on the Broader Web-Scale Provision Corpora for European Languages project having received £340,000 in funding from the European Commission. Machine translation quality depends on having lots of translations to learn from. For instance, French and German translations are pretty good because there are millions of translated sentences, but Croatian and Irish have small publicly available data. Researchers are mining the web for translated texts, which are only a small fraction of the text on the web. So they are starting big, sifting through a petabyte of web pages from the Internet Archive in the hopes of finding every possible translation. The project will collect translations in all 24 official languages of the EU as well as Icelandic, Norwegian, Basque, Catalan, and Galician. All data is released free of charge under a Creative Commons Zero license. Thus far hundreds of millions of translated sentences have been mined.

Efficient Querying of Inconsistent Data (EQUID) project

Andreas Pieris and Leonid Libkin received £760,000 from EPSRC to work on their Efficient Querying of Inconsistent Data (EQUID) project. The problem of querying very large, and at the same time inconsistent data that does not conform to its specification given in the form of integrity constraints, has been recognised as a common challenge in Big Data analysis that must be urgently addressed. 

Despite the fact that this problem has attracted considerable attention from the database community, no practical solution to it has emerged so far. The goal of EQUID is to change this state of affairs by proposing a practically applicable approach to the problem in question. The ultimate goal of this new approach should be efficient approximation algorithms that quickly deliver sufficiently good consistent answers with explicit error guarantees.

Ray Reiter Best Paper Award

Three members of the Database Group in LFCS – Marco Console, Paolo Guagliardo, and Leonid Libkin – received the Ray Reiter Best Paper Award at the 16th International Conference on Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning (KR 2018) for their paper titled "Propositional and Predicate Logics of Incomplete Information". In this paper, the authors re-examine the problem of incomplete information in databases and provide a formal justification for the choice of the three-valued Kleene logic used in all current database management systems. They also show how the Kleene logic can be simulated with the standard two-valued Boolean logic, paving a way towards new languages that can avoid the well-known deficiencies of the three-valued logic in relational database systems. The Ray Reiter Prize is given biennially to the best paper at the International Conference on Principles of Knowledge Representation and Reasoning (KR).

Boris Grot awarded a grant to study emerging graph analytics applications

Boris Grot has been awarded a grant to study emerging graph analytics applications with the goal of understanding their performance bottlenecks and scalability potential. This effort is part of a DARPA-funded initiative to study graph applications and develop specialized hardware to accelerate their execution.  Boris and colleagues are working with the Intel-lead team on analysing existing applications in terms of performance inefficiencies (bottlenecks) and providing recommendations on what can – and what cannot - be improved. They are looking at what would happen to those applications when we move from processing gigabytes of data to terabytes of data. This analysis will provide basis for a preliminary design of a new powerful computer platform (or a supercomputer – but much larger and more powerful than we have ever seen before) that will be able to analyse vast amounts of data and identify relationships between layers of data, and then making distinction between meaningless correlation and causal connection. The real-life application of such supercomputer will be for example to spot early signs of viral outbreaks, or cyber attacks.

Taku Komura receives funding from Oculus VR LLC

Taku Komura was awarded 3-year funding of £780,000 from Oculus VR LLC (a division of Facebook) to work on animating close interactions of human models and synthesizing realistic grasping motion.  Taku will, in fact, be working on two projects. The first one, animating human-human interactions, with a goal to develop the next generation of deep learning systems for character animation with a focus on developing techniques for human-human interaction. The second one, animating hand-object interactions, aims to investigate how to let neural networks learn representations that can be used for human-object grasping and human-human interactions for virtual reality and computer graphics applications.

Student stories

Campus internship - Informatics Communications Intern

2nd year BSc Computer Science Sophie Leaver undertook an on-campus internship during the summer of 2018. She worked as an Informatics Communications Intern and told us about the experience.

Sophie's internship

Yuanhua Huang awarded the 'Chinese government award for outstanding self-financed students abroad'

Guido Sanguinetti’s former student Yuanhua Huang has recently been awarded the 'Chinese government award for outstanding self-financed students abroad' for his PhD work here in Informatics. There are 500 awarded each year across the world, and each worth $6000.

Nikita Samarin finishes third in the Young Software Engineer of the Year competition

Nikita graduated from a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science in July 2018 finished third in the Young Software Engineer of the Year competition. Nikita is currently continuing his studies at the University of California, Berkley. He won the prize for his project which investigates the growing field of biometric authentication.

Ian Mason wins Best Student Paper Award

IPAB PhD student Ian Mason won the Best Student Paper Award at Pacific Graphics 2018 for the titled paper ‘Few-shot Learning of Homogeneous Human Locomotion Styles’.

Recent news from around the School

Photos from the Bayes Centre royal opening
Photos from the Bayes Centre royal opening

Bayes Centre officially opened

'Royal visit gives Bayes Centre seal of approval'

Sethu joins the Turing as AI Co-Director

'Sethu joins The Alan Turing Institute as Programme Co-Director for AI'

Ada Lovelace Day in Informatics

School girls visited Informatics on Ada Lovelace Day


Turing Trust

We have the Charity of the Year! The Turing Trust, established and run by James Turing, Alan’s great-nephew, provides reused IT equipment, loaded with educational resources, and training to schools in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Turing Trust

Bayes swipe access

All Informatics staff now have swipe card access to the common areas of Bayes (i.e. you can use your staff card to open the gates on the ground floor at the foot of the stairs and lifts). Staff moving between the two buildings (the Informatics Forum and Bayes Centre) should use the link on level 3. Level 2 should not be used to transit between the two buildings. During opening hours, the alternative route is via the courtyard. Informatics staff who are not based in Bayes do not have out-of-hours access to Bayes via external doors (similarly, non-Informatics personnel based in Bayes do not have access to Bayes via the Informatics Forum).

EU Settlement Scheme

The University has agreed to cover the £65 cost of these applications. If you have any queries that are not covered by the FAQs, please

Eligible staff will be approached in the week before the pilot scheme opens to provide more information.

Brexit update October 2018

More about the EU Settlement Scheme [EASE log in required]

University news

Athena SWAN Silver Award

The University has retained the institutional Athena SWAN Silver Award it achieved in 2015. It has been recognised for its commitment to advancing the careers of women working in higher education.

'Award for efforts to improve gender equality'

Outreach and Public Engagement

Community Grants Scheme, closes 1st November

This new funding scheme awarding a maximum of £5k per project aims to increase engagement between the university and local communities; have a positive social impact; and create learning opportunities. If you have community partners whom you believe would benefit from this funding, then further information (including the application process) can be found via the link below.

More about community grants

Call for contributors - Edinburgh North STEM event for girls, 5th November

The Edinburgh International Science Festival (in partnership with SHE Scotland) is organising an event to inspire 10-15 year old girls to study STEM subjects, and are looking for 30-minute talks plus interactive activities from women working in STEM.

The event will take place in the Prentis Centre, Leith on Mon 5th Nov, 2:30-5: 30 pm. They are particularly keen to hear from women who grew up in Scotland and who might have taken an unusual or non-traditional career path.

If you would like to take part, please contact Julie Contreras.

Contact Julie

Call for ideas - Festival of Creative Learning 2019

This festival will run 18-22 Feb, although there are opportunities to run events at other times of the year too. Engaging local groups is one of the multitude of aims of the festival, which has a central focus on creative learning and innovation. For more details and the application processes, please see the link below.

Festival of Creative Learning website

Call for proposals - Glasgow Science Festival (6-16 June 2019), deadline: 14th December 2018

'Glasgow steams ahead' is the theme for next year's festival, but all ideas - including those with explicit links to the arts and social sciences - will be considered. They are especially keen to expand their programme for adults and community-based activities. Further details and a link to the proposal process can be found at the link below.

Glasgow Science Festival - Event proposal 2019

Call for ideas - Strathearn Festival of Science

After taking a little break, the Strathearn Festival of Science (centred in Crieff) will be returning in early March 2019. A flagship public event is being developed to provisionally take place on Sat 9th March, and other activities are likely to make up the overall festival.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Steuart Cuthbert.

Contact Steuart

Funding - Nesta's Centre for Collective Intelligence Design, expression of interest deadline: 9th November

The Centre for Collective Intelligence Design is awarding grants of up to £20,000 for innovative ideas to help generate evidence about how collective intelligence can be designed and applied for social impact. Projects should include using new digital technologies and methods for enabling collective intelligence at scale, e.g. through deliberation, observation, prediction or idea creation, etc. Making progress in how we understand, think and act together is critical to solving some of the most complex challenges of our times – from climate change to prosperity and wellbeing.

Selected projects will not only receive funding, but can also ask for research support from staff at the Centre. This might include an advisory role to ensure rigour of experiments, or helping to disseminate findings.

Queries can be directed to the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design via

Collective Intelligence Grants

Call for non-binding expressions of interest: Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas (August 2019), deadline: 7th December

If you would like to be involved with the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas - curated by the Beltane Public Engagement Network and part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe - then please visit their website via the link below.

Get involved

Mental health and wellbeing


The University of Edinburgh's Mental Health and Wellbeing Week is running from 12-16 November. You can find information on the events that are taking place on the EUSA website.

Mental Health and Wellbeing events

The School of Informatics is also running the below events for students and staff:

Mental Health and Wellbeing Talk (from the City of Edinburgh Council)

Monday 12 November, 1-3pm - Informatics Forum, G.07, Ground Floor

The session will provide an introduction to mental health and wellbeing, as well as information on small changes we can all make to better take care of ourselves and build resilience. We will also be hearing from a volunteer from the Turn Your Life Around project who will be discussing the experiences of mental health issues at University.

Register for this event

Share Your Hobbies: Coffee Break and Craft Session

Monday 12 November, 3-4:30pm - Informatics Forum, G.07, Ground Floor

Please come by to share the activities that find help with your mental health and have a chat over some coffee and cake. You can add your hobbies to the boards and find others interested in the same thing. There will be a craft table if you wanted to stop and do some relaxing crafting.

Register for this event

Informatics Staff and Students

If you feel that you are being mistreated at the University because of a factor such as gender, race, age, nationality, religion, sexuality, etc, you are welcome to confidentially contact the InfHR team in person (Informatics Forum room 5.39) or via email ( at any time.

You can also speak to Mike Cowan in the College Office.

Contact Mike Cowan

All staff and students are also welcome to confidentially contact Jane Hillston, Head of School, as an Equality and Diversity Champion (Informatics Forum room 5.43 or via email, see link below).

Contact Jane Hillston

The University has a number of HR policies, including the Dignity and Respect policy, and staff are encouraged to review these policies.

A to Z of HR Policies

You can find information about mental health and wellbeing under the link below.

Mental health and wellbeing in Informatics

Pilates for Back Health

Are you and your colleagues currently sitting at desks? If that’s the case, our upcoming Pilates for Back Health workshop for staff in the Central Area could be just the thing to help your wellbeing. It starts on Thursday 8 November and is only £25 for 5 lunchtime sessions.

More info about the workshop

Booking: +44 (0)131 650 2578 and/or


AIMday Fintech Edinburgh 2018

Registration for AIMday Fintech to be held on Wednesday 28 November 2018 closes on Friday 9 November 2018. 

More about AIMday Fintech

Auld Alliance French Movie Club poster

Auld Alliance French Movie Club

Come watch French movies (with English subtitles) and socialise with like-minded folks - the Auld Alliance French Movie Club is back this November on the 23rd (which is a Friday this time!) at 6 pm in MF2.

About the movie

This time, we will be watching 'Le père noël est une ordure' (very literal translation: 'Santa Claus is a bastard') by Jean-Marie Poiré.

Disclaimer: this is a classic French movie with *very* French and dark humour. We look forward to your reactions!

More information

For more information / to register attendance / to sign up to the mailing list, please check the club's page.

More about the Auld Alliance French Movie Club

Please contact Ségo or Alexandra if you have any question!

Contact Ségo

Contact Alexandra

Did you know?

Artificial Intelligence in the Cinema DVD collection

The School has a collection of 450+ DVDs related to Artificial Intelligence in the Cinema. DVDs can be borrowed for several days by staff and students from 3rd year upwards. The DVD collection is in IF 1.37 - just ask one of the secretaries to help you get the desired DVD.

Why do we have this collection? To strengthen the coherence of AI as a subject in the field of Informatics; to provide a resource for science studies and sociological research into AI  provide material for teaching and talk purposes a resource for Edinburgh's AI Society promote some of the fun and excitement of AI. This collection was made possible by generous donations from Institute of Perception, Action and Behaviour, Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute's FEEDAI (Fund to Encourage and Expand the Development of AI) and the Informatics Library Committee.

Representations of Artificial Intelligence in Cinema - Bob Fisher's page

List of the DVDs in the collection

Guess who?

 ... is (one of a number of) Informatics Tango Freaks? We can tell you in secret that there will be an opportunity to learn some tango moves at the next Jamboree! Watch this space.

'It takes two to tango; when I go, you go!'

Best of inf-general

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.

This month we thank Ishaq for colating the comprehensive list of ideas for where you can escape from Edinburgh to at the weekends.

Ishaq's page

The list is available for all to use, see the link below.

Outdoor places near Edinburgh


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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