Informatics Newsletter October 2019

Issue 29 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from Head of School

Jane Hillston

It is one of the pleasures of my job to represent the School to external bodies ranging from interested companies, delegations from other Universities to visiting politicians and philanthropists.  I am proud to represent all the excellent staff and students within the School and experience the immense interest and appreciation that is expressed for the work that we do.  Sometimes this translates into tangible benefits. For example, recent interactions (not all involving me) have led to a number of new scholarships to support postgraduate study in the School.  We have two PhD named scholarships (Langmuir and Choksi) from philanthropists and MSc scholarships from Deepmind and Langmuir. These complement the existing UG scholarships focused at under-represented groups from Canon Medical and Amazon. These investments in our School are very valuable not only to the students who receive them, but also to the School more broadly as they represent confidence placed in us and our endeavours, and may lead to lasting broader interactions.

There is much interest in society about the potential impact of AI and data science.  The School will soon be launching a Centre for AI for Social Good, to showcase much of the AI and data science research work in the School which is beneficial to society, and researchers within the School will be invited to send details of work that they feel falls into this category.  On a related topic the University has recently secured a Long-Term Arrangement for Services with UNICEF, which is expected to bring opportunities to be involved with UNICEF’s child protection work in a variety of ways. There are to be a series of roadshows providing further information (details below) over the coming week and I would encourage you to attend if you are interested.

As October 31st looms many of us are anxious about Brexit and prospects for the future seem to shift daily. The University, learned societies and professional bodies are all using every available channel to the government to reassert the fundamental need to maintain our open and international perspective, both with respect to attracting staff and students and in participating in research projects, particularly with our European colleagues. However, these efforts get little visibility in the press, and we are clearly not currently at the top of the government agenda. Thus it can feel that everything is changing and we are powerless to do anything about it. At times like this, it is important to keep our sense of perspective and our sense of community.  

With best wishes,


UNICEF Roadshow Dates

Date: Monday 28th October

Venue: Lister Learning and Teaching Centre Room 1.1

Time: 15:00 - 16:30p.m.

Date: Thursday 31st October

Venue: Patersons Land G37

Time:    14:00 – 15:30p.m.

Date: Monday 11th November  

Venue: St Leonards Land – 3.16

Time:    14:00 -–15:30p.m.

Date: Monday 18th November 

Venue: Charles Stewart House – Torridon Room B1.10

Time:    09.00 – 10.30a.m.

New staff

Research staff

Radina Dobreva - Research Assistant (ILCC), started on 1st October 2019

Justin Kreikemeyer - Research Assistant (LFCS),    started on 1st October 2019

Liat Peterfreund - Research Associate (LFCS), started on 2nd October 2019

Academic staff

Nadin Kokciyan - Lecturer in Artificial Intelligence, started 30th September 2019

David Sterratt - University Teacher (ANC), started on 1st October 2019

Antonio Barbalace - Senior Lecturer in Operating Systems (ICSA), started on 1st October 2019 

Oisin Mac Aodha - Lecturer in Machine Learning, started 2nd October 2019

Professional Services staff

Heather Low - Procurement & Finance Officer, started on 1st October 2019

Fabrizio Formichella - Business Accelerator Support Officer, started on 5th October 2019

Lindsay Seal - Teaching Organisation Administrator (PGT), started on 14th October 2019

Martin Svoboda - Software Engineer (IPAB), started on 21st October 2019

Iain Muheim - Secretary & Administrator, started on 22nd October 2019

Judith Pilley - Institute Administrator, started on 23rd October 2019

Mitchell Hunter - Computing Support Officer, will start on 28th October 2019


School General Meeting

If you haven't managed to come to the general meeting, check the slides below.

Athena SWAN Survey

The 2019 Athena SWAN survey was launched yesterday at the School General Meeting. The goal of this survey is to collect data that will be used in developing the action plan for our 2020 Athena SWAN submission. For more information about Athena SWAN and our current Silver award, please see below.

Athena SWAN award

Complete the survey online

If you would like to fill in a paper copy of the survey, please collect one from reception.

If you wish to refresh any equality and diversity training, see below.

Equality and diversity essentials

Brexit updates

Amid the continued uncertainty surrounding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the University has published information for staff and students which is hoped will answer many of the concerns that have been raised around living, working and studying in the UK post-Brexit. 

Brexit information 

If you weren't able to attend drop-in sessions on 11th October feel free to email Joy Candlish with your questions.

E-mail Joy

The Bayes Birthday

Happy birthday to our neighbours, Bayes Centre! Yes, it's been a year since the official opening by HRH The Princess Royal. We've heard there was a cake and a Valkyrie-shaped balloon.

Murder Mystery banner

Informatics Murder Mystery

Next edition of the Informatics Murder Mystery will take place on Friday, 8th November. Book your tickets!

Informatics Murder Mystery

Doors Open Day 2019

We are pleased to announce that both Appleton Tower and Informatics Forum were hugely popular on Doors Open Days this year - we've had over 500 visitors, despite the typically Scottish weather! 

Informatics on LinkedIn

All those of you who are networking-savvy can now follow the School on LinkedIn. Check all the updates in real-time!

Informatics on LinkedIn

Photograph of Marty Robot

Marty the Robot v2 is coming

Those of you keeping tabs on the little dancing robots will be pleased to know that new, improved Marty is coming next spring.

Check out the new Marty

InfHR reminders and updates

Annual leave

As always individuals can carry over 5 days annual leave into next year by gaining their manager's permission before the end of this year. We will be asking any carryover for professional services staff members to be confirmed to InfHR by the 20th December by line managers in order to have Who’s Off updated in time for the new year. The rollover will not be automatic and InfHR will need to manually do this for each record. Please note all annual leave carried over to 2020 must be used by 31st March 2020 as per University policy.


We are currently working through all InfHR webpages and updating, where required, to fall in line with central changes coming from SEP.

The Absences webpages have been updated last week; please take time to have a look over and let us know if you have any questions.

Absences on InfWeb

As always our policies are direct links to the central HR policies, all of which can be found below.

Central HR Policies 

Draw the line training

The school will be funding the below training course: we are just awaiting details from the course organiser regarding dates and availability. The call for individuals will be sent out in due course.

‘Where do you draw the line?’ workshop

Training available to address bullying and harassment in the University. This is a 2-hour face-to-face workshop that offers departments the opportunity to learn about the factors that can create and sustain a work environment in which harassment and bullying occur, and empower participants to work collaboratively to address concerns.

Designed for delivery to groups of 30 participants of mixed seniority from the same department or ‘microclimate’, the purpose of the training is to:

  • define bullying and harassment and the forms it can take;
  • facilitate group discussions about the behaviours participants encounter and seek to reach an agreement about what is acceptable;
  • provide a framework for challenging unacceptable behaviour;
  • outline the support that is available;
  • facilitate discussions about what the department can do to promote a positive culture.

A word from Research Services

Sam Bishop (our new Research Data Officer) joined the team on 30 September.

Please continue to send details of recently accepted papers and open access questions to, and Victoria or Sam will respond to your query.

The Open Access check is currently underway. If you haven’t already done so, please complete the October Publications Check form by Friday, 1st November.

October Publications Check

As always, questions and comments on PURE, open access and REF are all welcome at any time.

Email RDM Team

Updates about Health & Safety and Facilities

Level 5 Coffee Machine breakdown

Apologies to those who normally use the coffee machine on Level 5.   It is now too costly to have this fixed so we have decided to obtain another Cimbali M1 (same as Levels 1 and 3).  This will take a number of weeks for it to arrive (and be plumbed in) so please continue to use machines on other levels in the meantime.  We will continue to provide coffee, tea, sugar and semi-skimmed milk as standard in the kitchen areas.  Please note that the milk provided is not for frothy drinks/cereals etc and anyone requiring such should bring their own.

Changes to Room Booking System and Pricing Structure

Prices for our event spaces have increased as of 1st October.  We are also booking the café and Atrium separately (and charging, externally to Informatics) to avoid clashes with G.03.  Where possible, events will be encouraged to have their catering within G.07/G.07a and G.03.

Fire Safety Awareness

The Fire Safety Officer has advised of a statutory requirement for all members of staff to complete the Fire Safety Awareness training as part of their induction training and thereafter at least once every 3 years.  This is MANDATORY so please ensure you complete this as a matter of urgency.

Fire Safety Awareness training

General office & common areas safety policy update

There has been an update to our general office & common areas safety policy with respect to bicycles and scooters, which can be found below.

Office & common areas safety policy  

 As always, please continue to keep our buildings safe, tidy and have respect for your colleagues when using communal areas.  Our cleaners do not provide a wash-up service and everyone should take responsibility for their own mess and surroundings.

Research news

Vaishak is a new Royal Society URF

Vaishak Belle is one of 43 new Royal Society University Research Fellows (URFs) for 2019. He took up the post from the start of October. He will work on Efficient Inference and Learning in Probabilistic Logical Models.

Vaishak Belle takes up his post as the Royal Society University Research Fellow

Shay Cohen to work on Summarisation of long text

Shay Cohen was awarded £140,000 by Naver France for his project Summarisation of long text. With more and more information surrounding us every day, it has become important to find a way to succinctly summarise this information so that we can digest the relevant parts of it based on our current needs. Text Summarisation is an area in Language Technologies that attempts to present short summaries from different text sources. Until now, most work on Text Summarisation has focused on news articles. These are relatively brief and contain highly condensed information. The goal of this project is to broaden the work on summarisation and develop tools for summarising long texts. These texts may range from books to scientific articles. Due to the nature of such texts and the fact that they significantly differ from newspaper articles, new approaches to summarisation are required.

Vijay receives funding to work on automatically generating heterogeneous cache coherence protocols

Vijay Nagarajan was awarded £175,000 from Huawei Technologies for his project Heterogen: automatically generating heterogeneous cache coherence protocols. In the age of heterogeneity, even a mobile phone not only has a bunch of CPUs, it also has GPUs and other accelerators. To reap the benefits of heterogeneous computing it is essential that sharing and communication take place between the CPUs and the accelerators in a performance/power efficient manner. The key to efficient communication and sharing is hardware cache coherence. Although cache coherence has had a relatively long history, it is notoriously hard to get right. Subtle bugs in the coherence protocols can seriously affect end users. A bug in the coherence protocol, for example, caused a popular mobile phone to ship with coherence disabled, with serious performance/power implications. The goal of the HeteroGen project is to help an architect design correct-by-construction coherence protocols for interconnecting a CPU with other accelerators.

Mirella Lapata gets funding from Meganon Labs

Mirella Lapata was awarded £140,000 from Megagon Labs to work on her project Generating Opinion Summaries and their Explanations from User Reviews. Opinion summarization, i.e., the aggregation of user opinions as expressed in online reviews, blogs, internet forums, or social media, has drawn much attention in recent years due to its potential for various information access applications. The ability to summarize these reviews succinctly would allow customers to efficiently absorb large amounts of opinionated text and manufacturers to keep track of what customers think about their products. A number of learning techniques have been recently proposed for summarizing documents, relying on hundreds of thousands of document-summary pairs for model training. Unfortunately, it is very expensive to create a large parallel summarization corpus and the most common case is that we have many documents to summarize, but few or no examples of summaries. This project will side-step these difficulties by developing unsupervised models that avoid the need for example summaries. The research team will study the problem of summarizing multiple reviews about a business or product and apply the models to publicly available TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Amazon reviews.

Vashti Galpin and David Aspinall get funding from VeTSS

Vashti Galpin and David Aspinall have been awarded £70,946 from the UK Research Institute in Verified Trustworthy Software Systems. VeTSS is one of four research centres set up by the National Cyber Security Centre to develop cyber security capability in strategically important areas. The project titled "Where software meets hardware: Verifying performance impacts of microarchitecture vulnerability mitigations" focusses on the performance cost of mitigations to vulnerabilities such as Spectre and Meltdown. Modern CPUs use speculative and out of order execution in order to gain improvement in performance. However, these types of execution can allow for secrets to be leaked. This research investigates the verification of the correctness of fixes of such leakage, as well the performance penalties imposed by these fixes. Ensuring that the foundations of computing infrastructure are secure is critical to ensuring that the software running on that infrastructure is secure.

Student news

Student Experience Grants - funding for students and staff

Student Experience Grant banner

Do you have a unique project that could enhance Edinburgh students’ social, academic or cultural development? If so, you could receive a grant of up to £5,000 to bring your ideas to life. The annual round of Student Experience Grants is open for student and staff applications between 17 October and 14 November 2019.

Alumni (former students) and friends of the University make the Student Experiences Grants possible through their donations to the Edinburgh Fund.

Find detailed guidelines to help you through the application on the grants website, along with inspiring stories.

Visit the Student Experience Grants website for more information.

The Student Experience Grants team would love to hear from you if you have any questions: phone 0131 650 2240 or email

Young Software Engineer of the Year

Informatics student Teodora Georgescu won third place in the Young Software Engineer of the Year for her impressive project that utilises wearable devices in the classification of coughs.

Official website

Vote for our student's project in a global Digital Education Hackathon

Elaine Farrow and colleagues from Moray House won the local challenge at the global Digital Education Hackathon are now through to the final. To win, they need your votes and they have a month to gather them. Their winning idea is called "Inter-Portal: Connecting research interest within a community" and their goal is to connect early career researchers across the university. There is more information on the challenge website.

Projects details

Digital Education Hackathon

Priyank Faldu wins Student Research Competition at the ACM/IEEE

Boris Grot's PhD student, Priyank Faldu, received the first place in a Student Research Competition at the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Parallel Architectures and Compilation Techniques (PACT). The award was given for his work on “Domain-Specialized Cache Management for Graph Analytics”, which introduces a software-hardware co-design to improve the performance of graph algorithms executing on modern processors. The work was done in collaboration with Oracle Labs.

Svetlin Penkov awarded by the President of Bulgaria

Ram's recently graduated PhD student, Svetlin Penkov has received an award from the President of Bulgaria, recognising his work in the area of robotics and AI.

Dimitra Giantisi receives Microsoft Research PhD fellowship

Dimitra Giantisdi, a new PhD student in ICSA, was awarded a Microsoft Research PhD fellowship. This PhD fellowship is fully-funded by MSR Cambridge. She is supervised by Pramod Bhatotia



ORGCon, the UK's largest digital rights conference is holding its first Scottish edition in Informatics on 26th October.

ORGCon Scotland

Outreach and Public Engagement

For latest opportunities please check CSE PE blog for more info.

CSE Public Engagement update

Impact - Guidance for getting your research into the Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament has published a brief guidance document which breaks down the ways to engage with the Scottish Parliament in simple terms. From working with individual MSPs through to contributing to a Committee Inquiry, this document is a really helpful overview of how to approach Parliamentarians.

How to get your research into the Scottish Parliament

Call for contributors - Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas 2020, Beltane network / Edinburgh Festival Fringe; deadline: 7th Dec

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas has taken place at the Edinburgh Fringe each summer since 2013. It’s a unique blend of serious academic research, irreverent comedy and a liberal dose of controversy. There is a heavy emphasis on audience involvement – these are not lectures – and a complete ban on slides. The Cabaret is also a researcher-development process, with all performers strongly encouraged to take part in a series of ‘bootcamps’.

The call to take part in the Cabaret at the 2020 Edinburgh Fringe is now live: Non-binding registration

If you have never taken part in the Cabaret before, you can familiarise yourself with what’s involved by reading the information for 2020 performers and supporters, as well as joining their Facebook group. Info for 2020 performers Facebook group

For further information, you can find out more at these info sessions (anyone from any university is welcome at any session): 12th November, 12.30-2.30pm, Edinburgh Napier University 12th November, 4.30-6.30pm, The University of Edinburgh 14th November, 4.30-6.30pm, Heriot-Watt University 19th November, 12.30-2.30pm, The University of Edinburgh

And to see what a CODI show is all about, you can head along to one of their monthly slots at the Stand Comedy Club.

“Reading is bad for you” and “Can Google really translate?” (7th November)     


 “What changes when you become bilingual?” and “Fake News Kills World” (5th December)      


Call for contributors - S3 STEM Learning Day, 5th Dec, Widening Participation; deadline: 1st Nov

We're once again inviting S3 pupils from a few local priority schools onto campus on Thurs 5th Dec for a day of STEM experiences. Pupils will already be interested in the sciences; the day is about highlighting the possibilities of where STEM study could take them in the future (possibly at University, possibly other post-school routes). Sessions will include: a general 30-minute environment-related talk; students talking about their own Uni experience; 1-hour hands-on workshops; and brief talks from people working in STEM.

Please contact Stuart Dunbar as soon as possible if you would be interested in being involved through either: 

a) delivering a 30-minute environment (related) talk; 

b) running a 1-hour workshop; or 

c) delivering a short (10-minute) overview of your work

Contact Stuart

Call for contributors - British Science Festival 2020, Essex; deadlines in early 2020

The British Science Association's flagship festival heads to Essex in early Sept 2020. Festival events, which are all free to attend, are aimed at non-specialists, 16+ years old, with a broad interest in science. There are two active calls:

A. Award Lecture nominations

These highlight early career academics who are skilled at engaging people with their research to foster discussion. Nominations can be for yourself or someone else. Deadline: 6th Jan 2020

B. Open Call

Anyone can submit an idea. All events will either take place during daytime on university campus, or in the evening in the city. A range of formats are welcomed. Deadline: 17th Feb 2020

Further details, including the application process

Those thinking of providing nominations or proposals should get in touch with the Festival team prior to submission:

Contact Anna Woolman

Funding - Community Grants Scheme; deadline: 4th Nov

The aims of this University funding scheme are to:

a) increase engagement between the University and local communities (local being the Edinburgh City Region which includes Fife and Scottish Borders)

b) have a positive social impact

c) create learning opportunities (including informal)

If you are already working with local partners who you think could benefit from up to £5k of funding, then please share details of this scheme with them. Further information (including tips for success and case studies of previous projects) is available below.

Community Grants

Funding - STEM Enrichment and Enhancement Grant Scheme, The Royal Institution, deadline: 4th Nov

If you are in the process of engaging schools and they are struggling to meet the costs of your activity, then this grant scheme might be useful for them. Grants of £500 are offered for schools to experience a STEM activity selected from the STEM Directory. 

Further details, and the online application

Funding - British Science Week 2020, deadline: 11th Nov

There are two streams for British Science Week funding, one for schools which includes four distinct elements, and another for events aimed at community groups - particularly those underrepresented in science. If you are aiming to work with one of these 'types' of audiences in British Science Week (6-15 March 2020), then letting them know about these funds could be advantageous.

More details

Funding - Citizen Science Exploration Grant, UKRI, deadline: 12th Nov

Citizen science can potentially add value to almost any project. Yet embedding citizen science methods into the routine way that science is done requires a capacity-building approach, where projects that are unfamiliar with citizen science are supported to assess their capacity and need for citizen science. 

Therefore, UKRI is offering the opportunity to apply for up to £20,000 (100% fEC) to allow researchers to develop pilot projects to build citizen science capacity into their work. Up to 20 projects will be funded, which must run between 16th Dec 2019 and 30th Apr 2020. Further funding calls may enable follow-up work. Lead applicants must currently hold a UKRI grant.

Further details

Funding - Engineering Engagement Champions, EPSRC, deadline: 7th Nov

Bespoke support is available to support EPSRC researchers to undertake public engagement activities in tandem with core research. £1.5m is available to support 10 Champions through this pilot call. Applicants must have been named on an EPSRC grant within the last 5 years. Activities could include, but are not limited to, engagement with individuals of particular protected characteristics who may be underrepresented in engineering, education sector stakeholders or government representatives.

Applications can apply for 0.2-0.5FTE for up to 2-3 years.

Further information 

Call for support - This is Engineering Day, 6th Nov

The Royal Academy of Engineering is seeking to diversify the image of an 'engineer' through building on its previous successful projects. As part of Tomorrow's Engineers Week (4-8 Nov), This is Engineering Day on 6th Nov will be the launch of a greater celebration of more diverse and representative images of engineers/engineering - both online and offline.

To find out how you can support this worthwhile mission you can:

a) contribute images to the Royal Academy of Engineering new image library


b) participating in This is Engineering Day

Brief toolkit

If you have any particular questions about the campaign and/or have more unique ideas for getting involved, then please get in touch with Marianne Jaskiewicz.

Contact Marianne

List and feedback on the training courses page

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

Mental health and well being

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 (for staff members), Student Support Officers (for UG and MSc students), or contact the Graduate School (for PhD students). Details are all provided below:

  • InfHR, Informatics Forum 5.39

Email InfHR

  • Student Support Officers, Appleton Tower, Level 6

Email Student Support Officers

  • IGS contacts, Informatics Forum, 3.42

Contact IGS

  • Staff can also speak to Fiona McGuire in the College HR Office

Email Fiona

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

A to Z of HR policies

You can find information about mental health and wellbeing on the Informatics external website.

Mental health and wellbeing

Informatics Social Events

Are you an organiser of a regular social event in Informatics and would like to add it to the list? Let Infcomms know!

Contact Infcomms

Informatics Déjà Brew

Informatics Déjà Brew is a drop-in coffee session. Staff are welcome to come and go as their workload permits. If you are unsure about cover for your office or how long you can come along for, then speak to your line manager. The meet-ups are primarily aimed at all Informatics professional services, technical and computing staff. Bring along your cuppa and see you there!

Informatics Déjà Brew

Informatics Football

Informatics Football is open to all Undergraduate, MSC, PHD and staff members from the School of Informatics.

Informatics Football

Board Game Nights

The Board Game Nights are for those wishing to play some games once a month, in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. There is a good variety of board games available, with regular additions to the collection.

Board Game Nights

Informatics Open Artspace

Informatics Open ArtSpace takes place on Tuesdays, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm in MF1. All materials for acrylic painting, linocut and origami are provided. If you have your own project to work on, you can bring it, too. Everyone is welcome, just come by, hang out, make some art.

Look out for inf-general e-mails from Sabine Weber confirming dates/times.


Inf.write() are an informal Informatics writers group run by Dave Cochrane.  If you would like to come and get feedback on something you have written, please bring paper copies (six should be enough, but there are printers handy if more are needed). If you don’t have writing you’d like feedback on, but would like to come along and hear what people are working on, that’s great too. There are very few limitations on what you can bring. Fiction, poetry, scripts, screenplays and non-fiction are all encouraged. This group is not for getting feedback on the type of work for which there already are established mechanisms for getting feedback within the School. Remember that everyone who brings work needs to get their turn - so if you bring something long, be prepared for the possibility that you may have to spread it between more than one meeting.

Look out for inf-general e-mails from Dave Cochrane confirming dates/times.

Best of inf-general

Alan Bundy's investigation into the paving work between the Forum and the Bayes wins this month's best of inf-general award! And a special mention goes to Simon King's Red Dwarf reference.

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


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