Informatics Newsletter October 2020

Issue 40 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from Head of School

Photo of Jane Hillston sitting at a desk

Dear colleagues,

In the next 12 months the University of Edinburgh, like many others, is going through a period of unprecedented change. For the last few years the University has been involved in a review of how professional services function and support academic and research staff, leading to a redesign of many of the processes that underpin how we work. This is the Service Excellence Programme. This extensive rearrangement of how we organise ourselves and work together started to be rolled out last year and we have already seen changes to the way that student Special Circumstances and Extensions are handled. However, the bulk of the change will happen during this academic year, and we will all need to be patient as we learn new ways of doing things and adjust to a new HR and finance system. 

At the same time, even before Covid, there was strong encouragement from outside the University — from the government, from funders, from students and their parents — to examine our culture around teaching and research. This has many facets that encompass issues of equality, diversity and inclusion; working practices and particularly establishing no tolerance of bullying and harassment; ensuring that we uphold the highest possible standards of integrity and ethics; protecting freedom of expression; and providing support for careers and mental well-being in both staff and students. Personally I welcome the opportunity to engage with these issues and work to ensure that the School is doing the best that it can with respect to all these issues.  But I am aware that carrying out such self-reflection may feel like an additional burden.

And of course we are also still coping with the Covid crisis which has both short-term and long-term consequences for how the University is operating.  The arrival of the pandemic has changed many aspects of how we work and study. This in turn is prompting a reconsideration of how things should be in the future. In response to this, and the changes outlined above, the School has formed a Future Working working group to consider how best to respond to these many challenges, not forgetting that there are also fresh opportunities emerging.  We hope to consult widely and gather ideas from everyone in the community, and I would encourage you all to engage.

With best wishes,


New Staff

Academic Staff

Hao Tang started as lecturer in Speech Technology on 2nd September

Chris Xiaoxuan Lu started as lecturer in Cyber Physical Systems and Security on 14th September

Research Staff

Sigrid Dupan started as a research associate at the Institute for Adaptive and Neural Computation on 1st September

Hancong Wu started as a research associate at the Institute for Adaptive and Neural Computation on 1st September

Benjamin Kershanbaum started as a research assistant at the Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation on 1st September

Nia Jenkins started as a research assistant at the Institute for Adaptive and Neural Computation on 14th September

Isaac Neal started as a research assistant at the Institute for Adaptive and Neural Computation on 14th September

Jonas Waldendorf started as a research assistant at the Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation on 14th September

Jerin Philip started as a research asisstant at the Institute for Language, Cognition and Computation on 17th September

Xialei Liu started as a research associate at the Institute of Perception, Action and Behaviour on 21st September

Teaching Staff

Ruairi O'Hare started as media support assistant with the Learning Technology Service team on 7th September


Office 365 migration

The University is decommissioning the staffmail service and is aiming to do this by early 2021. The School of Informatics is one of the two remaining Schools within the University to still be using the staffmail service although all our Professional Services staff and a number of other staff have been using Office365 for some time now.

IS are now looking into migrating the remaining accounts during November and December, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Academics, however, will not be moved during semester unless they specifically wish to do so. If you would like to move during semester and haven't been in touch, please contact Jennifer Oxley or Alison Downie. You will receive an email from IS a week before your migration date with further details and then a reminder the day before your migration.

Help will be available before and after the move to answer any queries or issues that you may have. Please check the local page below for more information.

Staffmail migration

If you have any questions, contact Alison Downie or Jennifer Oxley.

Email Alison

Email Jennifer

Mental Health Weeks

This year the University will be highlighting the importance of our mental health between 9th-27th November. Please keep an eye for a special Informatics bulletin, where we will promote local and general resources.


Hackathon: Call for Code 2020 University Spot Challenge

From 9th to 15th November the School of Informatics, IBM and the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) will host a virtual hackathon looking to develop ideas related to:

  • Water sustainability
  • Energy sustainability
  • Disaster recovery

The event is open to students aged 18 and older from all academics disciplines, and aims to spark ideas for how you can put your talents into practice to make a difference in your community. Register via Eventbrite by Thursday 5th of November to get involved.

Register for Call for Code 2020 University Spot Challenge via Eventbrite

Tariq Elahi leads team part of a new cyber centre to help keep people safe online

The £8.6 million national Research Centre on Privacy, Harm Reduction and Adversarial Influence Online (REPHRAIN) will explore the online harms that diverse groups can be exposed to, the effectiveness of privacy and online safety measures and how to balance the risks with improving participation in a growing digital economy. Led by the University of Bristol, the centre will bring together experts from the Universities of Edinburgh and Bath, King’s College London and UCL. The group will work with partners in industry, policy and the third sector to develop measures to boost peoples’ privacy and online safety. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics and Edinburgh College of Art, led by Dr Tariq Elahi, will develop a Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs) Testbed and a Citizens Advice Bureau. These platforms, the first of their kind in the world, will assess the effectiveness and usability of technical measures to ensure privacy and online harm reduction.

Find out more about REPHRAIN on our website

Sam Lindley headshot
Sam Lindley

Sam Lindley awarded prestigious UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship

Dr. Sam LIndley is one of three academics at the University announced as recipients of the Fellowship; he is joined by Drs. Jennifer Garden (School of Chemistry) and Lindsay Jaacks (the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food security). Sam is currently an Associate Professor at Heriot Watt University, an honorary member of the School of Informatics and will be re-joining the School in February 2021. His research focuses on the design and implementation of programming languages to enable the development of more robust software; he works at the interface between theory and practice, having spent time in industry as well as academia. The Future Leader’s Fellowship is a UK government initiative that supports early career researchers and innovators with remarkable potential. The latest round of awards recognises 101 academics and innovators, including the three from Edinburgh, and marks the third generation of Fellowships of its kind from UKRI (UK Research and Innovation).

Read the full story on our website

Research Data Management

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 Victoria and Sam on and they will be happy to advise.

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

Contact RDM Team

Student news

Poster for Hopper's two-day programme of events celebrating Ada Lovelace Day, including a picture of Ada Lovelace.

Hoppers celebrate Ada Lovelace Day with a two-day programme of events

The 13th of October is Ada Lovelace Day, a celebration of the achievements by women in STEM in honour of the world's first computer programmer. This year Hoppers, our Gender Minorities in Informatics society, commermorated the event with a two-day programme of exciting talks, discussions and technical workshops where participants could meet inspiring individuals in the tech scene and develop their own skills. All of the events took place online so were accessible to all, featuring speakers and participants from all over the world. Some resources from Hoppers' celebrations are still availabel on their website including the Pet Parade, where participants submitted videos of their pets and you could vote for your favourite.

Ada Lovelace Day with Hoppers

Undergraduate students win Filecoin and IPFS Challenge in Spark University Hackathon

Students Stephen Waddell, Alex Shand, Mahbub Iftekhar and Michael Michaelides were part of Código, the winning team of the Filecoin and IPFS challenge at the Spark University Hackathon. Waddell, Shand, Iftekhar and Michaelides collaborated with Bernard Choo of Nanyang Technological University to form Código and develop an Internet of Things (IoT) portal for firmware distribution, built using Filecoin. Their project was awarded first prize in a task sponsored by Filecoin at the Spark University Hackathon, which challenged them to build a dApp on Filecoin and IPFS (the InterPlanetary File System). Their prize was £1,500 and 300FIL. Mentored by Informatics Associate Professor Paul Patras, the Código team built on an earlier Informatics MSc project by Sotiris Nanopoulos, the Código network, to create their IoT portal. They developed a decentralised web-app that combines with the Código network to create the first decentralised firmware distribution and collaboration service with built-in IoT device management.

Read the full story on our website

Amos Storkey headshot
Amos Storkey

Staff news

Scientists to create a digital twin of Antarctica

The University’s Schools of GeoSciences and Informatics have received further funding to advance our understanding of the Antarctic Ice Sheet by creating a digital twin of Antarctica. The project has received further funding of €350K (total of €1.35m) from the European Space Agency (ESA) to deliver a digital twin of Antarctica demonstrator to advance their understanding of the Antarctic Ice Sheet’s supra and sub-glacial hydrology, its evolution, and its role within the broader ice sheet and ocean systems. The research is led by Noel Gourmelen from the School of GeoSciences, while Amos Storkey from Informatics will be guiding the use of AI in the project. The project ties with the European commission’s plans to build a replica of the Earth in support of decision making as part of its Green Deal action plans and Digital Strategy. The 4DAntarctica consortium is an international collaboration of scientists from the UK, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, and Austria, funded by the ESA and led by Edinburgh to collect a dataset relative to the Hydrology of the Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Read the full story on our website

Paul Patras and team part of a collaboration to develop a framework that supports intelligent network slicing

Paul Patras and his team are part of a collaboration that developed Microscope, a framework that performs mobile service traffic decomposition to support intelligent network slicing. They worked with colleagues at IMDEA Networks and Orange Labs on the project, which uses deep learning to decompose large mobile traffic aggregates into individual time series corresponding to different services such as Netflix, Spotify, and Google services. The Microscope technology is patent-pending, was validated with carrier data, and lays the foundations of Net AI, a University of Edinburgh spin-out that has received support from Innovate UK (via the ICURe Programme) and Scottish Enterprise (through the High-growth Spin-out Programme). The research will be presented at MobiCom 2020, the 26th Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking. MobiCom 2020 is the flagship ACM SIGMOBILE conference dedicated to addressing the challenges in the areas of mobile computing and wireless and mobile networking.

Kianoush Nazarpour describes his vision for the future of upper-limb prosthetics for Science Robotics

Reader in Biomedical Artificial Intelligence at the Institute for Adaptive and Neural Computation Kianoush Nazarpour describes his vision for the future of upper-limb prosthetics in a focus article for Science Robotics. This highlights the importance of co-creation to the development of bioinspired prosthetics with improved design and performance. Despite progress in prosthetic hands development, many people with upper limb absence choose to live without one. Lack of functionality remains the main reason for this decision, however comfort, aesthetics and psychological support during treatment also have an impact. More collaboration between researchers, patients, medics and the industry is needed to progress translation of the research into real life benefits. Kianoush posits that the future of co-creation in upper-limb prosthetics lies in the creation of an inclusive platform that facilitates collaboration between users as well as clinicians, industry experts, and policy makers. By broadening participation in this way, the next generation of prosthetic hands will be more fit for purpose and better suited to users’ needs.

Kartic Subr on the judging panel for this year's Royal Society Science Book Prize

Senior Lecturer in Computer Graphics Dr Kartic Subr is a judge on the panel for this year's Royal Society Science Book Prize, an annual competition that celebrates the very best in popular science writing from around the world for a non-specialist audience. The 2020 Book Prize is sponsored by Insight Investment and chaired by biologist and poet Professor Anne Osbourn FRS OBE. Kartic and Anne will be joined by Blackwell's Trade Buying Manager Katharine Fry; journalist Katy Guest and author Sophie Ward. Kartic has also been awarded a three-year extension to his Royal Society University Research Fellowship, commencing this month.

Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize


Usher Institute Annual Lecture | 28 October 2020 | 14:00 – 16:00  | Showcase followed by Annual Lecture held via Zoom Webinar

Dr Jeannie Shoveller, Vice President Research and Innovation, IWK Health Centre, Halifax, Canada will speak on the topic of Health sciences in a changing world: Where to from here?

The Annual Lecture will be preceded by a showcase of work in COVID-19 research from across the Usher Institute.

This event is free and open to all to attend, but registration is required as places are limited. 

Please note the event will be recorded and shared via YouTube.

Register via Zoom Webinar

Cyber Security Conference Scotland | Thursday 29th October 2020  | Full day | Streamed Live

Kami Vaniea will be speaking at this industry-aimed event.

Check the agenda

Book your place 

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

Position on in-person engagement

Aligning with current advice on restarting face-to-face research, any plans for in-person engagement activity with external groups (e.g. schools and public events, in-person consultation sessions) should perform a risk assessment which includes the Covid-specific assessment questions that can be found within the current Travel Risk Assessment (see pages 4-6). This risk assessment MUST be approved by the Head of School (or someone with delegated authority) prior to the engagement activity being carried out.

Any queries about this should be directed to your College Lead or the Edinburgh Research Office.

Edinburgh Research Office Email Stuart Dunbar

Current advice on restarting face-to-face research

Travel Risk Assessment

Edinburgh International Science Festival

Taking into consideration the potential risk for a resurgence in COVID:19 across the autumn/winter months, and the loss of key planning time, the 2021 Festival has been to the summer, launching on Saturday 26th June. Some elements of the Festival will be delivered across a full 16-day period, whereas others we'll deliver in a more concentrated burst of time across a smaller period. This is a very similar model to how we have scaled and delivered the Festival in recent years.

At the core of this decision is the awareness that, in a global atmosphere of uncertainty, it is necessary to scrutinize what we do and when, where and how we do it. EISF are keen to be flexible and innovative, and are exploring fresh ideas to deliver the Festival programme in new and inventive ways. This hybrid model will use some of the physical spaces that EISF has used in the past, but will add new venues and formats that respond to changes in wider world circumstances, attitudes and behaviour – where the safety of each festivalgoer or participant will be ensured – and new virtual ones through which will alow unique programming to be provided to audiences not just in Scotland but around the world.

Call for Ideas for the 2021 Festival will launch on Wednesday 28th October, when the Festival theme will be announced.

Call for abstracts - Citizen Science in Higher Education, deadline for abstracts: 2nd Dec

Citizen Science: Theory and Practice is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal providing a central space for cross-disciplinary scholarly exchanges aimed at advancing the field of citizen science. They are currently inviting contributions about the use of citizen science in higher education for a special issue of the Journal. The editors suggest that: "citizen science is a way to increase student engagement, highlight the applied relevance of course activities, introduce students to the principles of research, provide access to data sets, and provide pathways for inclusion of science in students’ lives outside of courses. This special feature will explore the ways both online and field-based citizen science can be integrated in higher education as a tool for teaching and learning, professional development, and community building."

There are publication costs, but the USE Cit Sci Network will cover these costs for up to 10 members - anyone is welcome to join the network.

Further details of the call, including example paper themes and the submission process, can be found in the citizen science blog post below.

Citizen science blog-post

Workshop - Responsible Research and Innovation, 10th Nov

Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI; or Responsible Innovation) seeks to align science and technology research and innovation with the needs and values of society, and therefore overlaps with much of what public engagement seeks to achieve.

A group at the University of Bristol reflect on their RRI experiences in this NCCPE blog-postOpens in a new window. If you feel your work closely aligns with the RRI work described in this blog, then you may be interested in joining a conversation about this practice that is being held online on 10th Nov.

Training - Cut the jargon say what you mean! - Edinburgh Research Office, 18th Nov

Want to learn how to communicate your work better? Do you struggle to find common language when talking to friends, family, external audiences and colleagues outside your area? This workshop will deliver an interactive session that helps you spot and cut out the jargon. This training will be co-facilitated by Dr Fiona Murray and Dr Shonagh McEwan from the Knowledge Exchange and Impact Team, and is aimed at researchers from across the University.

For further details and to register, please go to the event webpage.

Any queries should be emailed to


Cut the jargon say what you mean! Event webpage

Guidance - A Field Guide to Public Engagement and Culture Change

Aimed at those responsible for raising the profile of public engagement within different departments, A Field Guide to Public Engagement and Culture Change reflects on the journey taken at the University of Bath and provides an interactive toolkit for others to use to enhance the culture of public engagement within their own contexts.

Access A Field Guide to Public Engagement and Culture Change

Guidance - examples on online deliberation to inform policymaking

Compiled by Sciencewise, this list of case studies offers examples of online deliberation and dialogue to assist the policymaker process by incorporating the views of different communities. If your engagement work focuses on this type of collaboration, then these case studies may be helpful within the current context where in-person interactions are somewhat challenging.

Sciencewise examples of online deliberation

Funding - Public Engagement Fund, The Royal Society, deadline: 27th Nov

This scheme provides between £500 and £10,000 for Royal Society Research Fellows to create and lead public engagement projects for up to 2 years in duration. The Royal Society is particularly interested in projects that reach underserved communities (e.g. socio-economically or geographically remote, diverse backgrounds), encourage collaboration between science and art, and explore digital engagement approaches.

Full details about the scheme and how to apply can be found on the Public Engagement fund page.

 Public Engagement Fund page

For information - UKRI Corporate Plan 2020/21

The UKRI Corporate Plan 2020/21 has been published is available through the UKRI page below.

Among the headline commitments that UKRI are making for the current academic year is that they "will convene and catalyse, by listening to and connecting diverse communities to create new combinations, working in partnership with others. We will also help to make things happen, catalysing new activities through our work and investment." This commitment involves "...deep engagement with diverse stakeholders. We need open discussion with voices from all backgrounds, from universities and businesses to policymakers and the public." See pages 14-17 for further detail.

Furthermore, there will be an extension to their 'place-based engagement' approach through their "work with the government to develop the UK Research and Development Place Strategy by building on strengths across the UK, and evolving our Strength in Places fund" with this strategic goal extending beyond 2020/21 as well.

UKRI Corporate Plan 2020/21

Funding - UKRI Place-based Public Engagement information

There was to be a larger call announced soon to follow up the 2019 pilot of Enhancing place-based partnerships in public engagement. However, UKRI now wish to do this when in-person engagement is more widely feasible! Therefore, at some point within the next couple of months, there is likely to be another six-month project funding call. The focus will be on co-creating knowledge, but the theme is to be decided (it could be climate change or institutional change, or it could be something else!). 40 projects (rather than the 25 last time) will be funded.

Once the call is published, we will be in a better place to know how we are permitted to respond as an institution, and whether there is a need for an internal sifting process. Details will be shared in a future Public Engagement update email when available, but if you would like to be specifically updated about the call once information is published, please get in touch with the College Lead for CSE, Stuart Dunbar.

Email Stuart Dunbar

Enhancing place-based partnerships in public engagement

Update: Edinburgh Poverty Commission final report

The recording of the launch of the final report of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission is now available online.

The first half hour covers the main details of the report, with the rest of the recording capturing the Q+A sessions with two different panels.

The recommendations have a 10-year horizon and are not solely informed by the Covid-influenced context in which we currently find ourselves. The main ethos is about the prevention of persistent poverty through positive and ongoing relationships between diverse institutions and communities throughout the city. The citizen voice sections (starting at 4:07 and 30:05) are particularly powerful in providing a glimpse into some of the very real issues that people and communities in Edinburgh are experiencing, as well as their priorities for action.

For those involved in schools engagement, there is an especially important point about Edinburgh's significant and glacially closing attainment gap (see 22:34-23:55) and how this is unique for our city in comparison with other parts of Scotland. This should cause us in the university to think about our motivations for engaging schools and with which schools we ought to be developing partnerships.

Sarah Anderson has captured the seven main recommendations from this report, alongside some (unofficial) observations from UoE colleagues on Sharepoint, where the report in its entirety can also be accessed.

Recording of the launch of the final report of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission

SharePoint page including Sarah Anderson's recommendations and observations from UoE colleagues

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

Informatics Social Bulletin

Due to popular demand, we bring you a completely new and refreshed version of our Lockdown Bulletin - Informatics Social Bulletin. We have moved all the content that you found useful to our blog.

In last month's bulletin, we have suggested some walking destinations in Edinburgh. Here's Petros telling us about his favourite destination: Blackford Hill and Pond. The pond is a beautiful and calming place. Following the paths up the hill makes you feel like you are in a forest miles away from the city. You can catch nice views of the city from the top, or head towards the Hermitage of Braid, with the 1700s estate, gardens, etc. A perfect escape for those of us living in the southern parts or close to King's Buildings.

Scottish Governments latest updates round up

Edinburgh museums and galleries are open (includes a poll!)

Best of InfGeneral

This month's best of inf-general award goes to Alexander Robertson for his Office 365 meme.

A special mention goes to Ibrahim who Ahmed asked how best to keep your eyeglasses from fogging up while wearing a face mask. The most popular way to keep eyeglasses from fogging up while wearing a face mask is to use a mask with a bendable wire, which can be adjusted to wrap firmly around the nose. Ibrahim tested it and it works well!

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


The newsletter is produced by the Communications team.

If you have any questions or comments please get in touch!

Email us

Share your news