Informatics Newsletter October 2021

Issue 51 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from the Head of School

Photo of Jane Hillston sitting at a desk

Dear All,

As we reach the end of October and Halloween approaches, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the things that scare us.  Not the kind that go bump in the night, but the ever-present sources of anxiety and stress which never quite go away, but lurk in the shadows of our minds.

As both staff and students, I think that we all have a fear of failure.  The educational system makes us very goal orientated and it can be difficult to accept that sometimes it is not possible to fully achieve our goals, or at least not at the first attempt.  For me, my first taste of failure was when I failed my driving test at 19.  I was devastated. Failure was a new, and unpleasant, experience that shook my confidence.  However, over the intervening years, I have got much more used to failure.  The life of an academic is a life of serial rejection (hopefully interleaved with a series of successes as well).  And when we look back over the lifespan of a career, it becomes clear that failure offers more chance to learn than success.  But, especially when we are young, each failure or rejection is a painful barb so it is natural that we fear them.

Another fear is the fear of change.  Whether it is a new course, a new job or a new project, throughout our careers we will go through changes both big and small and each can give rise to an unsettling level of anxiety.  This might manifest in sleepless nights, a knot in the stomach or an increased level of irritability.  Like failure, change offers us opportunities to grow and learn.  Therefore, whilst acknowledging the worry that it brings, we should embrace change and the chance it brings to widen our set of skills and experiences.

The final fear I would highlight is a fear of not fitting in or meeting the expectations that others place upon us.  This starts in the playground but persists through to the first meeting of a new senior committee or review panel.  We are gregarious beings who enjoy the approbation of our peers, so it is natural that we worry that this might be denied us. Unfortunately, this can lead to us being defensive and reluctant to be ourselves, making it less likely that we can develop authentic interactions.  This creates the risk of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  So it is important to find a reasonable balance between being ourselves and meeting others in a constructive and amiable way.

So, as Halloween approaches what can we do about these bogeymen?  (Should that be bogey people…?  That’s a whole other topic for debate!)  I think that the best thing to do, with any shadowy fears, is to acknowledge them by shining a light of acceptance upon them.  Once they are brought into the light, they usually look much more manageable, possibly even laughable, just like the monsters in horror movies.

Enjoy Halloween everyone, but keep cutting the monsters down to size.

With best wishes,


New Staff

Research Staff

Sukarn Agarwal started on 1st October 2021 as a Research Associate in ICSA.

Antonio Miceli Barone started on 18th October 2021 as a Research Associate in ILCC.

Academic Staff

Felipe Costa Sperb started on 25th October 2021 as a University Teacher.


School General Meeting

Informatics General Meetings are all-staff meetings primarily used for communicating high level updates from all areas of the school.

The most recent Informatics General Meeting was held on Tuesday 5th October 2021, 11:00am - 12:30pm via Blackboard Collaborate. You can view the meeting recording by following the link below.

Watch meeting recording


Mobile phone being held in persons hand with privacy icons around screen

Informatics researchers raise privacy concerns about data sharing on Android phones

Dr Paul Patras and his student, Haoyu Liu, collaborated with Prof. Doug Leith from Trinity College Dublin to investigate levels of data collection and information sharing from a range of popular mobile phones. The study found that six Android devices collect and share extensive amounts of data with third parties, with no opt-out available for users.

Researchers said they expected some communication with the OS developers, but the surprising volume of data transmission they observed raises a number of privacy concerns.

Read the full article

Research Data Management Update

Open Access requirements

Open Access policies remain unchanged throughout the current COVID-19 situation, and the expectation is that accepted manuscripts are deposited in Pure within three months of the date of acceptance. If there are concerns about meeting Open Access deadlines, please contact Sam (email below) and he will be happy to advise.

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

Contact the RDM Team

Ethics update

Ethics office hours

The Informatics ethics committee will continue to hold an office hour every first Monday of the month, 4 pm-5 pm during semester 1 (01 November, 06 December). The session is attended by one member of the ethics committee. Staff and students are welcome to join the office hour via the Teams link below and to discuss questions around ethics and ethics applications.

Join the office hour Mondays 4-5 pm on Teams

Please take the time to review the information available on our pages before attending, including the FAQs.

InfWeb Ethics and Integrity pages

Students should discuss specific ethics questions with their supervisor before attending the office hour (open to both students and supervisors).

Student news

Jerry Zhao

Jerry Zhao presents at NeuroMONSTER 2021 conference

Master of Informatics student, Jerry Zhao, gave a presentation on ‘Self-organising deep recurrent neural networks for behaviour control’, a project collaboration with Edinburgh Centre for Robotics student, Billy Lyons, and supervisor Dr Michael Herrmann at NeuroMONSTER 2021 conference. The project suggests control of behaviour brain function is incomplete unless accompanied by observation and evaluation from motor actions.

Read the full article

Staff news

Ajitha Rajan

Ajitha Rajan awarded Royal Society Industrial Fellowship

Ajitha Rajan has been awarded a Royal Society Industrial Fellowship. The fellowship will start in March 2022 and will fund Ajitha to pursue her research project on assessing the safety of perception artificial intelligence tasks within autonomous vehicles that are responsible for the detection of vehicles, pedestrians, lanes, traffic lights, obstacles.

Read the full article

Petros Papapanagiotou

Petros Papapanagiotou delivers a highly rated Data-Driven Management and Digital Consulting Masterclass

4.15 out of 5 stars was an average rating for Petros Papapanagiotou’s masterclass in the use of process-oriented data science for internal analytics. Over 80% of responders said they wanted to learn more about process mining and would be interested to see it in the curriculum. 

The 3-week long event in June, organised in collaboration with Celonis, a world-leading company in process mining and enterprise management systems from Germany, had over 300 registered students mainly from the Schools of Informatics, Business, Maths, Engineering, Political and Social Sciences and Edinburgh College of Art. More than 100 students successfully completed the masterclass and got a certificate.   

The masterclass also allowed the participants to gain Business User skills in  Celonis software and learn how to use it in management and consulting contexts. 

Process mining and workflow management are subjects scarcely found in UK Universities. This masterclass was considered a first step towards bringing them to our students and incorporating these technologies in our education, research, and industry. 

Informatics study into emoji skin tone finds no negative effect on user perception

Alexander Robertson led a study exploring the connection between identity signals and beliefs when considering the skin tone of an emoji against factual truth. The research is a continuation of previous work showing that Twitter users use skin-toned emoji as an act of self-representation to express racial/ethnic identity.

Using a Bayesian statistical analysis, they found that neither emoji nor profile photo influences how readers rate these facts. This result will be of some comfort to anyone concerned about the manipulation of online users through the crafting of fake profiles.

Read the full article

Diego Oyarzún will host an RSE Saltire Early Career Fellow

Marielle Péré from the University of Edinburgh is one of 19 PhD students to receive a Saltire Early Career Fellowship from the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).

Her work on developing artificial intelligence prediction methods will help combat a central challenge in the fight against chemotherapy-resistant cancers. The ability to predict resistance is a missing step in precision cancer diagnosis and treatment. Using a data-driven approach her research will draw on machine learning and modelling methods to contribute to increasing our predictive power when shaping cancer treatments.

Read the full article

Peggy Seriès interviewed by BJPsych Bulletin

In the interview, Peggy talked about her work in computational psychiatry, her inspirations, women and academia and how she discovered her passion for cycling.

Read the full interview


BBC Reith Lecture on AI by Stuart Russell

Friday 5th November 2021 | Gordon Aikman Lecture Theatre, University of Edinburgh

Register to attend the recording of the 2021 BBC Reith Lecture: AI in the Economy by Professor Stuart Russell and chaired by Anita Anand.

Stuart Russell (Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach) will explore one of the most concerning issues of AI: the threat to jobs. How will the economy adapt as work is increasingly done by machines?

This lecture is part of a series of four lectures that will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 from 1st December and will be available to download as a podcast through BBC Sounds App.

How to apply

Places are very limited; please RSVP by email no later than Friday 29th October

Apply by RSVP

Please note conditions for entry will apply, details of which are listed below.

BBC Reith lectures conditions of attendance

Knowledge Representation for Hybrid and Compositional AI (KRHCAI) workshop

Dr Kwabena Nuamah and Dr Jeff Pan (together with Dr Pavan Kapanipathi at IBM Research and Dr. Efi Tsamoura at Samsung AI Research) are co-organizing the workshop on Knowledge Representation for Hybrid and Compositional AI (KRHCAI) as part of the KR2021 conference on Wednesday 3 Nov 2021 UTC 08:30-15:00.

Speakers will include Dr. Alexander Gray (IBM), Prof. Alessandra Russo (Imperial College London), Dr. Pasquale Minervini (UCL) and Dr. Antoine Bosselut (EPFL). They will also be joined by Dr Vaishak Belle (Univ of Edinburgh) and Dr Jaehun Lee (Samsung Research) for a panel discussion.

Registration is free but mandatory.

More details about the workshop and registration can be found below.

KRHCAI website

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

CSE Public Engagement update

Call for contributors - I'm a Scientist/Engineer, Get Me Out of Here - ongoing

All researchers (including Postgraduates) and technicians are invited to take part in I’m a Scientist/Engineer, which are online engagement platforms that help pupils stay connected with STEM. You’ll develop your communication skills and gain a fresh perspective on your work (and maybe win £500), all while showing pupils that science/engineering roles can be for them.

You fill in a profile page, answer pupils' questions, and use the text-based chat system. Everything happens online; you take part from your desk or smartphone. There’s no need to prepare activities or leave your office, lab or house. Each discussion zone usually lasts for four weeks, and there is an ongoing application process.

I'm a Scientist, Get me out of here - Application form

Verna from CDT in NLP took part in I'm a Scientist last year - you can read her testimonial below.

Verna's testimonial

STEM for Britain - 6th December

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

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

STEM for Britian

So this is CODI - Tuesday 2nd November 2021

Online (via Zoom and recorded)

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas will be returning for its 10th year to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2022. This is a collaborative effort between the four universities in Edinburgh (coordinated through the Beltane Public Engagement Network), Fair Pley (an arts production company) and Susan Morrison (stand-up comedian, professional entertainer, board member Edinburgh Festival Fringe). CODI takes public engagement into the thick of the world’s largest arts festival: the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and provides opportunities for audiences to discuss and debate cutting edge and controversial research with experts. Training and mentorship is provided. To find out more visit our website and come along to our online information session for which you can register below

CODI website

Book your tickets

Call for content - Edinburgh Impact

Communications and Marketing have launched Edinburgh Impact: an approach to sharing inspirational content that reflects the priorities of Strategy 2030 and our institutional research themes under the following headings: Research with Impact, Inspiring Minds, Our People, Opinion, and Our Shared World. 

The focus is on content (long-form written pieces and video) that has a personal element - it is not about sharing facts and figures. The approach doesn't rely on external audiences navigating our Edinburgh Impact webpages, but through actively sharing content via the University's main social media channels, including paid promotional posts/tweets, and then monitoring what works and doing more of that.

If you have any suggestions, please email contacts Kasia Kokowska, Informatics Marketing, Communications and Outreach Manager.

Email Kasia

Staff Training Courses

We now have a page listing training courses attended by staff. You can submit your own feedback on a particular training you attended. 

List and feedback on training courses

Submit feedback

Best of InfGeneral

This month's inf-general was full of flat chat! Hope all looking found a decent roof over their head.

This month best of inf-general award goes to Maria Wolters for thoughtfully promoting the vaccine bus in George 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.

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!

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