Informatics Newsletter September 2019

Issue 28 of our School newsletter for students and staff.

A Message from Head of School

Jane Hillston

The start of a new academic year is always a mixture of stress and excitement for both staff and students. I’ve worked in Universities long enough that, for me, the start of the academic year prompts the mood of reflection and resolutions that others experience for the 1st January.  If I look back on my first year as Head of School I am pleased at much that we have achieved, but frustrated by some of the persistent problems.  The staff survey revealed that there are many in the School that feel overloaded and that their voice is not heard.  In the past year I have tried to put in place measures to increase the equity and transparency of work allocation but I’m aware that the allocation of duties process was still too slow and drawn out.  We have plans in place for a different approach for the next year. In response to the staff survey the University has instigated a network of engagement champions, and we are lucky to have Volker Seeker and Ronnie Johnston taking on this role for the School of Informatics.  Recent engagement meetings elicited a number of issues and suggested solutions.  The School leadership team are considering these and aiming to make the School a better place to work.  For me at least, the start of the academic year also brings optimism. Much as I know that the new year will bring hard work and problems, I also know that it will also bring new people and new opportunities and these should always be welcomed.

In the coming year the School will be reapplying for our Athena SWAN accreditation and entering the final stages of preparation for REF2021.  Both of these are important for the future of the School and I hope that everyone will help these efforts in any way they can.  For the Athena SWAN submission in April 2020, led by Julian Bradfield, the next six month will see an intense period of data gathering, including a survey to both staff and students, analysis and strategy formation.  Although Athena SWAN is ostensibly about the culture and support for female staff and students, in fact in the School we take the opportunity to reflect on how to improve the culture and support for all staff and students as this will surely improve the situation for women as well as having wider benefits.  The REF submission will not be completed until the next academic year but it is a mark of its importance that the University is already engaged in an intense period of preparation as REF eligible staff will already be aware. Steve Renals, Björn Franke and Victoria Lindstrom are leading our efforts in this endeavour and hope that everyone will give them the help they need in a timely manner.

With best wishes,


Director of Professional Services

Thank you, Martin and welcome, Joy!

Martin's leaving speech

This week marks Martin Wright's last days in Informatics before he retires and enjoys well-deserved time off work (albeit filled with his favourite hobbies, no doubt).

In his almost five years in Informatics, a lot has changed. He's been tirelessly supporting the representation of professional services staff as well as supporting academic colleagues in their endeavours. We have known him to listen, guide and mentor, but also to say 'no' when it was needed. He has manoeuvred the University's policies with great skill for the benefit of the school. Thanks to him our students are enjoying exclusive access to the study suite on Level 9 of Appleton Tower.

The School of Informatics staff are sad to see him leave and we still find it hard to believe we won't see him next week.

Martin's replacement, Joy Candlish will officially join us as DoPS on Monday 30th September on a one-year secondment from Geosciences. 

Joy comes with substantial experience and has already been meeting with Martin to try to make the hand-over as smooth as possible.  Indeed, Joy spends Wednesday and Thursday this week in Informatics, meeting colleagues and attending Strategy Committee on Thursday.

New staff

Research staff

Christopher Cummins, Research Associate, started on 1st September 2019

Svitlana Braichenko, Research Associate, started on 2nd September 2019

Steven Wilson, Research Associate, started on 2nd September 2019

Thomas Iddon, Research Assistant, started on 2nd September 2019

Chaojun Wang, Research Assistant, started on 4th September 2019

Francesca Della Moretta, Research Assistant, started on 9th September 2019

Yumnah Mohamied, Research Associate, started on 12th September 2019

Academic staff

James Garforth, University Teacher, started on 2nd September 2019

Claudia-Elena Chirita, University Teacher, started on 9th September 2019

Professional Services staff

Laura Ambrose, Teaching Organisation Secretary, started on 9th September 2019

Jade Gilhooly, Deputy Teaching Organisation Manager, will start on 26th September 2019

InfHR at Edinburgh Kiltwalk

Samuel Bishop, Research Data Officer, will start on 30th September 2019


Congratulations to our InfHR kiltwalkers who successfully completed the 24 miles in 7 hours 20 minutes!

Doors Open Day

The School of Informatics opens its doors to visitors this weekend. Level 9 of the Appleton Tower will welcome hourly tours on Saturday, 28th September and visitors will be able to see the Garden Roof Terrace) on Sunday, 29th September. Vistors who book a tour to the terrace will be then taken to the Bayes Centre.

More information and tickets 

A word from Research Services

Sam Bishop will be joining the RDM team as the new Research Data Officer (replacing Eva) on Monday 30 September.

Due to annual leave and new staff in the team, there will be a slower than usual response time for two weeks (30/09/19 - 14/10/19), and any urgent queries should be submitted before then.  

Please continue to send details of new papers and any questions regarding Open Access, REF or Pure to the team or Victoria directly, and they will be addressed as soon as possible.

Email RDM Team

Email Victoria

We welcome Joanne Pennie back to the Portfolio Management team after a period of secondment. Joanne can be found in room 2.36. We are taking this opportunity to look again at the workload distribution and will shortly update our website with details. Joanne is already working with the Commercialisation team.

The Research Services section of InfWeb is being updated. This is a work in progress but please check in to see development. We will be building up resources for fellowships, grant writing, finding funding, who to get help from (and when).

And in recent news from UKRI, there has been an update to Grant Terms and Conditions. There are new clauses specifically referring to: Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (to be considered throughout project performance; funder right to terminate funding is a grantholder is in receipt of duplicate funding before or during the grant period; and Peer review, emphasising the expectation that all investigators and named researchers undertake peer review for UKRI when invited to do so.

Research Services 

Grant Terms and Conditions

Updates about Health & Safety and Facilities

We wish to remind everyone that it is advisable when moving offices to do an assessment of your display screens. 

Guidelines about display screens equipment.


Departmental Credit Card

The primary method of purchasing items for work is normally by raising UoE Purchase Orders through existing or new suppliers, but in case you can't use the University procurement routes or card payment is the only available method, you can now apply to use the departmental credit card.

Departmental Credit Card

REF21 staff circumstances

REF eligible staff are invited to declare any circumstances that have impacted on their ability to research productively (eg extended periods of family-related leave, secondments or career breaks) during the REF 2021 assessment period. More information can be found on REF21 Sharepoint.

REF21 SharePoint

Declaration of staff circumstances form

School news

New research on predicting social media users' views

Abeer Aldayel and Walid Magdy examined more than 2,000 public Twitter accounts to show how social media data can reveal a person’s views on issues including atheism, feminism and climate change. They found that who Twitter users follow and what they like are more accurate predictors of their views than what they write. The research will be presented at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW) in November in Austin, Texas.

AI can predict social media users’ opinions

Mirella to headline this year's Karen Spärck Jones lecture

Mirella Lapata will be a headline speaker at this year’s Karen Spärck Jones lecture. She will deliver her lecture on Translating from Multiple Modalities to Text and Back on 23rd October at Imperial College in London.

Karen Spärck Jones lecture 2019

Learning Technology Research Project of the Year

SHEILA, a European project that aims at assisting European universities to become more mature users and custodians of digital data about their students as they learn online, the SHEILA project will build a policy development framework that promotes formative assessment and personalized learning, by taking advantage of direct engagement of stakeholders in the development process, won the Learning Technology Research Project of the Year Award from the  Association for Learning Technology. Dragan Gasevic, School of Informatics honorary professor led the project, and Yi-Shan Tsai, currently a research associate in ANC, worked on it.

The judging panel found that this project was exemplary in a number of aspects. It provides a valuable resource to the higher education community who are coming to terms with a new technology. It also demonstrates how a new approach needs to take account of multiple perspectives, and incorporate ethical considerations. The methods of open practice and sharing were also a model for many other projects.  

More info about the project  

Mahesh's paper in IEEE (JSAC)

Mahesh Marina and colleagues had a significant paper published last month in IEEE Journal of Selected Areas in Communications (JSAC), the top most journal in communication networks.

Shared small cell infrastructure operated by a neutral-host (third-party infrastructure provider) is seen as the way forward to provide diverse mobile services by multiple operators in high-demand indoor environments. Iris is the first design that addresses the key challenge of managing access to shared spectrum between different operators in an indoor neutral-host small cell environment. At the core of Iris is a deep reinforcement learning based dynamic pricing mechanism that provides incentives for operators and the neutral-host alike. 

Iris: Deep Reinforcement Learning Driven Shared Spectrum Access Architecture for Indoor Neutral-Host Small Cells

Student news

Complex Systems Summer School, Santa Fe

Chiara Semenzin (MSc Cognitive Science) has written up about her experience at the Complex Systems Summer School. The programme consisted of an intensive series of lectures and workshops focusing on current topics in complexity Science.

To find out more about the experience.

William and Isabella Dick Prize for AI and Maths student 

Elisa Anguiano Amann (BSc Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics) has been awarded the William and Isabella Dick Prize for Performance in the Second Year.  The prize is awarded on the recommendation of the Board of Examiners in Mathematics on the basis of distinguished performance in the Degree Examinations in second year.

University Prizes and Awards

Best Student Paper Award for Carol Chermaz

We are pleased to announce that Carol Chermaz won the Best Paper Award at Interspeech for her paper "Evaluating Near End Listening Enhancement Algorithms in Realistic Environments” which we mentioned in the August Newsletter!


Best Poster Award for Amna Shahab

Boris grot's PhD student, Amna Shahab, received the Best Poster Award at the ARM Research Summit 2019, which took place in Austin, USA. The poster, titled “Exploring New Directions for Reducing Neural Model Training Time” focused on the challenges of training very large neural networks using existing techniques and charted a path forward using a distributed neuro-evolutionary approach. This is the second year in a row that Amna’s poster has been selected for the award at the annual ARM Research Summit.

ARM Research Summit

Undergraduate Open Days Autumn 2019

The first of two autumn open days took place on Saturday 21st September. The second one will take place on Saturday 5th October.  The School of Informatics have academic and student helpers on the information desk, to answer any questions and give tours of Appleton Tower. The subject talks are delivered by Jane Hillston and Stuart Anderson and give an insight into studying at the School of Informatics.

Open Days


Students and staff coffee afternoon

Come along to an Informatics Staff and Students Coffee Afternoon. All staff are invited as a chance to have a break and chat with fellow staff and students over coffee and cake.

It is being held on Wednesday 9 October, 2 pm on the Ground Floor of the Informatics Forum.

Sign up 

University Senate meeting

The next Senate meeting will take place at 14.00 on Wednesday 2 October 2019 in Lecture Theatre G.03, 50 George Square. All staff are invited to attend the presentation and discussion section of the meeting, which can be booked via MyEd. 

Senate meeting

Ada Lovelace Day

This year's Ada Lovelace day celebrations will take place simultaneously in Kings Buildings (organised by the University Information Services) and in Informatics Forum organised by Hoppers). Both programmes will culminate in the Forum with Ursula Martin's talk on Ada Lovelace.

More info


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

ORGCon Scotland

We Need to Talk about AI #4

The fourth event in a series of public discussion about AI (We Need to Talk about AI), covering issues around developing intelligent machines and their future implications will take place on 8th October 2019, in Appleton Tower, LT 5. This year the series is organised in collaboration with Edinburgh Futures Institute.

Fears and Dreams of Intelligent Machines

Open Edinburgh Event

The University of Edinburgh will be hosting an event on the 28th of September to celebrate Open Source. The event will have two parts to it: the first half is a Wikipedia Editathon that will be run by Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh, Ewan McAndrew from 10am to 1pm. The editathon will aim to create and edit pages on Edinburgh University alumni from various different backgrounds and disciplines. We have attempted to make the list as diverse and inclusive as possible. There will then be a free lunch from 1pm to 2pm for all the participants of the Editathon. The second half of the event will be from 2pm to 5pm and will comprise of various different talks focusing on different aspects of Open Source from different viewpoints ranging from an individual student trying to contribute to a large organisation using Open Source for its products. There will be time from 5pm to 6pm to socialise with refreshments that will be provided.

Wikipedia Editathon 

Talks and Presentations

Outreach and Public Engagement

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

CSE Public Engagement update

Funding - British Science Week 2020, deadline 11th November

This call for funding will go live at the end of Sept! There will be two streams, one for schools which will include four distinct elements and another for events aimed at community groups. 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 November

This call opens on 1st Oct. 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 November

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 activities - Curiosity Live, Glasgow Science Centre, Thurs 7th November

Curiosity Live is a series of engagement events developed by the Glasgow Science Centre, where each event relates to a specific theme. The next event celebrating environmental science (inc. climate change, energy, wildlife, weather, etc.) will take place on Thurs 7th Nov, is aimed at P4 - S2 pupils, and will run 10am-2pm. This call is open to anyone who wants to run tabletop activities, be part of a discussion panel, or create related artworks. A small budget for travel expenses is available. General information is available here:

More details 

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Sam Langford.

Contact Sam

Call for proposals, Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference, May 2020, Aberdeen

This conference is held every two years and this will be the first time it will be held in the UK. The conference is open to all who have a professional or personal interest in science communication, such as practitioners, educators, researchers, etc.

The conference themes are Time, Technology, and Transformation.

The deadline for proposals is 12th October 2019.

Full details of key questions and session formats

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 Murder Mystery

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

Informatics Murder Mystery

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.

Guess who?

In his free time enjoys drywalling, abseiling and will never say no to Tunnock's caramel wafers.

Best of inf-general

And this month's winner is Orfeas's rant about Brussels Airlines' luggage policy. As Orfeas informed us back in mid-September, "their policy prohibits practically everything (medication, money, keys, electronics, jewellery, art, food, fragile articles, securities, negotiable papers, documents, work tools, passports, identification documents), which in practice leaves only clothes (and stuffed toys) as legitimate content. This is cheap enough for them to lose and reimburse, so they set themselves up to have a very low incentive not to lose your bag."

We feel your pain, Orfeas!

And thank you, Maria Wolters for introducing the one bagging concept to us!



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!

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Edinburgh Informatics Alumni group on LinkedIn


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