A decade of SICSA PhD Conferences

by Dr Jeremy Singer, SGA Director
17 July 2018

Last month, I attended the tenth SICSA PhD conference at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. This is the northern-most location for our annual conference so far, and I was impressed by the beautiful setting and ideal facilities at this modern university campus.

Paul Hagan from RGU opened the conference; in his speech he complimented SICSA as a ‘great model for Scotland-wide subject-specific collaboration.’ Since he was one of the architects of the SFC research pooling initiative, this is high praise indeed.

Many of the 150 student delegates brought a poster along with them, describing their research projects. As I wandered round the poster display, I encountered an amazing breadth of topics. Highlights include apps to help people with Autism, using comic strips to understand complex data, and simulating the structure of stars with parallel computing.

At an evening banquet in the Trinity Hall, we did a ‘back of the napkin challenge’ where everyone had to depict their research by scribbling on a paper napkin. There were plenty of intriguing drawings – check out #sicsanapkinchallenge on twitter for some examples.

Throughout the two days of the conference, there was a great selection of talks and workshops. Since they happened in parallel, I wasn’t able to attend everything. However, I particularly enjoyed Diane R. Pennington’s deeply personal and highly motivational workshop on student wellbeing and mental health. I appreciate that a significant proportion of PhD students experience mental health difficulties during their studies, and it’s good to see this is being addressed by institutions at last.

I also attended Michael Smyth’s cinematographically inspired presentation on how to complete your thesis. He gave us plenty of pragmatic tips on writing up, while introducing us to tenuously related films from the 1950s.

As I near the end of my term as director of the SICSA Graduate Academy, I reflect that the SICSA PhD conference encapsulates what makes SICSA so uniquely compelling. We have a vibrant, friendly community clustered around a diverse range of world-leading research teams.

Here’s to the next decade of adventure, discovery and collaboration at SICSA PhD conferences!

SICSA DVF Garbriel Murray

by Gabriel Murray
9 July 2018

Gabriel Murray is visiting Scotland on a SICSA Distinguished Visiting Fellowship, and will be giving talks at Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Heriot-Watt Universities. The talk abstract, schedule, and Dr. Murray’s biography are below.

Talk Abstract:

The dynamics of small group interactions are an area of study for many disciplines ranging from social psychology to organizational behaviour and communication. There has been a surprisingly small amount of research on using natural language processing for understanding and predicting small group phenomena. This talk will present a variety of tasks and experimental results demonstrating that NLP can be useful for predicting aspects of group interaction, such as predicting group performance on a task, detecting hidden sentiment of group participants, and learning about unobserved group behaviours through meeting artifacts. It will also be argued that language-based predictive models are very valuable when we need to provide interpretable models or actionable feedback to a group — two scenarios where nonverbal models on their own may be insufficient.

Schedule:
University of Edinburgh, July 6, 11 AM
University of Glasgow, July 9, 12:30 PM
Heriot-Watt University, July 11, 2:00 PM

Bio:

Gabriel Murray is an Associate Professor in Computer Information Systems at University of the Fraser Valley, and an Affiliate Professor in Computer Science at University of British Columbia (Canada). His research primarily focuses on the intersection of speech and language processing and small group interaction. He teaches a variety of courses related to artificial intelligence, including machine learning and natural language processing. He received his PhD in Informatics from the University of Edinburgh, under the supervision of Drs. Steve Renals and Johanna Moore.

Scotland: A world-leader in Cyber Security Innovation

by Professor Bill Buchanan,
23 May 2018

 

We are moving from an Industrial Age into an Information Age, and increasingly the focus for our world is data. With new regulations such as GDPR and NIS, we thus need to react quicker to data breaches, and also create more secure and resilient data infrastructures, and which are increasingly citizen-focused. The analysis of data is thus a core part of this, whether it is applying filtering methods to reduce the number of alerts that human analysts see, or in the application of machine learning to detect new threats.

The world of Cyber Security is thus all about sharing knowledge, and the SICSA Cyber Nexus supported Conference on Big Data in Cyber Security will be one of the largest Cyber Security conferences to be held in Scotland. It all kicks off on 31 May 2018 at Edinburgh Napier University and then will span the planet over the next 24 hours. The event – named the Cyber Revolution and organised by Adrian Smales and Basil Manoussos – starts in Edinburgh, and then moves onto Canada, Australia, and then across the planet, and returning back to Edinburgh on 1 June 2018. Along the way there will be hundreds of leading Cyber Security presentators, which share best practice and knowledge.

Included in the Edinburgh event are local innovators such as Dr Jamie Graves (Zonefox), Harry McLaren (ECS), David Stubley (7elements) and Federico Charosky (Quorum Cyber), along with leading companies in the field such as Carbon Black, Secureworks, and LogRhythm. The event thus aims to develop cross-collaboration between SMEs in Scotland and those in Canada, and promote international links.

Overall this is a unique event and we hope will build strong bonds across the world, and to develop collaborations. The world of Cyber Security needs more collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and expertise, especially as there are many key stakeholders involved, including industry, the public sector, academia, and law enforcement. Just now, the City of Edinburgh has one of the most advanced infrastructures for research and innovation related to Cyber Security, and this event highlights its importance to the local economy, and for its presence on a world-stage.

Alongside two industry-focused themes, the Edinburgh event includes a SICSA Cyber Nexus sponsored research track, and which is being run by Dr Naghmeh Moradpoor (winner of the most inspiring women in Cyber Security at a recent award ceremony). All three streams of the conference will be broadcast live to the world, and showcase that Scotland is a true innovator with Cyber Security, and embraces collaboration across traditional borders and boundaries.

Few countries can rival the innovation infrastructure that Scotland provides, and, at every turn, there are those who are helping support new ideas and visions. Overall, we need to do everything that we can to support the growth of our innovative companies, and in the transformation of our public services, and thus to fully take advantage of this Information Age.

If you’re interested we are currently setting up a Blockchain Identity Lab – known as the Blockpass Identity Lab – on our Merchiston Campus and have funding for five fully funded PhD studentships in Blockchain focused work, and are keen to work with people and companies with a vision on how we could transform our world with more trusted methods. So, go and get engaged, and collaborate with others. Our future will not be built by the large and faceless companies that are at the core of the Internet, but by our amazing little companies who have a vision for a new future. If you want to see some of them, come along to the conference, and meet them in person.

Manycore Summer School

by Dr Jeremy Singer, SGA Director
22 May 2018

Glasgow in summer … what a great experience! If you are enthusiastic about manycore processors, systems and parallel applications, please sign up for the Manycore summer school, running 16-20 July at the School of Computing Science, University of Glasgow.

The manycore revolution is fundamentally changing multiple levels of the execution stack from processor architecture, through systems software, to end-user applications. Moore’s law is now tracking the number of cores in a chip – such as the latest Intel Core i9 and AMD Epyc processors.

Thanks to generous sponsorship from SICSA and EPSRC, registration and one week en-suite accommodation at the Manycore summer school are provided for free to PhD students and postdocs based at UK universities.

Highlights of the Manycore summer school programme include:

  • seven world-leading academics presenting latest research topics
  • hands-on labs with FPGAs and cluster programming exercises
  • poster competition with expert feedback and prize awards
  • social events including a cruise on Loch Lomond and a traditional Ceilidh night

Check out the website for full details, including the summer school registration form.

DemoFest 2018: Bringing Research to Life

by Steven Kendrick, SICSA Executive Officer
26th April 2018

It might be the very beginning of spring, but here in the SICSA office we are already looking ahead to our main knowledge exchange event of the year “DemoFest: Bringing Research to Life”, which takes place in Edinburgh in the autumn.       

We organise a wide range of events, large and small, over the course of the SICSA year (see www.sicsa.ac.uk/events for full details); but I can personally say that organising and attending DemoFest gives me the most satisfaction of them all.  DemoFest is aimed at showcasing some of the leading technology and research within Scottish Universities at this moment in time; and it is aimed principally at businesses and the public sector.  You can think of DemoFest as a coming-together of research talent, business, the public sector and Government for an evening of cutting-edge technology demo’s; engaging keynote talks and lots of networking.  Last year we had over 300 people under the roof, with over 50 technology demonstrations and some really exciting keynote talks.  The event was held under the expansive canopy of Our Dynamic Earth, next to the Scottish Parliament. It went so well, that we’re returning to the same venue this year!      

Because DemoFest brings together so much variety (both in terms of our tech demo’s and our delegates), the benefits of attending are far-reaching.  DemoFest can be an opportunity to sow the seeds for innovative collaboration between Universities and business; or between a University and another University.  It can spark the commercialisation of a brilliant idea and begin the path to starting a successful business. It can put employers into contact with some of the brightest people working in technology in the country and vice-versa.  It provides a platform to talk about your technology or tell people about your organisation and what it does. And it provides a space for catching up with existing contacts…and making new ones!    

So naturally we’re very excited to be planning our 2018 event, which takes place at Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh on 6th November 2018.  Because of the breadth of research and technology under the roof, DemoFest is aimed at businesses of any size, operating in many sectors – including but not limited to Finance, Telecommunications, Cybersecurity, Big Data, Robotics and AI, Space Technology, Gaming, Energy, and Health & Wellbeing.  In May we’ll be opening registration for business and the public sector and it will be completely free to attend the event.  Look out for updates on Twitter and www.sicsa.ac.uk/demofest and register early to avoid disappointment – the event fills up fast!  

At the current time, we are accepting applications from potential exhibitors and if you are working in a Scottish institution in Informatics and Computer Science we would be very keen to hear from you.  Simply complete the short exhibitor survey here and we will be in touch later in the summer. 

If you are a public-sector organisation and you wish to exhibit at DemoFest as an “Event Partner”, we are more than happy to provide space in our exhibition hall, close to the research that is most relevant to your organisation.  Registration for Event Partners is open at Eventbrite now and it is completely free of charge. 

Finally, we’re keen to hear from businesses who are keen to get more involved in the event by becoming a DemoFest Sponsor.  By sponsoring this event your business will receive great exposure across our networks and at the event itself.  Sponsorship of DemoFest represents great value for your business and it also means that we can continue to deliver the event free of charge for exhibitors and delegates alike! For more information about how to get involved please download our “Opportunities for Sponsors” document or get in touch with me directly at the email address below.

You can find out more about our events, our fantastic research and our funding programmes at www.sicsa.ac.uk, or by emailing me at Steven.Kendrick@glasgow.ac.uk.

DemoFest is delivered by the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA) in partnership with ScotlandIS – Scotland’s trade body for ICT. 

Steven Kendrick is the Executive Officer for the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA), which represents all 14 Scottish HE Computing Schools/Departments.  Steven is responsible for all aspects of the management of the Research Pool. 

Welcome to our new SICSA Director of Education

by Dr Rachel Menzies, SICSA Education Director
5 March 2018

In February, I took over as the SICSA Director of Education, a post which had been vacant since Dr Karen Petrie stepped down last year. Already I’ve been really busy, sitting on a number of advisory boards so far, and I’m only two weeks in! I’m currently a lecturer at the University of Dundee and have been a member of SICSA since 2008 in both Education and HCI. Most recently, I was the SICSA PhD Conference Academic Chair for 2017 in Dundee. This was a brilliant event sharing the future of SICSA and Computing Science in Scotland.  This year the conference will be held at RGU – make sure you are signed up, it’s shaping up to be a great few days!

Personally, I have an interest in how social media can be used in education and how we can support our students to take part in group work. However, this is just a very small part of the excellent work being done within SICSA, including links with the SQA on curriculum development, flipped classroom methodologies, early-years computational thinking and involvement in outreach events such as The First Lego League. We have a great base of knowledge, enthusiasm and resources in Scotland to make sure that we are creating technologists of the future, and I’m so excited to be a part of it.

Like many of us, I have been supported by SICSA in many ways over my career, through funding for workshops, away days, all-hands meetings and travel costs. Now I can continue this support for others. I’m planning a great programme that will help us gather momentum as a community to share our ideas and experiences and collectively influence national policies on computing education. This includes a new lecturer induction, a call for workshops, schools engagement and an all-hands education event to showcase what we can do.

If you have any ideas of things that can be done to build the education community, then let me know. I am particularly keen to reach out to universities who may not have been able to engage with SICSA Education in the past, for whatever reasons. Contact me on r.menzies@dundee.ac.uk to get the ball rolling in your ideas. A call for workshop funding will follow in the next few weeks.

SICSA CDT Bid Writing Workshop Update

by Dr Jeremy Singer
19 February 2018

IMG_6070Only a few weeks till the deadline for outline applications to the EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training call! SICSA organized a workshop in Glasgow last week, to bring together Scottish computer scientists who are intending to submit CDT proposals. Around 25 academics attended the event, representing a majority of the 14 SICSA institutions.

Kevin Hammond and Jeremy Singer started by emphasizing SICSA’s commitment to increasing CDT success in Scotland – in terms of both the quantity and the geographical spread.

Alison Gray from Skillfluence was the workshop facilitator. She highlighted the main points from the EPSRC call documents, and encouraged participants to answer key questions like:

  • How will you evidence a need for a CDT in your chosen topic?
  • How can you establish and maintain a cohort effect?

Dee Heddon from SGSAH provided further insight, through a range of ‘war stories’ drawn from her experience with the Scottish AHRC CDT. Coping with inter-institution rivalry and tension seems to require remarkable patience and diplomacy – she has 17 university partners to appease.

In the afternoon session, participants engaged in writing or planning for their outline applications. Different groups were at different stages – some had brought along draft proposals for feedback – other groups only began to assemble at the workshop, particularly around themes like e-Health and AI.

Darran Gardner from The Data Lab described an industrial perspective on doctoral training, and provided hints on how to foster helpful relationships with industry partners.

All in all, it was a useful day. At SICSA, we are determined to do all we can to strengthen Scottish-based CDT bids. If you are submitting an outline proposal, please get in touch with us to see how we can support your application.

 

SICSA can help with your CDT outline proposal

by Dr Jeremy Singer. SGA Director
2 February 2018

SICSA aims to maximise the success of EPSRC CDT applications from our member institutions. To this end, we want to support CDT outline bids as far as possible. SICSA has committed to providing a £75K package of in-kind support to each CDT bid. This comprises reserved places at our annual PhD conference, pre-allocated booths at our DemoFest industry-facing event, and priority access to our industrial internship funding programme.

At this outline proposal stage, we intend to get as many Scottish ICT CDT bids through to the next round. We are running a CDT Outline Writing workshop in Glasgow on 13 Feb – please sign up and come along! A professional research trainer will help us to shape outline proposal ideas, provide in-person confidential feedback on draft documents, and give focused advice on how to present balanced research and training programme proposals.

The SICSA research community represents the best of Scottish academic collaboration. In the first iteration of SICSA, cross-site PhD student supervision and supervisor partnering were defining features. This round of CDT funding is a golden opportunity to reinvigorate such cooperative initiative in postgraduate research.

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Our EU proposal writing and submission with support from SICSA PEER funding

by Juan Ye
29 January 2018

Have you experienced the challenge when you are socialising with people from a wide, diverse background? You may have different ethnic, educational, cultural background, and understanding each other may take a lot of effort. Our EU FET project, called DIVERSITY, is to deliver technological tools that humans can use to overcome the pervasive challenge of understanding people who are different from ourselves – whether by virtue of gender or race, sexuality or neurodiversity. The ambition is to pave the way for ground-breaking technologies that will reshape the ways people interact with each other and make sense together. We aim to instigate this new discipline of Diversity Computing, bringing together psychology and philosophy, design and human-computer interaction, with multiple branches of computer sciences to investigate the very nature of social interaction, using unconventional means and radical theoretical concepts. Through a series of ambitious, interdisciplinary work packages, we will lay the foundations of this new field, ultimately addressing big questions for our individualistic, globalised and multi-cultural society.

Developing this proposal is very pleasant, stimulating, and rewarding experience. Most of the consortium members are young, early-career researchers who share a lot of common research interest. I was very surprised by that even though all of us are from quite diverse disciplines. We started working on the proposal very early, around March 2017. We have several Skype calls and email communications to exchange thoughts, consolidate ideas, and share writings. It is the trip to Vienna in August that brought most of us together and finalized the proposal. During the trip, we had a lot of discussion and writing exercise. The proposal was finally submitted on September 2017.

SICSA PEER funding was very supportive to the proposal writing and the trip. Compared to many other funding applications, PEER is probably the most lightweight, easiest, and quickest. You are only required to complete a short form with one’s basic details along with the call’s information, the idea of your proposal, and purpose for the trip. The SICSA Directors made the decision quickly and the processed the claim was fast and very efficiently.

I really appreciate the SICSA PEER funding award and would encourage anyone who is planning or has already started a EU proposal to consider PEER funding.

Erica

PECE visit to USC/ISI – Los Angeles, US

by Dr Rosa Filgueira
22 January 2018

Rosa 1

My exchange involved visiting Ewa Deelman and Yolanda Gil, both located in the same University (USC) and Institute (Information Science Institute – ISI), from 30th September to 10th December 2017. This visit gave me the great opportunity to work with two World-leading authority on the research and development of advanced information processing technologies and intelligent systems to support extracting knowledge from data and scientific discovery.

Before my arrival, I performed several teleconferences with both, Ewa and Yolanda, so we narrowed the aim and the scope of the visit beforehand. I think that going there with already two pre-defined research-lines in mind helped me a lot to have a successful exchange.

For more than 15 years, Ewa has been conducting and leading the research in scientific workflows. After a couple of meetings, we decided to work together in a new scalable and tolerant monitoring data-streaming framework, which allows us to collect, pre-process, store and visualize data in real-time. This framework is aligned with the Panorama project (https://panorama360.github.io/), an approach to performance modelling and diagnosis of extreme-scale workflows, where Ewa is the Principal Investigator.

Currently, this framework is being evaluated at the British Geological Survey (BGS), as a possible architecture for monitoring real-time sensor data and creating an alert system for interpreting sensors at the field (http://www.bgs.ac.uk/ukgeoenergyobs/).

Yolanda’s research focuses on intelligent interfaces for knowledge capture, which involves topics such as semantic annotation tools or community-wide development of knowledge bases. Yolanda has recently started a new project called MINT: Model Integration through Knowledge-Rich Data and Process Composition (http://mint-project.info/), which I was invited to participate as an external collaborator. Together we developed a new intelligent catalog for hydrological knowledge capture. The new catalog acts as a semantic data hub for choosing which countries to work with in this project (e.g. countries for which we have more datasets available). The next steps will be to link the catalog and mount it in public repository to make queries against it.

During my visit, I also had the opportunity to meet other researchers and groups, through several face-to-face meetings and by giving a seminar at the end of the exchange https://www.isi.edu/events/calendar/11376. Presentation available at https://github.com/rosafilgueira/datastreaminghub/blob/master/Presentation_ISI_17_RF.pdf

These collaborations haven’t finished after my visit, since I am still in touch with both hosts, and we have several ideas for continuing collaborating together (e.g. a draft of a paper for eScience conference or future bids and grants).

The research conducted during this visit at USC/ISI is not only very valuable for me, in terms of my career, as well for the institution where I work as a data scientist. At BGS, I participate in several national and international funded projects (such as EPOS, UKGEOS or Envriplus), where new data-streaming architectures as well intelligent catalogs are needed to improve the interoperability and accessibility of models and data. Therefore, the work conducted at USC/ISI and the new skills learnt would have a positive impact in the projects that I am currently working on.

Rosa 2

Deelman and her team at ISI. (L-R) Back row: Tu Mai Anh Do, Mats Rynge, Karan Vahi, George Papadimitriou. Front row: Rosa Filgueira, Ewa Deelman, Rajiv Mayani

I really encourage early career researchers to take advantage of the SICSA PECE grant. It will have a high impact in your future steps as a researcher and it will allow you to increase your network of contacts, and skills while you are working full-time (for a period of time) in an area of your interest.