Highlight Your Talent with Company Connecting

by Jordan Watts, Marketing Manager at Company Connecting
24 April 2017

Company Connecting ImageCompany Connecting is a Scottish based platform designed to help IT companies and individuals working within IT to find one another, essentially facilitating the growth of the IT industry by improving accessibility. We have gathered all the data on Scottish IT companies with individual detail and analysis applied, and are currently working on companies in the rest of the UK. We use this highly detailed information to connect people and organisations both within and outwith the IT industry. Our ultimate aim is create a niche IT ecosystem which provides streamlined connections to promote excellence and create growth within information technology.

A crucial part of this work is the detailed and insightful content which we publish regularly in the form of blogs, articles, infographics, videos and whitepapers. Key to this publishing, is our ever popular Student/ Graduate series. This series focuses in on some of the brightest new talent in the areas of IT, Computing, Science and Business emerging from Scottish Universities.

Company Connecting attended a SICSA event back in 2016 and were inspired by the fantastic work going on within Informations and Computer Science by individuals from Scottish Universities. Ever since we have endeavoured to highlight SICSA through our regular Student and Graduates blog and are currently hoping to expand this further.

We are currently looking for more students and graduates involved with SICSA, and beyond, to feature in the next instalments of our series. It is a fantastic way to create awareness about research, start up businesses, for finding employment post-university, and simply highlighting your studies. If you are interested, you can get in touch with us here, or alternatively you can speak to SICSA for more information.


New MSc IT Cyber Security for non-computing graduates

Cyber Security is growing in importance as more and more of what we do moves online.  Both public and private sector organisations are employing more cyber security professionals, both because they want to secure their information, but also, increasingly, because they are required to do so by new legislation.

The University of Glasgow School of Computing Science is delighted to announce the availability of a new programme designed for graduates who have a good non-computing degree and an interest in cyber security.  On the security side it teaches general cyber security techniques with Cyber Security Fundamentals and Cryptography and Secure Development.  Enterprise Cyber Security covers security in business organisations, while Human Centred Security, Cyber Security Forensics and Safety Critical Systems (protecting critical infrastructure) rounds off this part of the programme.

On the IT side, students are taught to program with a Programming course and Team Project, and also learn about Databases, Computer Systems and Software Project management.  The programme finishes with a Cyber Security based summer project.  No prior computing education is required.

Further information at www.glasgow.ac.uk/postgraduate/taught/itcybersecurity/


SICSA CDT Info Day – 31 March 2017

by Dr Jeremy Singer, SICSA Graduate Academy Director
22 March 2017


PhD research is a vital component of every university academic activity. Over the past decade, the UK funding model has shifted from individual PhD scholarships towards centres for doctoral training (CDTs). These are large cohorts of students located in centres of excellence devoted to specific research topics. In the ICT sector there are only three CDTs in Scotland at present – Data Science, Pervasive Parallelism, and Robotics – all located in the city of Edinburgh.

Scotland faces a particular problem with CDTs – our CompSci departments are generally small and geographically distant. This is precisely what SFC research pooling aims to address. The question now becomes: can we take advantage of pooling to set up virtual centres of excellence that would form the basis for new CDTs? This requires combining smaller research groups in novel ways- which we have already done to some extent via SICSA research themes.  Now can we achieve closer integration and collaboration to build CDT sites?

We have organised a meeting in Edinburgh on Friday 31 March, to prepare for the next CDT funding call from EPSRC, probably due within the next year or so. We will have briefings from EPSRC and current CDT award holders, as well as interactive sessions aimed at fostering collaboration. Please register for this workshop on eventbrite, and let other colleagues know about it

EPSRC Diversity and Inclusion in ICT Study

by Professor Carron Shankland, University of Stirling
21 February 2017

We know that women are not well represented in our discipline. The 2016 Women in IT scorecard shows that while all girls get Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at an early age in school, the number of women drops throughout education to 36% at GCSE level, 26% at GCE level, and just 17% at degree level.  This 17% is maintained in industrial jobs, although there is wide variation within different specialisms. In academia we find a similar leaky pipeline: from 17% graduating at first degree level, we rise to 25% at postgraduate level, 22% at lecturer/senior lecturer level, and 12.5% at professorial level (HESA 2013/14 figures).

Clearly there’s a problem getting women into the subject in the first place, but why do many women, having trained in computing, not continue their career?  EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) are particularly interested in why research careers are not pursued by women, and other under-represented groups, in Computing/ICT (Information and Communication Technologies). If we assume women are equally able to do computing research (and why wouldn’t we?) then the implication is that there are barriers faced by under-represented groups. In which case, what are those barriers and how can we break them down?  It seems clear that for the health of our discipline we need to get better at retaining talented people.

These are among the questions being considered in a diversity and inclusion study commissioned by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/newsevents/news/ictdiversityinclusionresearch/

The review is investigating what the barriers are, how they manifest themselves and what can be done to support underrepresented groups in ICT.  Some issues may cut across minority groups, whether those groups are identified by gender, race, sexuality, age, disability, religion, pregnancy and maternity, or married or partnership status. Therefore the study starts with an an inclusive online survey across the whole ICT research community.

We need to hear from everyone to get a full picture of our research environment (postgrad students to professors, and not only representatives of minority groups). We’re also interested to hear the experiences of those who have left academia: if you are still in touch with ex-colleagues please forward the survey to them.

Take the survey today – right now:   https://www.research.net/r/diversityICT

The survey will be open until 28 February and takes around 15 minutes to complete. Questions are around career aspirations and the support you get to pursue your career, your day-to-day environment, the effect of your life on your career, and so on.

Remember, we want to hear from everyone in this survey

SICSA Summer Schools

by Dr Jeremy Singer, SICSA Graduate Academy Director

Summer SchoolA summer school is a fantastic experience for a research student. Learning is much more effective when learners are having fun. And what could be more enjoyable than a residential holiday, mixing with PhD students and subject experts, focusing on a hot topic in Computer Science?

SICSA sponsors PhD summer schools hosted in Scotland. Check the details of the scheme here [https://www.sicsa.ac.uk/funding/academics-postdoctoral-researchers/event-sponsorship/summer-school-sponsorship/ ]. In short, we pay a block grant to cover attendance for a number of PhD students at Scottish Universities. Organizers can then advertise for RUK or overseas students to attend and pay a registration fee. In the past few years, we have funded a diverse range of summer schools, from Type Theory [https://eb.host.cs.st-andrews.ac.uk/TPL/], through Big Data [http://sachi.cs.st-andrews.ac.uk/activities/summer-schools/big-data-info-vis/ ] to Interactive Systems [ http://www.dcs.gla.ac.uk/~jhw/computational_interaction/ ].

PhD research can be a lonely, isolating experience for a student. A summer school is a tremendous opportunity to meet peers and mentors in the same research area, for study and social activities. Personal links forged at summer schools can last for a lifetime.

Organizing a summer school, whether as a PhD student or an academic staff member, has great benefits too. CV points, prestige for you and your institution, a boost to your research area… A summer school can turn a niche area into a hot topic – with or without the help of the Scottish summer sunshine!

Please get in touch with us [https://www.sicsa.ac.uk/contact/ ] if you want to apply for funding to run a summer school in Scotland.


SICSA Education Director… a look back at the last four years.

by Dr Karen Petrie, SICSA Education Director

On the 1st of September 2013 I (Dr Karen Petrie, University of Dundee) replaced Professor Greg Michaelson (Heriot-Watt University) as the SICSA Director of Education.  This included taking over as HE representative on a number of boards including the Skills Development Scotland ICT Investment Plan implementation group and the Advanced Higher Qualification Development Team.

It has been a very busy 4 years, but I feel that we achieved a lot. Some of the highlights for me were:

  • Admission Criteria Round-Table: The majority of the University admissions tutors for computing in Scotland met with representatives of the school sector (including computing teachers and the SQA) to discuss admission criteria. Following this meeting 7 Universities in Scotland decided to endorse the new Curriculum for Excellence qualifications by recommending Higher Computing Science for entrants.
  • SICSA Education Ministerial Visit (Women in Computing). A women in computing event was held in the University of Dundee as part of the Scottish Government focus on Young People week that coincided with the launch of the ICT Skills Investment Plan. The speakers at this event included Shona Robison MSP who has Equality within her portfolio.  Members of the computing industry and academic also shared best practice for recruiting and retaining women in the ICT industry.
  • The inception of Education Short themes; the first two short themes were:
    1. Towards a Continuum in School to University Computing Education which is lead by Richard Connor, University of Strathclyde along with Quintin Cutts, University of Glasgow and Greg Michaelson, Heriot Watt University;
    2. Recruiting and Supporting Women in Computing. Which is lead by Ishbel Duncan, University of St Andrews and Alison Pease, University of Dundee. It will STEM secondary school activities, which are being coordinated by Natalie Coull, University of Abertay.

This morphed in to our current workshop call which is open to all.

  • We organised an education conference in partnership with SICSA Education, Computing at Schools, Scotland, BCS, College Development Network, ScotlandIS, Education Scotland and the School of Computing at the University of Dundee. All these education based groups joined forces to organise an education conference in Dundee on Saturday 7th of November, 2015.  This followed on from the success of three annual conferences looking at Computing Science in Primary and Secondary schools.  The partnership with SICSA Education provided an academic and research strand, and partnering with ScotlandIS and College Development Network provided an industry and vocational strand. This was the first ever conference in Scotland to bring people together with interests in computing education from primary teachers to HE academics including those from industry.
  • We organised a CPD event for Computing school teachers with Education Scotland to cover the new topics in the new Advanced Higher Computing Science syllabus.

We provided sponsorship for several events aimed at school children including:

  • Transport for young people to be able to attend the YRS Festival of Code
  • A bus to get attendee to the SICSA Christmas Cyber-lectures.
  • The First Lego League
  • A digital response to a Green Year

There have also been more workshops organised by members of the SICSA community than I can recount and at least 3 new lecturer inductions!

I have represented SICSA on several committee including:

  • The Data Lab (an SFC funded innovation centre) Education board
  • The Scottish Government Digital Skills: Industry – Education and Training Strategy boardThe Digital Skills academy advisory board (became Code Clan)
  • E-placement Scotland advisory board
  • Computing at Schools, Scotland
  • SQA Computing Qualifications steering group
  • Skills Investment Plan for ICT (in Scotland)
  • SFC Digital Skills working group
  • BCS Scotland committee

It has been a very busy 4 years for me, but I do not think I have ever learned so much in such a condensed period of time!

That brings me to the main point of the blog which is to say a huge thank you to all of the people I have worked with throughout the years. There have been times when it has not been easy but your support has always helped me through.

I am especially grateful to Aileen and Steven, who have never said we do not have time to help you with another one of your “good ideas”, even though they would have been more than justified in doing so!

Christmas Cyber Lectures

by Alan Settery, SICSA Cyber Security Network Integrator

Once again the annual Cyber Security Christmas lectures has been a huge success with over 2,600 school pupils having a fun experience in the world of Cyber Security and chocolate!

The 5 day lecture series was held just before Christmas across Scotland at universities UHI – Inverness, RGU – Aberdeen, Abertay – Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow Caledonian and is designed to complement the new National Progression Award in Cyber Security are based on: Digital Forensics, Ethical Hacking and Data Security.

It has to be said that this year’s event is probably the largest of it’s kind in the UK and was a logistics challenge with pupils from 81 schools being co-ordinated and transported (lots of buses!) to and from the events. So well done to all involved and thank you SICSA for kindly sponsoring 5 bus loads of pupils to come who otherwise would not have done so, including one all the way from the borders.
Christmas LectureThe presentations were exciting, fun, often thought provoking and engaging – tackling a range of areas; from Bill Buchanan hacking and taking control of mobile devices and cameras, Police Scotland raising awareness of on-line cyber crime, Strathclyde / Edinburgh university linking school pupils into a physical “block chain” and Abertay’s talk about “a fridge full of spam”.  Brian Higgins from ISC2 showed a cyber wheel of fortune game and for the first time the lectures attracted an international keynote speaker – Amalie Wedege from Alpha-zero presented about “Zero days and Stuxnet”.  There were further talks about Public key encryption and NCCGroup’s discussed ‘Why after 15 years of web security was the web not fixed yet?”  All of the presentations were interactive with high energy audience participation – being provided by the numerous chocolate prizes – over the week 55 kg handed out!!!

Media wise, the lectures always attract a large coverage and here are some of the links;

Special recognition is given to Dr Martin Beaton – the main organizer for the event who’s motivation is “… helping pupils to understand the risks they face as well as the opportunities available if they choose a career in the sector.”

Thanks also to everyone who contributed to make the Cyber Christmas lectures a great success; to the speakers who have freely contributed their time; to the sponsors PwC, CGI, Fujitsu, Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, SDS, University of Glasgow (USB wristbands!), SICSA and the hosting universities.

For more information please contact:
Alan Settery
SICSA Cyber Security Network Integrator, University of Glasgow
Email: Alan.Settery@glasgow.ac.uk
Phone: +44 (0) 141 330 4845

Christmas Lecture Data

DataFest17, A Festival of Data Innovation

DataFest17 is a festival of data innovation run by The Data Lab, with events hosted across Scotland from 20th to 24th March 2017. Scotland is a melting pot of data innovation and the festival will further catalyse activity across the country and bring an international breath on data innovation and best practice to Scotland. DataFest will showcase Scotland’s leading role in data on the international stage, while offering an unprecedented networking platform where you can interact with local and international talent, industry, academia and data enthusiasts.


We are at the beginning of the data revolution: data innovation is disrupting all areas of our lives from business to public services and beyond. The theme for the festival is #DataChangesEverything and the programme will explore data innovation including successes, challenges and the future.

Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab, said: “Momentum is building for DataFest17 – in just two months we’ll welcome insight and debate from international academics, businesses and public services on how #DataChangesEverything. The packed programme will showcase data innovation and catalyse further activity while underlining Scotland’s leading role in data on the global stage.

“We want to ensure that people across the world look to Scotland’s data science community as a benchmark for the future of data science. The festival is a platform that not only celebrates the work on data that is being led from Scotland but crucially encourages others to leverage the power of data.”


DataFest has 3 elements:

Data Summit (23rd & 24th March 2017, Edinburgh)
A two-day international conference presenting compelling stories of how #DataChangesEverything with keynotes, panels, pitches and lots of inspiration. Speakers include:

Data Talent Scotland (22nd March 2017, Edinburgh)
Data Talent Scotland is an annual collider event that brings together data science students, data enthusiasts, universities and businesses from across Scotland. The event connects new data talent and education with industry, providing businesses with fantastic opportunities to access the best of Scotland’s data talent and education.
A number of free Data Talent Scotland tickets will be allocated to all SICSA universities to offer to their students.*

Fringe and training events (w/c 20th March 2017, Scotland wide)
Events around Scotland exploring/hacking/debating data innovation. Events include meetups, hackathons, debates, public engagement, and programme of Data Science training events. Schedule will be published late January.

Data Talent Scotland (#DTS17):
Now in its second year, Data Talent Scotland will bring together students, data enthusiasts, universities and employers from across the country; acting as a catalyst for employment and skills development whilst growing links between industry, universities and data talent. At Data Talent Scotland, students can land their dream job and employers can recruit their ideal candidate. Universities will also have the chance to interact with industry and discuss collaboration opportunities, and recruit postgraduate students amongst the attending data enthusiasts.

We expect to host:

  • Over 200+ MSc students studying data.
  • 150+ data enthusiasts looking for careers in data.
  • 50+ company exhibitors looking to hire in Scotland.
  • 11 universities representing 16 master’s data courses.
  • World class speakers & workshop hosts.

Data Talent Scotland will focus on identifying the skills Scotland’s data talent will need to forge Scotland’s data-driven future prosperity. Activities throughout the day will include keynote speakers, skills workshops, a panel discussion, and plenty of networking time. Speakers include Marc Priestley (Formula 1), Sainsbury’s Bank and Aquila Insight.

Join us!

A limited number of early bird tickets are available now for the Data Summit and Data Talent Scotland. (Tickets for events are sold separately).

*A number of free Data Talent Scotland tickets will be allocated to all SICSA universities to offer to their students. Please contact your relevant course coordinator for more information, or contact us at skills@thedatalab.com

Collaborating to succeed; SICSA and the Scottish Research Pools

by Dr Stuart Fancey, Director of Research and Innovation at the Scottish Funding Council

Scottish Research Pools are one of our universities great success stories. Not only do they demonstrate the value of collaboration in academic research, they prove how well we can cooperate within our small, well-connected and inventive country.

A recent blog from our colleagues at SICSA (the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance) describes the impact of its work. According to its Executive Officer, Steven Kendrick, it’s “all about building communities, developing research expertise and ensuring that the experience of the PhD community in Scotland is second-to-none”. These are exactly the kind of benefits the Scottish Funding Council and Scotland’s universities hoped could be achieved back in 2004 when they began the £450million programme to set up the 11 research pools.

We also hoped that the research pools would accelerate discovery, attract research talent and increase levels of international competitiveness. There is now good evidence that they are doing all three. The 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) results show that the proportion of top-rated research improved significantly in academic disciplines supported through the pooling initiative.

Accomplishments such as SICSA’s Education Group and Graduate Academy are further testament to the impact the research pooling initiative is continuing to have. Since 2011 SFC has also been investing an additional £500,000 a year to help research pools compete for European funding and to support postgraduate and early career researcher exchanges with Europe, North America, China and India.

Elsewhere, initiatives such as the annual SICSA PhD conference which brings together young research talent from across Scotland to share knowledge and promote the benefits of collaboration are now seen as an essential element in academic success.

Looking to the future, research pooling makes Scotland exceptionally well equipped to meet the challenges – and to reap the benefits – of cross-disciplinary research. Connecting together research pools in different disciplines is creating a melting pot from which new advancements are beginning to emerge. Equally exciting is the prospect of connecting research pools with the new SFC-funded Scottish innovation Centres. There are already interesting things happening here. I know, for example, that SICSA is having productive engagements with The Data Lab Innovation Centre.

I feel exceptionally proud when SFC is sought out by delegations from other countries wanting to find out how we’re managing to achieve such quality of collaboration. We’ve had high-level visits from both China and Pakistan in the last two months alone. As competition increases and as public and charitable funding is ever-harder to obtain, research pooling is one the reasons I believe that 2017 and the years beyond will continue to be good ones for Scottish university research.

Another successful HCI All Hands Day

by Dr Miguel Nacenta and Dr Martin Halvey, SICSA HCI Research Theme Leaders

The SICSA HCI All Hands day was held on Tuesday November 29th at the University of St Andrews. This is an annual event where members  of the the SICSA HCI theme meet to reflect on the previous year and to discuss how to move forward for the following year. The event was a sell out and was attended by approximately 60 participants from across SICSA institutions.

Prior to the event beginning the SACHI research group in St Andrews hosted a pre-event reception and open lab session where they demonstrated some of their innovative demos.

The main meeting was bookended by two keynote talks. The opening keynote entitled “Amplifying the Mind with Digital Tools: Technologies to Enhance Human Perception and Cognition” was given by Professor Albrecht Schmidt, University of Stuttgart. This talk focussed on how digital tools can provide us with entirely new opportunities to enhance the perceptual and cognitive abilities of humans, and the interesting research problems that arise. The closing keynote entitled “Open Data Islands and Communities: How do we make digital technology serve those at physical and social margins of society?” was given by Professor Alan Dix, University of Birmingham. Alan’s talk focused particularly on open data, how we can devise ways to make it more easily found, accessed, and visualised by small communities at the edges, and moreover how they can become active creators of information: producers not merely subjects of data.

During the day we had a town hall meeting to discuss future directions for the SICSA HCI theme. One of the outcomes from this was a list of potential future events for the HCI theme over the next year. We also had a madness presentation session, each research group attending was allowed 3 minutes to present an overview of their research group. In total close to 20 groups from most SICSA universities were represented. This was a useful exercise to raise awareness of different groups and capabilities across Scotland. The variety of topics and approaches to research (from practical and industry-oriented to more abstract and fundamental research) was an eye-opener.

Over lunch we had a presentation from and discussion with the new SIGCHI UK chapter. SIGCHI is the ACM’s Special Interest Group on Computer–Human Interaction, and is considered one of the world’s leading organisations. The aim was to raise awareness of the new UK chapter and also discuss the potential for SICSA HCI and SIGCHI UK to help each other. SIGCHI UK also sponsored a social event at the end of the All Hands meeting, the fruitful discussions that started over coffee and lunch during the day were thus able to continue later on in the pub.

Overall this was an extremely successful and well attended event. The SICSA HCI community has been strong for a long time, and this was obvious at the meeting.