Student attends the International Conference on Intelligent Robots with the help of SICSA

by Èric Pairet, Heriot Watt University
25 November 2019

Last week, I attended the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) organised by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the Robotics Society of Japan (RSJ). IROS is one of the top conferences world-wide were scientists gather to present and discuss the state-of-the-art on robotics.

This year’s IROS edition was held in the majestic Venetian Macao, Macau, China. The conference consisted of a series of workshops, technical sessions and keynotes that lasted for a total of five days. I presented in one of the technical sessions my most recent research entitled “Learning Generalisable Coupling Terms for Obstacle Avoidance via Low-dimensional Coupling Terms”, which was received with great enthusiasm and admiration by the attendees. I received many interesting technical questions and got engaged in multiple discussions about my work which may help me to improve my future research. The conference received a total of 2,513 papers, a 44.8% from which were accepted for presentation.

Besides the learning experience in this type of events, the networking opportunities are incomparable. Overall, I would rate this experience as unique and would totally recommend it, especially for those interested on keeping on with state-of-the-art technologies and methods in robotics. Attending IROS conferences offers a unique opportunity, not only to new researchers but also to experienced academics to share ideas and get valuable feedback.

Thanks to SICSA I was able to attend and present my work in such a prestigious conference where I could share experiences as a researcher and get valuable advice on how to pursue my future career.

We are now recruiting for a new for Cyber Physical Systems Research Theme Leader

Applications are invited for any suitable member of academic staff within a SICSA Institution to co-lead the SICSA Cyber Physical Systems Research Theme.

Research pooling across Scotland is entering an exciting phase. Having recently released the review of pooling, the SFC are considering a number of recommendations which present opportunities for someone interested in this theme leadership role. As part of this, theme leaders are taking on increasingly public facing roles on behalf of SICSA. For example, our AI theme leaders are now part of the government strategy group developing a national AI strategy for Scotland. While one of the Data Science theme leaders is starting to co-chair a large conference with the DataLab here in Scotland on behalf of SICSA. Theme leaders are called upon to help shape and direct the theme but also to provide a face and national representation for their theme area.

SICSA is the Scottish Funding Council Research Pool in Informatics and Computer Science.  The goal of SICSA is to cohere the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science research communities to help increase critical mass and to enable cooperation in research, teaching and Knowledge Exchange.

Closing Date 1st December 2019

More details can be found on the CPS Research Theme Leader Job Description

To apply, please complete the CPS Research theme Leader Application Form and send to Aileen.Orr@glasgow.ac.uk by 1st December 2019

We are now recruiting for a new SICSA Director of Education

We are pleased to announce that we are now recruiting for a new SICSA Director of Education.  Applications are welcome from any suitable member of academic staff working at a SICSA member institution.

SICSA Education has a focus on enhancing collaboration across the core activities of Undergraduate and Postgraduate education provision in Scotland. The group represents common interests to government; employers; professional and practitioner organisations; and the wider education sectors. These include resourcing for University Computing programmes, secondary school qualifications, the transition from school to University, and graduate skills.

Research pooling across Scotland is entering an exciting phase. Having recently released the review of pooling, the SFC are considering a number of recommendations which present opportunities for someone interested this role. You can help shape the foundations for the future of SICSA as we develop into a new powerhouse for Scottish research. Anyone interesting in taking on this role should be willing to work with others in the directorate on developing a new direction for SICSA in light of a changing funding landscape.

If you would like to speak informally about the role, please contact the SICSA Director, Professor Aaron Quigley (aquigley@st-andrews.ac.uk).

More details on this role can be found on the Director of Education Job Description.

To apply, please complete the SICSA Director of Education Application Form and send to Aileen.Orr@glasgow.ac.uk by Friday 29th November 2019.

SICSA supports Code Your Future (CYF)

by Gianluca Palombo
5 August 2019

CodeYourFuture are a charity who train refugees, asylum seekers and people from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds to become professional software developers. We are already running classes in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Rome – with plans to extend to other cities in the near future. On the weekend of the 27th June, CodeYourFuture students, graduates, applicants, mentors and public guests gathered to celebrate and find out more about our work and, more generally, efforts to use tech as a force for positive social change in society: https://conference.codeyourfuture.io/

Friday 28 June
Over 100 students, volunteers, applicants, partners and guests assembled throughout our first day of the CodeYourFuture Conference 2019 in Glasgow. The venue was the wonderful Sir Charles Wilson building, where we guaranteed a memorable day of work courtesy of the University of Glasgow and the UofG Computing Science department.Thanks to our insightful panels and guest speaker presentations, CYF members and public guests were able to gain fantastic and unique insights into the crossover between tech, community development and social justice.

Highlights included inspiring lessons and testimonies delivered by speakers such as Mel McKendrick, CEO at Optomize Ltd and Assistant Professor in Psychology at Heriot-Watt University, and Pheona Matuvo, co-founder and director at community interest company Radiant and Brighter. Our own CYF graduates shared their incredible stories in their own panel, inspiring current and future students – whilst through gratefully-received tea and coffee breaks, networks were built as new friends were made in addition to a lot of overdue catching up between CYF cohorts from across the UK.

Friday was wound down with a relaxing evening at the home of one of our amazing Glasgow volunteers, Carme! We should give a special thanks to SICSA for covering expenses for the food and refreshments we are able to provide at this occasion and others throughout the Conference weekend for the benefit of our CYF members and guests.

Saturday 29 June
On Saturday, we carried on, as CYF students, graduates, mentors and organisers got to work on technical skills development and strategy planning! On Saturday, we found ourselves in a similarly inspiring conference environment as we were hosted by BBC Scotland in their amazingly impressive Pacific Quay headquarters.

Students on the day were able to learn and share different skills alongside their counterparts and predecessors as well as mentors from CYF cohorts in different cities. Highlights included insightful and valuable workshops by Michael Antczak, experienced software developer and tech meet-up organiser, and Alec McEchran, former Senior Software Engineer at YouTube and Google and now Principal Engineer at KPV LAB Edinburgh.

For mentors and organisers, the day consisted of creative group work and discussions, helping to agree on fundamental universal goals of CYF cohorts and thinking how we can help provide even greater access to life-changing social and professional development for disadvantaged groups in the UK and further afield.

Saturday ended with us gathering at West of Scotland Cricket Club in Glasgow for a final winding down and celebration following a high-octane yet fulfilling two days.

Overall, we were delighted with how the Conference went, and hope that our public guests, in particular, were able to gain extra insight into the valuable and unique work we do at CodeYourFuture. For the CYF community, we come away with renewed energy, inspiration and more coherent aims and strategies. We hope these things will aid us in continuing to channel tech, education and community empowerment in an effort to improve our societies.

We thank SICSA for supporting the conference along with The University of Glasgow, BBC Scotland, Financial Times and our microsponsors who donated online.

SICSA funds student to attend the European Summer School in Information Retrieval (ESSIR)

by Vasileios Stamatis
29th July 2019

The European Summer School in Information Retrieval (ESSIR) is a summer school for Information Retrieval and has been taking place since 1990 and the last few years it has taken by every two years.  The ESSIR 2019 took place in Milan, Italy, in the University of Milan-Bicocca. Myself and many other students from all over the world attended this summer school. For attending this summer school I was funded by SICSA. I wouldn’t be able to attend if SICSA hadn’t funded me for this summer school.
The summer school organised by the Information Retrieval Laboratory (IR Lab) at the University of Milan Bicocca and the Information Management Systems (IMS) research group at the University of Padua. The main focus was Information Retrieval (IR) courses and related research topics.

The first day started with some interesting courses about Information Retrieval as interaction in general, what it is and some main concepts such us offline vs online vs user-study evaluation etc. Then we learned about approaches in research. It was great to learn how to succeed in the PhD journey, how to choose a research area and how to approach research in general. The last 2 courses were about evaluation, we learned how important evaluation for IR and Research is in general and we also learned tasks and existing work in the evaluation field.
The second day started with user oriented IR and its foundations. We learned all these different IR models and the most significant contributions to the field. Also, we learned about experiments and how to approach an experiment and what factors are important during an experiment. Finally, machine learning and its approaches to IR were discussed, learning to Rank and Neural nets were the hot topics; and future research directions on the field.

The following day in the morning, the courses were about scalability in IR in which we learned about indexes and the importance of scalability in efficiency in web search engines. Then we learned about social media and how they are used to gather data and convert data to real knowledge. In the afternoon the Future Directions in Information Access (FDIA) presentations took place. It was great to hear presentations from colleagues and learn about their work, and have discussions afterwards.
Thursday started with medical IR and then recommender systems and after that we had a discussion about the summer school in general….what we liked and did not like and what should be included in the next summer schools. Then we discussed about IR in general, core skills, background, and internships in order to succeed. In the afternoon we had the FDIA poster session and I had the opportunity to present a poster. It was very helpful discussing, explaining and exchanging ideas about our work with other students and researchers as well. It is extremely helpful to make new connections by discussing our work. I met many people and I also learned about future events that I wouldn’t know otherwise.

The last day there were two courses, one of which was about task based IR systems. We learned about modelling search behaviours, inferring intents, how to evaluate such systems etc. The last course was on Biases on search and recommender systems in which we discussed different forms of biases. #ESSIR2019 in the University of Milan–Bicocca was an exciting experience. I really enjoyed my time in the summer school. I met many students and we shared ideas and challenges about our work. Now, we have been equipped with new skills and experiences in order to continue our research journey. This wouldn’t have been possible without SICSA. Thank you SICSA for this!

SICSA Education – Call for Workshop Proposals in 2019

SICSA Education would like to invite the Scottish Computing community to apply for funds to host SICSA Education workshops or other education focussed events. Some of the more recent workshops that have been funded have included:

• How should we assess group work?
• Skills in entrepreneurial education
• Computational thinking in primary schools

We now invite members of the community to bid to host an event, either to expand on any of these topics; or to propose events on any other Computing Education related topic.

In order to apply please complete the attached pro forma (no more than 2 pages) and return it to admin@sicsa.ac.uk by Friday 31st May 2019. A further call will be made in the Autumn, but we will also accept applications throughout the year.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact admin@sicsa.ac.uk.

Detailed information about SICSA Education can be found at http://www.sicsa.ac.uk/education/education-event-sponsorship/ and http://www.sicsa.ac.uk/education/.

SICSA supports the new Teach Computing Science Handbook for Primary Teachers

by Professor Judy Robertson, University of Edinburgh
24 April 2019

SICSA Education has recently sponsored the production of a handbook to help primary teachers to teach the new computing strand of the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland. For the first time, children aged 3 years upwards will learn about key computing concepts as part of the Technologies curriculum. This is a great step forwards, because it will lay the foundations for understanding the fundamentals of process and information which young people can build on if they elect to study computing in the senior phase of high school. To help primary teachers and early years practitioners get to grips with the new curriculum, and give them lesson ideas, a group of volunteers got together to write a handbook – Kate Farrell (Computing at Schools Scotland, Judy Robertson (University of Edinburgh), Quintin Cutts (University of Glasgow) and Richard Connor (University of Stirling).

The guide has already proved popular with schools – for example, a parent wrote to tell us “I’ve been working with my daughter’s primary school and using the guide to help introduce CS throughout the school. The guide has been instrumental in rolling out a curriculum for P4 upwards”. It has also been adapted for use with West Dunbarton Council. We are currently working on a similar guide for the early stages of high school.

We have posted a paper copy of the guide to all the primary schools in Scotland. Why not check with your local school to see if they received it, or if you can give them a hand to teach some programming lessons? You can download a free copy of the guide at www.teachcs.scot.

 

DemoFest 2019: Register now to exhibit your research

SICSA DemoFest is the largest event of its kind in Scotland. Now in its twelfth year, it showcases the very best of Informatics and Computing Science research from all of Scotland’s Universities

The event will take place on Monday 4th November 2019 from 4.00pm in the stunning venue, Our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh

You can now register now to apply to exhibit your research.  Exhibiting your research is free and entails completing a short (one page) questionnaire which you can access here:  https://edinburgh.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/sicsa-demofest-2019-presenting-your-research
Deadline for applications is 23rd June 2019, with outcomes communicated no later than 26th June.

Why Exhibit?
We expect over 200 delegates from business and the public sector, who will be keen to discover some of the cutting-edge research taking place currently in Computer Science and Informatics in Scotland.

The event provides a space for exhibitors to showcase their current research and discuss future academic and business collaborations, commercialisation opportunities, internships and placements, employment opportunities and much more.

Who can Exhibit?
We now welcome applications from researchers at all 14 SICSA Institutions. Exhibitors are encouraged from all stages of research, from 1st year PhD to Professorial level.

We particularly encourage applicants who are keen to build collaborative linkages with industry; to commercialise their research; and to build contacts with other researchers.

Your Space
All exhibitors will be provided with their own space in the exhibition hall featuring an individual pod for your research poster and space for any technology that you wish to demonstrate.

Please do get in touch (admin@sicsa.ac.uk) if you have any questions.

Join us for the SICSA PhD Conference 2019!

by Dr Susmit Sarkar, SGA Director
09 April 2019

As the Graduate Academy Director, I take great pleasure in inviting the community to the SICSA PhD Conference 2019, to be held at the beautiful University of Stirling on 18th & 19th June.  The SICSA PhD Conference is our flagship event for our PhD students, being the highlight of the calendar. Every year it becomes ever more popular, and more polished, and this year is shaping up to be no different. We have a great slate of workshops, keynotes, and events to keep you busy. Of course, there is also plenty of time to mingle, network, and catch up with what is happening Scotland-wide in research.

The PhD Conference is targeted specifically to students in a PhD program at any of the SICSA institutions and is free to attend. It is very much your event, and I am happy to say it is primarily organised and run by students, in the shape of a very committed organising committee. It is both a showcase of the fantastic research going on around Scotland, and an opportunity to create and build new bridges, personal and professional. And you can exchange ideas on how to beat the PhD blues as well.

I wanted to also highlight two competitions associated with the conference; there will be a Poster Session with prizes for best posters. This will be a great opportunity to show off your research and practice presenting it. And second, supervisors need not feel left out, we are having a Supervisor of the Year competition, with results to be announced during the conference. The Supervisor of the Year competition will open shortly and all the details will be publicised via the SICSA Conference Web-site as well as the SICSA web-site.

Registration for the SICSA PhD Conference is now open so please register early (spots are free, but tend to fill up quickly).

Lots more information can be found on the conference web-site: https://www.sicsaconf.org/

I look forward to seeing you there, please do come along and say hello.

SICSA PEER award helps to further our own work in Europe

by Dr Stefano De Paoli
4 February 2019

It is quite impossible to talk about European Research without mentioning the current political context as this has clearly created a shadow of uncertainty over UK based organisations’ role in future consortia. I must admit that my trip to the ICT2018 in Vienna (https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/events/ict-2018-imagine-digital-connect-europe) did not start under the best auspices. The week before my trip, I learned that a group of colleagues with whom I have been working with for several years and with whom I am currently involved in an H2020 project, were planning to write a new project. During a chat over Skype they told me that they were not likely to include our organisation in the new consortium because they perceived some risks for their project with our participation….. this more or less gives an idea about the kind of challenges we are up against at this moment in time.

Thanks to the excellent support of the SICSA PEER scheme, I travelled to Vienna to the ICT2018 event from 4-6 December 2018.  For those who may be less familiar with the process, every year in fall there is a main ICT event for European Research, which is organised in the country hosting the presidency of the Union. Often these events are called the Proposers’ Day as they are organised for people who propose projects and there are opportunities for networking and creation of partnerships. This year the event was an “ICT” event, meaning that there was also a showcase of current ICT funded projects. I have been attending these events for a few years now (the first time in 2012) and have always found them very fruitful in terms of networking and scouting for project opportunities and collaborations, especially for early careers and young researchers, who have limited international networking opportunties these events can be an entry door into the ICT European research. In particular, there is the opportunity to book in advance of the event a number of bilateral meetings (called Face2Face, or Brokerage event https://ict2018.b2match.io/ )which is essentially a sort of speed dating mechanisms with perspective partners. Meetings are booked via an online system in advance of the event and then ahead of the meeting once the schedule of the appointments and the times is received. Prior to commencing my travel I had secured 20 meetings. As I do not coordinate projects, I always try to book a number of appointments with organisations that I know may be coordinators, in the expectations that they could see our research offering as a potential contribution for their future projects. It must also be said that several of these meetings are often just speculative and do not lead to results, but it is also often possible to leave the event with opportunities to participate in multiple project submissions. I also use the F2F to enlarge my UK based network and always tend to book some appointments with UK based organisation in order to explore also national avenues for research (this year for example I met a consultant for the NHS and researchers from Manchester and Cardiff).

This event is an opportunity to meet people with whom one may be already be planning to write joint projects. This, in particular is something that helps refreshing existing trust relations, leading to increased commitments for projects. While I cannot reveal who I met and what are the details of the discussions that I had, I can say that I already have a few Skype meetings planned for the beginning of 2019 to explore potential collaborations, with organisations from Austria and Spain. Moreover, I received confirmation that planned project writing is likely to go ahead for March.

From many of the discussions that I had, I am confident that European organisations continue to want to collaborate with organisations in the UK and in Scotland especially and I felt very encouraged that very few people mentioned Brexit to me. I hope that this kind of enthusiasm toward our work remains intact and that collaborations can continue to prosper in the future. However, I think the best intelligence that I can share is to tell how much the PEER support from SICSA is important for furthering our own work in Europe. Knowing that we can rely financial on support for attending events like the ICT2018, makes an important difference. It certainly made an important difference for me.