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

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!

Another successful exchange with the SICSA PECE Award

by Dr Milan Markovic, University of Aberdeen
10 January 2018

The PECE Travel Bursary

Recently, I had the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be awarded the PECE Travel Bursary by SICSA, which can be used to fund visits to academic institutions in the USA, EU, India, and China. This grant is aimed at early career researchers like myself, who will gladly take the opportunity to hone their grant writing skills and broaden their professional networks.

And the interesting part?

This is not the kind of funding that would fund your travel to a conference where you have limited time for networking and always have to compete with other people eagerly trying to promote their ideas. No, this one is different. This is the opportunity to spend weeks at foreign institutions and really experience the culture and different approaches to research.

The Plan

My visits were designed to align closely with my work on the TrustLens project (http://trustlens.org) at the University of Aberdeen. TrustLens is an interdisciplinary project that adopts a socio-technical approach to explore what it means to realise Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that are transparent, accountable, and which empower end-users.

Our ambition is to create a means by which a user can review the characteristics of an IoT device in terms of its impact on their personal data, answering questions such as: What type of data is it capturing? For what purpose? Who sees it? What are the (potential) benefits and risks? They also should be able to exert a degree of control over their data, and be guided to assess its reliability and accuracy.

The overall aim for the visits was to leverage the expertise of overseas researchers and to establish a mutually beneficial forum for discussions around issues related to transparency and privacy in IoT that may lead to future collaboration.

ISI (USC), Los Angeles, USA

First stop was the famous city of angels. I am not sure if there is much to add to all the information about LA that can already be found online. However, I can confirm that LA is a unique city with its special atmosphere and sunny weather.

People at the USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI) that I had the pleasure to work with are great. Highly motivated and ready to dedicate long hours of work split across multiple projects (as you would expect from a US institution). They also have access to excellent resources for research which can range from high profile seminar speakers to a real quantum computer (D-Wave) occupying half of a room somewhere in the building.

Although the name and reputation of the institute could seem a little bit intimidating to some, there is no need to worry. The atmosphere is quite relaxed yet still very productive. After being allowed to attend a few of their internal project meetings I was also happy to see that the research project culture is very similar. We had some great discussions about our work on transparency in IoT and how this might also overlap with their interests. As it turns out, finding the overlaps was easier than I thought. During the visit, we identified a number of extension requirements for a model that both of our groups use to describe plans captured in a provenance record. The extension focuses on enhancing the current version of the model with additional concepts such as constraints, agents and communication channels used to exchange data. As one would expect, whiteboards were filled with ideas, and plans for future publications were made.

Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China

I have never visited China before and I must say, I was impressed. After arriving in Shanghai you have an immediate opportunity to experience a very futuristic way of travel – magnetic train. Maglev is an impressive piece of technology and when you are travelling at 430 km/h you can’t help but to wonder why the train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh has to take 2.5 hours!

Suzhou is a major city some 70 miles from Shanghai. The Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) is based in its newly developed industrial area (SIP), which continues to impress with its modern buildings and good infrastructure. XJTLU is a young university founded in 2006. It has experienced a rapid expansion in recent years and the student population is rising rapidly. Its close ties with UK institutions are immediately noticeable during the first discussions with the faculty staff. Most of them spent years working in UK institutions and therefore there is hardly anything foreign about the internal system at this university which is thousands of miles away from the UK.

This visit was also very successful in terms of generating new ideas for future work. I guess, the change of environment really helps when it comes to being creative…

During this visit, discussions were more diverse and covered a range of different topics. I had a great time and learned a lot about the research environment in which Chinese institutions operate. We had some really good discussions on the potential use of machine learning to identify personal data in IoT deployments. The work will focus on designing models for capturing information about people, animals, and objects that can be observed by sensors. Inspired by the recently introduced General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), we intend to capture information that can be used to train a machine learning classifier capable of deciding whether the observations produced by an IoT system are personal or not.

I was very pleased with the plans that were put in place during the visit and although ambitious, this should be a very interesting piece of work. I have also encountered an unexpected demand for my knowledge on crowdsourcing systems gained during my PhD, which might also lead to future collaboration.

Final thoughts

Overall, both visits were a great experience that enabled me to widen my perspectives on the international research community. The interaction with researchers outside of my home institution and opportunities to engage with different types of audiences was a great experience. Change of environments also triggered new thinking processes from which fresh and novel ideas have emerged.

I would recommend this kind of experience to any early career researcher.

A Christmas Message from the SICSA Director

by Professor Kevin Hammond, SICSA Director
17 December 2018

We are coming to the end of another successful (and, of course, busy) year for SICSA, and for Scottish Computer Science and Informatics in general.  It has been a time to seize our opportunities, but also to reflect on our achievements, and to look forward to how we can shape our futures.  We are saddened, of course, that our friend and colleague, Jon Oberlander, will not be there to see all the success that he has brought about, but we know that he would be proud of the SICSA Community and how it has brought us together across Scotland.   The new Bayes Centre that Jon worked so hard to bring about will show how Computer Science and Informatics researchers can interact with statisticians, data scientists, roboticists, companies, and many others to create a new data-driven knowledge hub, with the National Robotarium showing the strength and importance of Scottish research in AI and robotics not just in a national setting, but also its leading international status.

We will have many new challenges to face in the New Year, including political uncertainty as we head towards BrExit but we will be able to build on the strong foundations that you have built.

The Cities Deals that have now been funded all across Scotland will offer fantastic opportunities to many of us to create impact through their strong focuses on all kinds of digital technologies, and the re-funded Innovation Centres will strengthen that impact and help create a global focus on Scotland as a vibrant place to do fundamental research and create new and exciting business opportunities.  The major conferences that have been organised in HCI, Cybersecurity, Data Science and other areas in 2019 will showcase Scottish research talent and excellence to the world.  We also hope to see many more Doctoral students forming the pipeline of future research leaders and innovators, funded both through the Innovation Centres, but also through the many Centres for Doctoral Training that have been proposed.   We wish you all success with these, and with your other research and academic endeavours.

With all Best Wishes for Christmas and looking forward to a successful New Year.

The SICSA Directorate and Executive Staff

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.

One year of the SICSA Network and Systems (NET-SYS) Research Theme

by Dimitrios Pezaros
15 January 2018

In September 2016, I took over as leader of the SICSA Networking and Systems (NET-SYS) theme from Marwan Fayed who had done an excellent job leading SICSA’s Next Generation Internet (NGI) activities over the past few years. Not only there was a succession in leadership, there was also the launch of SICSA’s updated research themes to broaden representation of our research communities.

In the case of Networking and Systems, the theme was launched to succeed SICSA’s NGI as an umbrella theme which would capture all research activity under the broadened constituent areas, and to which NGI would be one specialised strand.

The first thing we did was to set up the NET-SYS mailing list and invite academic colleagues with relevant backgrounds and interests from academia and industry to join. Also, we have invited colleagues to take initiative and form specialist sub-groups to reflect the diverse areas under the merit of NET-SYS, and seek SICSA funding for the organisation of research-focused events in, among others, computer architecture, hardware systems, compiler and language support for parallelisation, networked systems, etc.

NGI continued as a focused strand under NET-SYS, and have had two SCONE (SCOttish Networking Event) meetings, one in January (Glasgow) and one in April (St Andrews), featuring student talks, mentorship activities, research integrity activities, community discussion, and an invited talk from Mirco Musolesi (UCL) on data-driven behaviour interventions, and how smart technologies can contribute to eHealth.

marionet_logoFinally, SICSA NET-SYS together with the EPSRC MaRIONet network co-funded the Reliable, Secure and Scalable Software Systems (RS4) Workshop hosted at Glasgow on 1st September 2017, as part of the activities celebrating 60 years of Computing at Glasgow. The event was very vibrant and well-attended, discussing topics on building secure and resilient systems, and featured talks from academia and industry, including speakers from ARM, EPCC, Codeplay, Maidsafe, and Twitter.

We are now looking forward to another even more vibrant and productive year, with wider engagement from colleagues working in the networking and systems areas across Scotland. There is a budget to support research and community-building events across the theme as well as for conference organisation, and we are very much looking forward to receiving your proposals.

Theory, Modelling and Computation Research Theme update

by Ekaterina Komendantskaya
24 November 2017

SICSA Theory, Modelling and Computation theme had a busy time in the academic year 2016-17. We funded six events on Theorem Proving, Programming Language Semantics, Categories, Logic and Physics, Algebra and Coalgebra, Combinatorics. The events took place at St Andrews, Strathclyde and Edinburgh universities. The biggest of these events, ALCOPVIII (https://personal.cis.strath.ac.uk/clemens.kupke/ALCOP2017/), was in fact an international annual workshop, and featured international speakers from France, Netherlands, Poland and USA.

ALCOP image
We are looking forward to another busy and successful year!

 

SICSA HCI Research Theme update

by Dr Miguel Nacenta and Dr Martin Halvey 
2 November 2017

sicsa_hci-meeting

The SICSA HCI theme is one of the longest running themes in SICSA. Within Scotland, we have a range of world-leading expertise that address the difficult research problems in human-computer interaction. As such the SICSA HCI Theme encompasses over 36 individual research groups at 12 Scottish universities. We also maintain a low-traffic and high-relevance mailing list of over 300 academics and practitioners and we welcome proposals to fund local events in Scotland. To give you an idea of the sorts of things we do below are come details on several events we have been involved in over the past 12 months.

  • Each year we hold the SICSA All Hands meeting, the most recent event took place in November 2016 in St Andrews, and that was sold out (about 60 people attended). 2 internationally renowned HCI researchers (Professor Alan Dix and Professor Albrecht Schmidt) gave keynote talks. During the event we also had a town hall meeting to discuss the future of the community and had short presentations from the majority of HCI groups in Scotland. We have also established a working collaboration with the new ACM SIGCHI UK chapter. They also presented information about the new chapter and potential challenges at the all hands meeting.
  • We sponsored student places at the The Biological Visualisation Community’s 3rd Annual Meeting at Edinburgh Napier University in April 2017. This meeting included 3 keynotes, 7 talks on biological data visualisation as well as lightning talks, posters and demos.
  • We sponsored 2 student places at the Tiree Techwave, a creative workshop that tries to bring together creative people from disparate background to solve real world problems
  • Each year we hold a pre-CHI to present the papers from Scotland accepted to ACM CHI, the preeminent venue for HCI research. In 2017 the event was at the University of Dundee. 15 research papers, which represent a subset of accepted papers, were presented on the day
  • Along with multiple research groups we sponsored a SICSA HCI promotional event at CHI 2017 in Denver, Colorado. In 2019 CHI will be held in Glasgow, this is the first time the event will be in the UK. The promotional event intended to promote HCI research in Scotland and also to encourage leading HCI researchers to visit Scotland before and after CHI
  • Each year we also hold a SICSA HCI Doctoral Consortium, this is timed to coincide with the SICSA PhD Conference to reduce travel requirements for students. This was also hosted by the University of Dundee in June 2017.
  • In August 2017 a Digital Humanities Workshop was held at the University of Strathclyde. Their aim of this workshop was to bring together researchers from the extensive research base of both computing and the humanities across Scotland. 2 internationally researchers gave keynotes (Professor Lorna Hughes and Professor Daniela Petrelli), with most of the rest of the day taken up with networking and knowledge sharing events.

As can be seen from the activities above, we are interested in a range of events to support HCI researchers in Scotland and also interested in expanding our network and research world view. If you want to get involved or have some new ideas for our community please get in contact. The Research Theme Leaders for Human-Computer Interaction are Dr Miguel Nacenta and Dr Martin Halvey.