School of Computer Science

Weekly Newsletter

11 July 2011


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News from Head of School

School Activities and Priorities                                                                                   

The school has just completed the first delivery of our significantly revised undergraduate and MSc programmes. These have involved lots of additional work across the school, and I would like to thank everyone involved for their contributions to these substantial changes.  Combined with the incoming Centre for Doctoral Training, we now have strong and distinctive offerings in a setting where it is essential that we compete successfully for the best students.


Having completed the revision of our taught programmes, the hope must be that the resulting reductions in teaching preparation will lead to more time being available for research. In research, there are probably two main research priorities for the school:


  • Publications for REF: we need to ensure that our research outputs maximize the strength of our REF return. This means targeting 4* papers, while ensuring that as many staff as possible have 4 papers at 3* level.  Few staff will be returned who have 2* papers in their top 4. The current consultation process will hopefully provide guidance that helps people to play the game well; making suitable choices can make a significant difference to how well we perform.
  • Research grant applications: we need to ensure that our grant income is at least maintained, in a context of reducing research council budgets.  I am relieved to see that our applications have held up reasonably (see below) during the period of substantial teaching preparation. However, the hope must be that our numbers of applications (and thus successful applications …) can increase in the near future.


Research Applications and Awards                                                                          

The university has started providing rolling information on patterns of research grant applications and awards. In terms of applications, the following table shows that our research application levels in terms of revenue are fairly flat across the last two years (the research council figure shows an increase because of the effect of the CDT (around £2.2M), which is not really a standard research grant), with an increase in numbers of Research Council proposals and a modest reduction in EU applications (which tend to be lumpy because of the timings of calls).



August 10-June 11

Aug 9 to June 10



Revenue Value


Revenue Value

Research Councils





UK Based Charities





UK Central Government, Hospitals and Health Authorities





UK Industry





EU Government Bodies





Non-EU Industry, Commerce & Public Corporations





Non-EU Other











The awards data for the same period shows a headline increase, but again this is broadly at the scale of the CDT. Given this, then, the awards data from the last year shows a marked swing towards EU grants.  While this is encouraging, in that it reflects our objective of growing our income from non UK-government sources, the flip sides are: (i) that we have seen a marked reduction in the value of awards (excluding the CDT) from the UK research councils; and (ii) that the sustainability (overheads) associated with EU grants tend to be lower than from the research councils.



August 10-June 11

Aug 9 to June 10



Revenue Value


Revenue Value

Research Councils





UK Based Charities





UK Central Government, Hospitals and Health Authorities





UK Industry





EU Government Bodies





Non-EU Industry, Commerce & Public Corporations





Non-EU Other










Exam Boards

The internal and external exam boards have now all taken place for both UG and PGT. They all ran very smoothly and some thanks are now due. So, thanks to everyone for submitting their marks (mostly) on time! Thanks to the externals for their scrutiny of the process and, finally, a huge thank you to all the staff in SSO for their hard work and diligence in making sure that everything ran as smoothly as it did – this was indeed commented upon by the externals.

Visit and Seminar by Mario Wolczko, Oracle Labs                               25 July 11

Mario Wolczko will be visiting the School on Monday 25th July.  Mario is a distinguished Alumnus of Computer Science at Manchester - his PhD was gained under Cliff Jones on the semantics of OO programming languages, and he contributed to many aspects of the work and life in Computer Science during his years as undergraduate, postgraduate and post-doc.  He moved to Sun Labs in California in 1993 and has worked on dynamic languages and environments ever since, though his interests seem to be expanding with Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems.  Mario is in the UK for the ECOOP conference at Lancaster, and he is visiting at Alasdair Rawsthorne's suggestion to see if we can find more effective ways of engaging him (and other distinguished alumni) in the school's mission.  He plans to be around from 9am to 5pm and is especially interested in: 

-       meeting potential collaborators. Staff can get a sense of their research areas from here (see also the section on External Research) but proposals in new areas may be of interest too. He will be happy to answer questions in advance via email.

-       meeting potential recruits (eg PhD/MSc students in their final year - they don't typically hire Bachelors unless they are exceptional).

-       meeting potential interns (pre-final-year PhDs).

Mario will be happy to do some pre-reading on the long flights over, so staff are encouraged to send him an email if that would make the discussions more productive.  Please let me know (Lynn) if you would like to talk one-to-one with him. 

Seminar: System architecture research at Oracle Labs.  1400 in Atlas 1

Abstract: A year ago, Sun Labs was renamed and reconstituted as Oracle Labs. How can a 100 person research lab have impact in a company of 100,000? What problems should it work on, and how can it succeed? In this talk I'll describe the challenges and opportunities of operating a research organization in this new environment, and the strategic direction of our R&D. A key approach of the Lab is to adopt a systems approach to identifying and solving problems, which I'll illustrate by describing our newest, biggest project: an analytic processing engine with order-of-magnitude improvements in power, space and speed over current technology.



British National Conference on Databases                                      11-14 July 11

The school will be hosting the 28th British National Conference on Databases (BNCOD), and associated workshop on Teaching, Learning, and Assessment of Databases (TLAD), from 11th to 14th July. BNCOD is a forum for discussing original research in the theory and practice of database systems, and attracts an international audience to discuss the leading research topics of the day in the field of data, information and knowledge management. The theme of BNCOD 2011 will be "Linked Data" with keynotes from Professor Christian Bizer from the Free University of Berlin, and Professor Karl Aberer from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. For more information and full details of the programme please see here.

Emerging Technologies                                                                             15 July 11

The University GPU Club Presents:

Prof. Jack Dongarra speaking on Emerging Technologies

14:00, John Casken theatre, Martin Harris Centre

More information

Rutherford Public Lectures                                                                 8,9,10 Aug 11

To celebrate the centenary of Rutherford's "discovery" of the atomic nucleus in 1911, a short series of public lectures is being held which will look at the history of this discovery, as well as its application to modern medicine and nuclear energy. The lectures will be given by speakers with strong experience in presenting to the general public.


Monday 8th August 2011: From Rutherford to the Large Hadron Collider

(Dr David Jenkins, University of York)

Tuesday 9th August 2011: Nuclear medicine: Atoms and antimatter matter

in medicine (Professor Alan Perkins, University of Nottingham)

Wednesday 10th August 2011: Is there a safe future for nuclear energy

(Dr John Robert, Dalton Institute, University of Manchester)


All lectures begin at 7.30 pm in University Place, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester.  Entry is by free ticket only. Tickets can be obtained via the following weblink.

Nanosciences,Nanotechnologies,Materials and new Production

Technologies, National Contact Point visit                                      18 August 11

The EU Office have arranged for the National Contact Point for the FP7 theme ‘NMP’ (Nanosciences, Nanotechnologies, Materials and new Production Technologies) Dr Alastair McGibbon from the TSB,  to come to Manchester on 18th August to present the 2012 NMP work programme following the summer calls in July.  Please note that Liz Fay will shortly be advertising the time and venue of the event.

The formal presentation should take no longer than a couple of hours during which time Dr McGibbon will give more detail and some insider knowledge on the requirements of the specific calls.  This session should prove invaluable for EPS staff wishing to engage in this round of calls.

Dr McGibbon has said that following the presentation he will be happy to meet with staff already engaged, or wishing to engage, in research in the areas covered by the NMP calls either over lunch or at some point later in the afternoon.

Could you please let Vicki Holt know by 13th July if you wish to:

  1. Attend the lecture
  2. Attend the lecture and wish to register an interest in a potential meeting with Dr McGibbon either over lunch or after the lecture (obviously Dr McGibbon’s availability for these meetings will depend on the level of interest so it may wise for interested groups to pick a representative/s)


Funding Opportunities

ERC 2012 Work Programme                                                                          Various

Link (csonly) to a draft of the ERC 2012 Work Programme which is due to be published next month. It outlines the details for 4 expected ERC calls:

  • Starting Grants (Oct 2011 deadline).
  • Advanced Grants (Feb to Apr 2012 deadlines depending on subject).
  • Proof of Concept awards (deadline May to Oct 2012 - for current ERC holders only I think).
  • A new scheme called "ERC+ Grants" to bring together PIs with complementary skills/knowlege to address problems of frontier research (deadline Jan 2012).

As this is a draft document please treat its content with caution and do not circulate beyond the University.