School of CS newsletterPublished: Monday, 14 September 2015
Weekly newsletter for the School of CS
[ top ]News from Head of School
In the light of the School’s good results in REF, NSS and PTES last year, Faculty has agreed to a number of new academic posts in the School. This should result in a total of nine academic staff over the coming year in themes of “Intelligent Robotics”, “People to Data to Chips” and NLP/Text Mining. The main business case for the proposal can be found here: https://xorg.manchester.ac.uk/sites/computer_science/Shared%20Documents/REF-Investment-Business-Case-2015_03_10.pdf
The plan is essentially permission to fill existing empty posts plus some additional appointments in anticipation of future retirements. This means that although numbers of academic staff will rise above historic levels in the short term, from this point onwards retirees will not be replaced until enough people have left to match the additional posts. It is possible that there will need to be some minor adaptations of the recruitment plan to try to cover any retirements that can be predicted at this stage.
Prof Andrei Voronkov has reduced from full-time to 50% part-time. A lectureship has been created in the area as a replacement, this is currently being advertised here: https://www.jobs.manchester.ac.uk/displayjob.aspx?jobid=10339
If you are aware of any suitable candidates please bring this post to their attention.
The School’s headline NSS score fell slightly from 94% last year (10th out of 104 CS departments offering degrees in the UK) to 91% this year (16th out of 111). It is useful to look beyond the headline score, as on the whole our NSS scores were good. The headline satisfaction score is the % of students explicitly satisfied in response to Q22 (overall satisfaction). The distribution of scores for Q22 (overall satisfaction) was:
Q22 (overall satisfaction)
(5) Definitely Agree
(4) Mostly Agree
(2) Mostly Disagree
(1) Definitely Disagree
The major impacts visible in the scores for Q22 are: significantly more students gave a score of 5; the average score rose; the % of students who did not give a score of 4 or 5 has risen from 6.5% to 8.6%; therefore the headline satisfaction score has fallen. This shows the sensitivity of NSS league tables to rather small changes in the perception of rather small numbers of students - 6 additional students who selected ‘neither satisfied nor dissatisfied’ for Q20 has had a bigger impact on our position than 23 additional students who are definitely satisfied. NSS contains much more information, including 21 other questions and the written feedback from students. UG Committee is reviewing the full NSS results in detail and is constructing an action plan.
For our main ACS programme overall satisfaction remains high, at 89% (90% last year), however satisfaction in our smaller joint programme was lower this year and consequently our overall PGT satisfaction score has fallen. There were issues with the joint programme that the School’s PGT Committee were already aware of and are addressing. It is possible that the low completion rate (19% overall) may mean that the issues were over-represented in the headline figure. PGT Committee is reviewing the full PTES results in detail and is constructing an action plan.
The School has been very successful in raising research income during the last year:
44 academic staff in the School submitted proposals (37 in 13/14);
43 projects were funded (28 in 13/14);
£9.6M revenue was awarded (£4.6M in 13/14);
28 different individuals were PIs or Co-Is on awards.
41% of applications succeeded, 28% by revenue.
This is an excellent achievement for all concerned, the funded projects will significantly expand the research that the School is able to do. Thanks to all who have put so much effort into applying and to the Research Office for supporting them so effectively.
The teams behind Vampire and iProver have won major divisions in the annual World Championship for Theorem Proving (CASC) which was held at the 25th International Conference on Automated Deduction (CADE-25), Berlin.
The Vampire team consists of Giles Reger, Martin Suda, Andrei Voronkov, and Dmitry Tishkovsky and the iProver team consists of Konstantin Korovin and Dmitry Tsarkov. There was also a (winning) submission of VampireZ3 combining the power of Vampire with the Z3 SMT solver from Microsoft Research.
Vampire entered 5 divisions out of 8 and won them all, and iProver was second in 2 divisions.
Vampire’s success is highly significant. No system in the history of the competition has ever won more than 3 divisions. In addition, in 3 divisions Vampire solved more problems than all other systems together, so it would win against all other provers run in parallel.
These successes build on Manchester’s long history of world-leading theorem proving. Vampire has now won the main division (FOF) for 16 years.
During CADE Andrei Voronkov was also presented with the prestigious Herbrand Award for Distinguished Contributions to Automated Reasoning. At the award presentation, chaired by his collaborators Laura Kovacs and Konstantin Korovin, Andrei gave a speech titled “Living with Vampire”.
Duncan Hull was recently interviewed by Nature magazine about a presentation on the Wikipedian in Residence scheme at the Royal Society, which aims to improve the scientific content of Wikipedia:
Zeqian Meng, a third year student in the IMG group supervised by John Brooke and Rizos Sakellariou, been won a scholarship to attend the IEEE eScience 2015 conference in Munich August 31st-September 4th. Zeqian's submission was based on her PhD topic "Negotiation Protocol for Agile eScience Collaboration" and she is one of the three students awarded this year's scholarships.
The Dean, Martin Schröder, has announced a series of meetings in individual schools instead of Faculty open meetings. He will visit the School at 2pm on 28th October 2015. The meeting will include a 5 minute presentation by Martin, a 5 minute presentation by the School, a 35 minute question and answer session and a separate 15 minute discussion with School Leadership Team.
Over the summer several areas of the School have been refurbished. The Mechanical workshop has been converted into a room to house the SpiNNaker machine for the Human Brain Project, IT301/302 have been refurbished to provide additional space for the APT group, the MSc labs have been refurbished, and the Common room has been improved. Some work remains on all of these projects but collectively they represent a significant improvement to the Building.
The SpiNNaker room became necessary when IT Services decided to close the main machine room downstairs, and our new room was funded from that budget. The IT Services restructure will have some additional effects on the parts of the Kilburn Building that are occupied by the School, which should also improve the environment.
Windows: University Estates have brought forward the replacement of all external windows in the Kilburn Building to coincide with the IT Services project. As a result all external windows in the Kilburn Building are expected to be replaced during 2015/16. This will cause some disruption but it should provide double-glazed opening windows throughout.
Heating and ventilation: The refurbished areas of the ground floor will be provided with a new heating and ventilation system. That will mean that the existing plant will have greater capacity to service the CS parts of the Kilburn Building and heating and ventilation should therefore improve. This will also require some disruption as the system will require some reconfiguration and some improvement in control, but it should improve the environment once it is completed.
Courtyard: IT Services want to open up a light well into the courtyard to provide natural light downstairs. This will require some reconfiguration of the courtyard. Combined with the reglazing of the walkway external windows this should significantly change the courtyard. At this stage it is not clear how extensive this work will be, as soon as draft plans are available they will be circulated for consultation.
A physical helpdesk has returned to IT Services in G41 on the ground floor of the Kilburn Building: http://www.staffnet.manchester.ac.uk/news/display/?id=15024. Assorted ways to get help from IT Services are described here: http://www.itservices.manchester.ac.uk/help/. The CSIS team remain ready to help as ever.
Once the work on the precinct is completed it should look as shown in the picture. Sometime later Spring may come and you will be able to see it in daylight. Photos of the demolition of the precinct can be found here.
Seven of the CS and Maths class of 1983 visited the School on Saturday 22nd August. They toured the Kilburn and Alan Turing Buildings, but the highlight of the tour for them was sitting once more in the seats they routinely occupied in LT1.1! The visitors were Karen MacDonald, John Douglass, Zenon Chomyszyn, Andrew Moss, John Vickers, Iain King and Garry Pascoe.
Retirement hasn’t slowed down Linda Brackenbury, who recently walked 1200km from Land’s End to John O’Groats: http://www.macclesfield-express.co.uk/news/chelford-grans-epic-trek-turned-9931506
Linda has written a book about here experiences “Walking e2e, End to End”, which can be bought via Linda’s website at brackwalks.co.uk
Tim Morris was involved in GAMMA, Growing Autonomous Mission Management Applications (http://gammaprogramme.co.uk/), a three year, £9 million programme whose aim was to develop software applications for managing autonomous systems for unmanned vehicles, involving a group of academics from MACE, EEE and CS. The project developed demonstrator apps and supported two local SMEs: Transpix and Suave Aerial Photographers (http://www.suaveairphotos.co.uk/).
Transpix developed software to follow vehicles passing through road junctions, with the aim of generating richer survey data than is currently captured by traffic surveys. Suave built a UAV that carried a GPS receiver, an inertial navigation system and visual and ranging cameras, and developed software able to build 3D images of buildings in real-time.
At an open day at Salford Quays on the 4th they demonstrated a system that automatically manages a search and rescue scenario. The premise was that a ship had capsized on the Ship Canal spilling passengers (rubber ducks) and cargo (footballs). Using video data streamed from a quadcopter the software automatically identified the passengers and cargo, and planned and controlled movements of two rescue boats that collected the passengers first then the cargo.
[ top ]Events
Event: 08 Oct 15
The University is hosting a Horizon 2020 Information Day to provide information on forthcoming calls in the 2016/17 Work Programme.
The National Contact Points from many areas of the programme will be in attendance:
- Health, Demographic Change & Well Being
- Research Infrastructures
- Leadership in Enabling and Industrial Technologies (LEIT) - Advanced Manufacturing and Processing
- Secure, Clean and Efficient ENERGY
- Science With and For Society
- Widening Participation and Embedding Social Sciences and Humanities Across H2020
- Europe in a changing world - inclusive, innovative and reflective societies (Challenge 6)
There will also be a session delivered by UKRO on writing impact for H2020 proposals.
If you have a specific call you are interested in there will be an opportunity to have a one to one discussion with the appropriate National Contact Point.
Please contact email@example.com for the full agenda.
Registration is required through https://apps.mhs.manchester.ac.uk/surveys/TakeSurvey.aspx?SurveyID=76MK473M
19 October 2015, 9:30am -1pm
The Faculty is holding an Early Career Fellowship Workshop. Priority will be given to those in the process of applying, or seriously considering applying for an external fellowship. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details
We will be hosting sessions at events held at the Manchester Museum listed below, during which you can come and collect the add-on and chat with us:
- Saturday 12th September, 11am-4pm (Opening day event)
- Wednesday 16th September, 12-2pm (Just us at a desk)
- Friday 25th September 6-10pm (Science Uncovered event)
If you are not able to make these dates you can send an email to email@example.com to reserve an iSPEX device. Please note however we cannot guarantee a rapid response.
What is the project about?
Urban air pollution is a global problem with particulate matter, or aerosol particles, a major contributor. To improve our understanding on how best to tackle the issue requires novel measurements conducted across major cities around the world. Within the iSPEX-EU project a simple add-on for iPhones 4, 4S, 5, and 5S enables citizens to take part in collating such data. Funded under the Horizon 2020 programme, the project is taking place in cities across Europe to show how air pollution changes in and above cities depending on the weather conditions.
How it works:
To gather data, the iSPEX add-on works together with an app installed on the iPhone. The add-on allows the iPhones camera to detect the spectrum of the light gathered as well as its polarisation. With this information it is possible to analyse the air pollution in the air above. This only works when the device is not pointing at cloud, but if you do happen to point it at cloud, it's not a problem as the data are quality controlled.
The more people that take measurements, the more accurate the data becomes. Ideally, the measurements are most useful in the morning and late afternoon, but measurements from all times of day will be helpful.
The project runs from 15th September to 15th October 2015 during which the participants can join in by attaching the iSPEX add-on to their iPhones and taking measurements of the sky at different angles. In addition, the add-on is yours to keep!
Whilst the app walks you through when best to perform a measurement, we will also be selecting a few evenings when the weather is really good to coordinate simultaneous measurements. If you want to be notified about these events then please indicate so in your email. You can also follow the official Twitter account @ispex_eu and the Manchester campaign with #Manchester.
When the project is complete and all the data is crunched, we will be holding some talks open to everyone who is interested, reporting on how the project went and what we have learnt.
David Topping, Hugo Ricketts and the iSpex team
Find out more in the MEN article.
[ top ]Funding Opportunities
Pre-outline deadline: 06 Oct 15
EPSRC is inviting applications for Programme Grant proposals that seek to address significant major research challenges that align to the Healthcare Technologies Grand Challenges:
- Developing Future Therapies
- Frontiers of Physical Intervention
- Optimising Treatment
- Transforming Community Health and Care
Applications should also draw on one or more of the cross-cutting capabilities of:
- Advanced materials
- Disruptive technologies for sensing and analysis
- Future manufacturing technologies
- Medical device design and innovation
- Novel computational and mathematical sciences
- Novel imaging technologies
Programme Grants are a flexible mechanism to provide funding to world-leading research groups to address significant major research challenges. They are intended to support a variety of activities focussing on one strategic research theme. It is expected that proposals will be interdisciplinary and collaborative. Up to £15 million will be available to fund 3-5 Programme Grants through this call for proposals.
Applicants must submit a pre-outline and discuss their suitability for Programme Grant funding with one of the EPSRC contacts for this call before submitting an Outline application.
Professor Chris Taylor, Associate Vice President for Research and Director of Manchester Informatics would be happy to talk to anyone interested in applying. His contact details are firstname.lastname@example.org tel: 55403
Closing date: 5pm, 15 Sep 2015
Funding available for networking events (max. £4k each) supporting collaboration and impact, exploring the role that digital technologies are playing in (re)shaping our work and home lives. Events will fall between November 2015 and April 2016 and could include (but are not restricted to):
- public events
- invitation-only workshops
- visiting fellowships with a linked seminar
- seminars series
- conference streams and conference hosting.
We aim to fund at least one activity led by an early career researcher.
Closing date: 28 October 2015 at 16:00
The EPSRC Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Theme is inviting outline proposals for grants to link existing test-beds in order to undertake a variety of internet-relevant research.
Closing date: 11 November 2015 at 16:00
The Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) Theme of EPSRC and the RCUK Digital Economy (DE) Theme invite Outline Proposals for Digital Technology for LWEC Senior Fellows.
Closing date: 03 December 2015 at 16:00
This call is to encourage Engineering, Information and communication technologies, Physical and Mathematical sciences researchers to develop their research for application in healthcare.
Closing date: 18 Nov 2015 at 12 noon.
The School have been very successful in previous rounds of the Impact Acceleration Account held by the University.
If you have some EPSRC-funding research that you would like to take forward through working with a company (for example) then there's a suite of schemes available for you. For more information see http://www.manchester.ac.uk/collaborate/business-engagement/knowledge-exchange/collaboration-funding/epsrc/
If you are interested please contact email@example.com
[ top ]Featured Research Outcomes
At its 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Field Programmable Logic and Applications (FPL) in London this September, the paper "ReCoBus-Builder – A Novel Tool and Technique to Build Statically and Dynamically Reconfigurable Systems for FPGAs"
by Dirk Koch, Christian Beckhoff and Jürgen Teich from 2008 was recognized among the 27 most significant papers in its history (with 1765 papers considered in total for this award).
More details: http://fpl2015.org/?page=sig_papers
Work on JACC (Java for Accelerators) in Arxiv by the School's James Clarkson, Christos Kotselidis, Gavin Brown, and Mikel Lujan, has been included in Hacker News and on 9th September it was covered in an article by The Platform. As a result, there's been increased requests to access the source code.
The work is detailed in the paper 'Boosting Java Performance using GPGPUs' (which acknowledges EPSRC PAMELA and AnyScale projects).
MSc student (Advanced Computer Science and IT Management) Olesia Proskurnia (supervised by Daniel Dresner) displayed her poster about her highly relevant MSc dissertation at September's IAAC Symposium (http://www.iaac.org.uk/events/symposiums/2015-annual-symposium-the-citizen-in-the-internet-of-things/).
Computer scientists from the University of Manchester have been helping children learn how to code in a project with the BBC, says Wired magazine .
Steve Furber talked about the first mechanical mind which is expected to be seen in “decades, rather than centuries,” in an article in Yahoo News on 8th September
The School has had some nice success at ISWC 2015 http://iswc2015.semanticweb.org/:
- Viachaslau Sazonau, Uli Sattler and Gavin Brown. General Terminology Induction in OWL
- Michael Lee, Nicolas Matentzoglu, Bijan Parsia and Uli Sattler. A Multi-Reasoner, Justification-Based Approach to Reasoner Correctness
- Giovanni Casini, Thomas Meyer, Kody Moodley, Uli Sattler and Ivan Varzinczak. Introducing Defeasibility into OWL Ontologies
- Yizheng Zhao and Renate A. Schmidt. Concept Forgetting for ALCOI-Ontologies
…and our students
- Michael Lee and Viachaslau Sazonau won substantial travel grants to attend ISWC.