Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Deputy First Minister helps key researchers break new ground

Press Release

Date: 29 March 2006 ________________________________________


9.45-10.30AM, THURSDAY, 30 MARCH, 2006

Deputy First Minister Nicol Stephen will perform a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday (30 March) at an Edinburgh city centre site which is being transformed into a leading centre for computing science and information related research. Mr Stephen, who is also Minister for Lifelong Learning and Enterprise, will don a hard hat and pour concrete at the proposed site of the University of Edinburgh’s new Informatics Forum in Crichton Street.

Prior to the groundbreaking ceremony, Mr Stephen will meet the University’s Principal, Professor Timothy O’Shea, at Appleton Tower – across the road from the Forum site. There, he will hear at first hand how the new facilities will attract top researchers, students and visitors from around the world, and generate world class research and opportunities for commercialisation. He will also have a chance to see a model of the new building.

Informatics is a dynamic, emerging discipline that encompasses areas such as computer science, artificial intelligence, cognitive science and linguistics. The Forum will bring researchers from the School of Informatics, who are currently dispersed across the city, together under one roof. The building will provide opportunities for innovation, interaction with other research institutions and industry, and engagement with the wider public.

The Scottish Executive has provided £14m through Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian (SEEL) towards the £42 million construction costs of the Forum. A further £5 million has been awarded by SEEL towards a strategy which will maximise the Forum’s engagement with local and international industry, ensuring Scotland reaps the economic benefits that the project will generate. The initiative is also being supported by the University of Edinburgh, the Scottish Funding Council, the Wolfson Foundation and private donations.

Nicol Stephen said: “The University of Edinburgh’s reputation in informatics is exceptional, making it a global leader in the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence. This is a highly important project for Scotland, and that’s why we’re backing it with £14 million funding through Scottish Enterprise. This new facility will act as a hub for academic and commercial developments and significantly advance Scotland's position as a world leader in informatics.”

Professor O’Shea added: “Scotland is already a world-leader in a number of areas of Informatics and, with the vision and support of the Scottish Executive and Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian, it will become even stronger. The University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics is considered one of Scotland’s national assets and one of the top five locations in the world for computing science and information related research. It faces competition, however, from other institutions across the world who are investing in similar facilities that enable cross-disciplinary research and greater interaction with industry.”

For further information please contact:

Ronald Kerr, University of Edinburgh Press Office
Tel 0131 650 9547 or 07958 159 177. Email Ronald.Kerr@ed.ac.uk

Andrew Slorance, Scottish Executive
Tel: 0131 244 2672 Email Andrew.Slorance@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Friday, March 24, 2006

Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014: next steps

The headline above is linked to the full report (pdf 63pp). You may also want to refer to earlier documentation on the Science and Innovation Investment Framework.

The paper addresses five key policy areas: maximising the impact of public investment in science on the economy through increasing innovation; increasing Research Councils’ effectiveness; supporting excellence in university research; supporting world-class health research; and increasing the supply of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills.

Every part of this paper will affect us: our research; our interactions with industry; our interactions with other disciplines (particularly medicine and biology); our teaching; and our recruitment and interactions with secondary education.

Chapter 7 is an invitation for comments, with the consultation period ending on 16th June 2006. I anticipate that College and the University will ask for input to a University response well in advance of this date. Arrangements of collecting and collating comments, and formulating our response to the consultation, will be announced shortly.

Some highlights:

proposals for reform

1.10 ... improving the strategic management of investment in science and innovation, to ensure that the UK’s science and innovation system is more responsive to economic and public policy priorities, and that different funding mechanisms are coordinated more effectively ...

The 2008 RAE will be the last (if it happens!)

4.18 The Government is aware that preparations for the 2008 RAE are well underway. It is therefore the Government’s presumption that the 2008 RAE should go ahead, incorporating a shadow metrics exercise alongside the traditional panel-based peer review system. However, if an alternative system is agreed and widely supported, and a clear majority of UK universities were to favour an earlier move to a simpler system, the Government would be willing to consider that.

Maximising the impact of science on innovation

Building on its success to date, the Government expects the Technology Strategy Board to play an increasing role in contributing to the development of the Government’s innovation strategy across all important sectors of the UK economy. The Technology Strategy Board will have a wider remit to stimulate innovation in those areas which offer the greatest scope for boosting UK growth and productivity, and plans for it to operate at arms length from central government are being developed.

2.35 Looking forward, the Government is keen to ensure that best practice in business university collaboration is shared more effectively. Business-university engagement remains inconsistent across industries and regions.

Suggestion that PPARC and EPSRC might merge

3.14 PPARC currently has a role both as a grant-giving Research Council and as an investor in large facilities. This has created different funding arrangements for different parts of the physical sciences, the remainder being the responsibility of EPSRC. If the large facilities operations currently managed by PPARC were to be transferred to a new LFC, this would be an opportunity to integrate PPARC’s grant-giving operations with EPSRC.

... and more ...

5 Supporting world-class health research

6 Improving the supply of scientists

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Informatics Distinguished Lecture Series

The first lectures in the series are as follows:
  • Professor Ian Horrocks, from the University of Manchester, Thursday 30 March 2006,
  • Professor David Harel, from Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), Friday 21 April 2006,
  • Professor Josh Tenenbaum, from MIT, Thursday 8 June 2006.

Lectures for Autumn/Winter 2006:

  • Professor James Hendler from University of Maryland
  • Professor Ross Anderson from Cambridge
  • Leslie Pack Kaelbling from MIT

Monday, March 06, 2006

HPC Europa Transnational Access

Introducting Alastair Knowles


On February 27th 2006, Alastair Knowles started in post at the School of Informatics as Business Development Executive for Bioinformatics, Systems Biology and Neuroinformatics. Alastair brings experience of industrial and academic research development at the Newcastle Institute of Neuroscience (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/ion/), which included drawing together a series of projects in e-Science and neuroinformatics. During a previous appointment at the National e-Science Centre, he also coodinated the research funding application for the National Digital Curation Centre. As part of his induction into the school, Alastair wishes to arrange meetings with all academics and researchers that have relevant research to discuss with him.

Alastair can be found in Room C11 at the Forrest Hill Building, and should be contacted on [0131] 651 3158 or aknowles@inf.ed.ac.uk to arrange a meeting.

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Dan Dennett's Nature of Knowledge Lecture, 15 March 2006

You can listen to the lecture which was sold out, and much appreciated.

NextGRID Training Course, 7 March 2006

Free/Open Source Software Seminar, 13 March 2006

Gareth Bowker of the Free Software Foundation Europe is giving a talk on Free/Open Source Software and Digital Rights Management on Monday the 13th of March.

The event is organised by People and Planet Edinburgh and Edinburgh Linux Users Group.

Free copies of Ubuntu will be available.

There is also a Linux install weekend at The Forest Cafe on the 11th and 12th of March.

All are welcome to attend.

Date and location:

Monday 13th March, 7pm, Edinburgh University Chaplaincy, Ground Floor Auditorium, 1 Bristo Square.

See http://homepages.inf.ed.ac.uk/s0094060/message.html for full details.