I am, you are, we are SICSA!

SICSA is the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance. I've been the deputy director and director for knowledge exchange with SICSA for a little over a month now. Yesterday I attended my first meeting of the SICSA committee with academics representing Universities from across Scotland. Attending this meeting prompted me to write this post.

SICSA has so far appointed more than 30 new staff and have offered more than 70 prize studentships to PhD students from around the world. However, SICSA is more than just these people. Indeed, in my time in Scotland I've met a few students and indeed academics in Computer Science and Informatics who said that "they aren't in SICSA" or that "SICSA events or support wasn't for them". This is simply not the case. SICSA was established to "Sustain and expand Scotland's research excellence in Informatics and Computer Science". This means all academics, researchers, postdocs, postgrads and others in Informatics and Computer Science across Scotland are part of SICSA. i.e. "we are all SICSA".  Indeed, given our mandate to work closely with industry and government, I would hope everyone in the ICT industry in Scotland feels they can give and get something from working with SICSA. While there were only 10 Universities involved with SICSA at its inception, today we have representation and involvement from every University with Informatics and Computer Science.

Over the past month I have been coming to grips with my new role. Along with learning new things about how Scottish Funding Council funding pools work it's also given me a new appreciation for the wealth of mechanisms for collaboration my predecessors have put in place. I'm going to be blogging about knowledge exchange in more detail in the coming months but for now I'd like to highlight a number of different and ongoing mechanisms for sustaining and expanding Scotland's research excellence in Informatics and Computer Science.


Firstly, and I'll admit I'm somewhat biased as I was a former theme leader, but I think the four SICSA themes are an excellent way to get to know people here, share ideas, make new contacts and step into the broader SICSA community. Each theme organises a myriad of activities too numerous to describe here. The four themes are the Next Generation Internet, Multimodal Interaction, Modelling and Abstraction and Complex Systems Engineering. Along with being leading academics in their respective fields, I've found the theme leaders and their deputies all to be very approachable people. If you have an idea for something which a theme might be able to help with, get in touch. Each theme has a mailing list which is worth subscribing to so that you are kept upto date.

Summer Schools:

Secondly, and again with no hint of bias, I consider the SICSA summer school support to be an ideal way to spread your research ideas and to generate real impact. In June of 2010, along with colleagues from across SICSA, we organised a summer school on Digital Tourism. The focus of that summer school was to introduce a new generation of researchers to the latest advances in multimodal systems, In this school we focused on multimodal input and output interfaces, data fusion techniques and hybrid architectures, vision, speech and conversational interfaces, haptic interaction, mobile, tangible and virtual/augmented multimodal UIs, tools and system infrastructure issues for designing interfaces and their evaluation. I really enjoyed running this event and I think the students gained a lot from it. The deadline for applications for Summer Schools taking place in 2013 is 30th September 2012

Postdoctoral and Early Career researcher Exchanges

Thirdly, my colleague in St Andrews Dr Adam Barker (who leads the big data lab here) was able to take advantage of PECE the SICSA support for Postdoctoral and Early Career researcher Exchanges. This helped support Adam in his time as a Visiting Scholar in the AMPLab, UC Berkeley. While we had to suffer his tweets on the glorious California weather he was able to make a host of exellent connections and has developed new research perspectives which I for one am looking forward to taking advantage of!  The next deadline for Postdoctoral and Early Career Researcher Exchanges is Oct 31st 2012 (PECE). 

Distinguished Visiting Fellowships

Fourthly, SICSA has supported many Distinguished Visiting Fellowships for scholars from across the world to spend time here, working with colleagues across SICSA. While I've not yet hosted such a DVF I have been able to take advantage of the program by including such visitors in summer school programs, getting my students to attend their seminars or masterclasses or indeed simply growing my own research knowledge on a particular topic. I'm looking forward to taking advantage of the DVF program over the coming years. The next deadline for Distinguished Visiting Fellowships is Oct 31st 2012.

Pools Engagement in European Research

Fifth, "SICSA is able to provide bursaries for researchers in Informatics and Computing Sciences at SICSA institutions to boost participation in European FP7 projects. The main purpose of PEER is to provide support to for academics to engage and build partnerships with Scottish SMEs in order to submit collaborative proposals for European funding under FP7. " More details on this funding is available here. One of my roles is to further shape SICSA's knowledge exchange approach which includes mechanisms such as PEER.

PhD Conference

Sixth, there is a SICSA PhD conference which my students have benefited from attending. This brings together Computing Science and Informatics PhD students, leading academics, and industry practitioners for a number of days of workshops, keynote presentations and social events. The expected dates for the PhD conference in 2013 are June 12/13th in Sterling.

I find I don't write as much on this blog as I used to as I'm now prone to smaller updates with twitter. You can follow me @aquigley. Likewise you can follow these SICSA account on cybersecurity in Scotland @sicsa_cybersec, of smart tourism @SICSA_Tourism or Mobile Computing @SICSAmobile and the general SICSA account at @SICSA_Scotland.

If you are an academic in Computer Science and Informatics in Scotland please get involved.  

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