Public consultation on the Digital Competence Framework

Further to last year’s announcements on the creation of a Digital Competence Framework for all schools in Wales, we have seen marked progress in the development of the Framework. An update shared in April detailed the progress made so far, including how the main components of the Framework have been developed, as well as how the Digital Pioneers have been iterating drafts with the QA Group that I chair. We have been through a number of iterations since the end of last year, identifying and structuring the main themes and content, as well as looking at exemplification across the curriculum, progression and consistency of terminology.

As part of the stakeholder engagement and quality assurance process, the Welsh Government have published the latest draft and have opened up a public consultation to allow wider scrutiny of the Framework and its structure and contents, as well as collect feedback outside of the Digital Pioneer network and curriculum stakeholder groups.

The survey is now open until the end of June; we very much welcome any comments or feedback regarding any aspect of the DCF, as well as potential issues with its implementation going forward from September 2016.

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Call for nominations for BCS Distinguished Fellowships

From time to time, BCS considers the award of a Distinguished Fellowship to members of the computing profession who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of computing. The Award was first approved in 1969 and the first election was made in 1971 to Edsger Dijkstra; see the full roll of BCS Distinguished Fellows.

I sit on the BCS Distinguished Fellowship Committee and had the pleasure (alongside the BCS Patron, HRH The Duke of Kent) of presenting the awards to last year’s Distinguished Fellows: Dame Wendy Hall and Martha Lane Fox, Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho. Once again, we wish to open the call for nominations as wide as possible, as well as reflecting the recently updated criteria to recognise contributions to the wider BCS theme of “Making IT good for society”. The relevant regulations specify that the Award may be made even if the individual in question is not already a member of BCS and may not be eligible for any other class of membership. Any candidate for Distinguished Fellowship should be considered against the following criteria:

  • The contribution to computing should be seen in terms of major importance to the overall development of computing, with substantial personal recognition through peer review over a substantial and sustained career. This could include furthering the principles expressed in the BCS strategy of “Making IT good for society”.
  • There is no restriction on nomination on the grounds of nationality or of existing membership of BCS and nominations from business, industrial, research or academic backgrounds are equally acceptable and work of either a practical or theoretical nature may be equally valid.
  • At any time, both the work and the stature of the individual nominated should be commensurate with the standards set by previous recipients.

Nominations for BCS Distinguished Fellowships are made online and close at noon (GMT) on 24 June 2016.

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Come and work with me: Data Scientist (KTP Associate)

Fancy working with me on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project in collaboration with Yard Associates, funded by Innovate UK with support from the Welsh Government?

A Data Scientist/KTP Associate position is available to develop an adaptable web analytics framework for predicting future purchasing behaviours and recommended marketing strategies based on attributed visitor history and interaction data, using hybrid machine learning and big social data analytics. Emerging research — and the development of practical toolchains — leveraging machine learning, social network analysis, natural language processing, sentiment analysis, data science and big data analytics are making a significant impact on a wide range of sectors. However, there exists a significant translational research problem: in applying and developing these emerging research advances into intelligent, adaptable and usable toolchains for a wide range of markets. This project thus aims to new products and services in the web analytics space for Yard, based upon novel and hybrid machine learning/big data analytical approaches.

This is a two year project, with a pro-rata salary of £21,000 (as well as a generous budget for professional development, including an opportunity to complete a funded MPhil at Cardiff Met). For informal enquiries, please drop me an email: tcrick@cardiffmet.ac.uk; further information and how to apply can be found on the Cardiff Met website.

Deadline for applications: Wednesday 15 June.

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Come and work with me: L/SL in Information Systems

Another position: come and work with me in the Department of Computing & Information Systems at Cardiff Metropolitan University!

We are also advertising for a Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Information Systems; this full-time permanent post will contribute to undergraduate and postgraduate learning and teaching, as well as wider scholarship and research activities in the department.

For informal enquiries, please contact our Head of Department Dr Jason Williams; further information on the application process can be found here. The closing date for applications is 27 May 2016 (with interviews expected in early June).

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Come and work with me: Senior Lecturer in Data Science

Come and work with me in the Department of Computing & Information Systems at Cardiff Metropolitan University!

We are advertising for a Senior Lecturer in Data Science; this full-time permanent post will contribute to research and enterprise activities within the department, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate learning and teaching (especially on our new MSc Data Science programme starting in September 2016).

For informal enquiries, please contact me or our Head of Department Dr Jason Williams; further information on the application process can be found here. The closing date for applications is 25 April 2016 (with interviews expected in early May).

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Open letter to the UK Government on the draft Investigatory Powers Bill

I have joined a number of politicians, academics and policymakers in signing an open letter to the UK Government published in The Telegraph today, warning of the potential dangers of rushing through the Investigatory Powers Bill:

SIR — Intelligence agencies and the police require strong surveillance powers. Their powers and responsibilities — as well as their limits — must be clear to be effective.

All three parliamentary reports on the draft Investigatory Powers Bill concluded that it does not meet the requirements of clarity, consistency and coherence. They call for new drafting, further safeguards, further evidence and further consultation.

Given these recommendations, the Government’s intention to pass the Investigatory Powers Bill this year is not in the nation’s interest. There is no need to be bound by this time frame. The powers, which expire this year, to give law enforcement access to data could be dealt with as a separate Bill. This would allow a comprehensive Investigatory Powers Act to follow next year after adequate consultation.

Surveillance is a global concern, and this new law, if done right, could lead the world. It will affect security, freedom and commerce. We must give the Bill the time it needs — not rush it through Parliament. We urge the Government to think again.

 
You can see the full list of signatories of the letter; also, support the Open Rights Group’s IP Bill campaign.

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Hubris

Nearly every example of faulty reasoning that has been published is accompanied by the phrase `of course’ or its equivalent.

Donald Knuth

 

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Best of 2015

Here are the most popular posts of 2015*; as always, a combination of research, education, policy and general ranting. Most of my visitors came from the UK, with the US and Germany not far behind (157 countries in total), with the majority of referrals coming from Twitter and Facebook. The busiest day of the year was 28 November, with lots of traffic to this post from 2013.

Top five posts (only 14 this year, 286 in total):

  1. The Art of Programming
  2. A set of books to read in 2015
  3. Paper submitted to CAV 2015: “Dear CAV, We Need to Talk About Reproducibility
  4. New paper: “Top Tips to Make Your Research Irreproducible”
  5. Digital Competencies in the new Curriculum for Wales

Nothing of particular interest in the search terms this year; however, I am delighted to be the fourth hit on Google for the wonderful phrase “eddies in the space time continuum”…

Thank you all for reading! See you back here in 2016.

*also see best of: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011

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I love work

Do you know that saying from Jerome K. Jerome? He wrote Three Men in a Boat and Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow. He said “I love work. I can sit and watch it for hours.”

John Conway as quoted in Genius At Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway (2015) by Siobhan Roberts

 (also see: DNA on deadlines)

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What skills will we need to live in future smart cities?

Last week, I co-authored a piece with Theo Tryfonas, a colleague from the University of Bristol’s Faculty of Engineering, on the Government Office for Science’s Future of Cities blog, looking at digital skills and competencies in the context of future smart cities.

A summary of the post is below, with the full report available to read online.

Today, the idea that data can play a key role in the design and management of cities is widely recognised. Architects, planners and engineers are already considering how data can improve the planning and operational aspects of cities. However, we believe it’s now time to consider the skills that people will need to live in these smart cities.

The increasing digitisation of information, coupled with the impact of innovations such as the Internet of Things, will have a profound effect on all aspects of city life. This will include anything, from transport planning and energy use reduction, to care provision and assisted living. But it will also include new ways of social innovation, new ways of organising communities, and increased access to political processes. So, familiarity, if not proficiency, in `digital era’ skills will be an essential part of future citizenship.

This doesn’t only mean people should have the necessary digital consumption skills to help them make full use of emerging technologies. They should also have digital creation skills such as design, technology awareness, computational thinking and programming skills, as well as a risk-informed perception of data privacy and security. The challenges of delivering such a skillset are many, from designing a 21st century curriculum for schools and universities, to ensuring fair access to digital technology for everyone.

We believe that taking the time to consider these skills issues now is just as important as resolving the design and operational issues of the emerging technologies themselves.

 

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Digital Competencies in the new Curriculum for Wales

Further to the Ministerial Statement at the start of June announcing the development of a Digital Competence Framework as part of the new Curriculum for Wales, I have been invited by the Minister to chair the overall development of this new Framework. Alongside the Digital Pioneer schools and practitioners (who will be selected shortly), I will chair a panel of national and international experts to provide the research, evidence base, quality assurance and overall alignment of the Framework. The development of the DCF has been the first fast-tracked recommendation from Successful Futures, with it being made available to all schools in Wales from September 2016

This announcement adopts one of the key recommendations of the ICT Steering Group report from 2013 by separating cross-curricular digital competencies from what used to be known as ICT, as well as creating a new computing theme in the proposed Science & Technology Area of Learning and Experience. More information regarding the Digital Competence Framework will follow shortly; I look forward to working with the Welsh Government, the QA Group and practitioners across Wales.

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Call for nominations for BCS Distinguished Fellowships

From time to time, BCS considers the award of a Distinguished Fellowship to members of the computing profession who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of computing.

The Award was first approved in 1969 and the first election was made in 1971 (Edsger Dijkstra); see the full roll of BCS Distinguished Fellows. I currently sit on the BCS Distinguished Fellowship Committee and we wish to open the call for nominations as wide as possible. The relevant regulations specify that the Award may be made even if the individual in question is not already a member of BCS and may not be eligible for any other class of membership. Any candidate for Distinguished Fellowship should be considered against the following criteria:

  • The contribution to computing should be seen in terms of major importance to the overall development of computing, with substantial personal recognition through peer review over a substantial and sustained career.
  • There is no restriction on nomination on the grounds of nationality or of existing membership of BCS and nominations from business, industrial, research or academic backgrounds are equally acceptable and work of either a practical or theoretical nature may be equally valid.
  • At any time, both the work and the stature of the individual nominated should be commensurate with the standards set by previous recipients.

Nominations for BCS Distinguished Fellowships are made online and close at noon (GMT) on 18 September 2015.

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Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop on Artifact Evaluation for Publications

I’m pleased to have been invited to a Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop in November on “Artifact Evaluation for Publications”, in recognition of my work (with colleagues) on computational reproducibility and software sustainability.

Schloss Dagstuhl, Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik GmbH (Schloss Dagstuhl, Leibniz Center for Informatics) is the world’s premier venue for informatics; the center promotes fundamental and applied research, continuing and advanced academic education, and the transfer of knowledge between those involved in the research side and application side of informatics. The aim of their Seminar and Perspectives Workshop series is to bring together internationally renowned leading scientists for the purpose of exploring a cutting-edge informatics topic; in this case how we can define a roadmap for artifact evaluation in computer systems research (with application more widely across computational science and engineering), defining an actionable research roadmap for increased accountability, rethinking how we evaluate research outputs (particularly software) and document research processes and associated e-infrastructure, as well as how best to change culture and behaviour — and perhaps more importantly, incentivisation structures — for researchers, institutions and governments:

The computer systems research (CSR) community has developed numerous artifacts that encompass a rich and diverse collection of compilers, simulators, analyzers, benchmarks, data sets and other software and data. These artifacts are used to implement research innovations, evaluate trade-offs and analyze implications. Unfortunately, the evaluation methods used for computing systems innovation can be at odds with sound science and engineering practice. In particular, ever-increasing competitiveness and expediency to publish more results poses an impediment to accountability, which is key to the scientific and engineering process. Experimental results are not typically distributed with enough information for repeatability and/or reproducibility to enable comparisons and building on the innovation. Efforts in programming languages/compilers and software engineering, computer architecture, and high-performance computing are underway to address this challenge.


This Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop brings together leaders of these efforts and senior stakeholders of CSR sub-communities to determine synergies and to identify the promising directions and mechanisms to move the broader community toward accountability. The workshop assesses current efforts, shares what does and doesn’t work, identifies additional processes, incentives and mechanisms, and determines how to coordinate and sustain the efforts. The workshop’s outcome is a roadmap of actionable strategies and steps to improving accountability, leveraging investment of multiple groups, educating the community on accountability, and sharing artifacts and experiments.

 
Organised by Bruce R. Childers (University of Pittsburgh, USA), Grigori Fursin (cTuning, France), Shriram Krishnamurthi (Brown University, USA) and Andreas Zeller (Universität des Saarlandes, Germany), Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop 15452 takes place from 1-4 November 2015 (see the full list of invited attendees); looking forward to reporting back in November.

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Open letter to the AAAS on reinforcing damaging stereotypes in STEM

Along with c.600 other scientists, I have recently signed and supported another open letter to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society. While the AAAS seeks to “advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people”, four recent incidents [1,2,3,4] have drawn signficant attention to editorial failings that reinforce damaging stereotypes for underrepresented groups in STEM, particularly on their Science Careers column:

We are writing about four recent AAAS publications and communications in the past 12 months that reinforce damaging stereotypes about underrepresented groups in STEM fields. It is particularly concerning that two of these four pieces originated from Science Careers, which purports to be “the leading resource for job listings and career advice in science, technology, engineering and mathematics”, given that these incidents risk deterring people from underrepresented groups from pursuing careers in STEM, and (in the fourth case) appear to mock criticisms from the scientific community in response to these communications.

 
First reported on the Retraction Watch blog and then more widely on Buzzfeed, our letter asks the AAAS to “work more diligently” to avoid “harmful stereotypes” when publishing content about minorities, and recommends that its editorial staff undergo diversity training.

Please read the full letter and share widely.

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Come and work with me: KTP Associate in Big Social Data Analytics

Fancy working with me on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project in collaboration with Coup Media (funded by Innovate UK with support from the Welsh Government)?

A KTP Associate position is available to develop an adaptable social media analytics engine and associated framework for the film and media industry to capture consumer insight, marketing perceptions, sentiments, trends and rankings using big social media datasets. With the explosion of social networking, there is a clear correlation between box office takings and sentiments, opinions and perceptions expressed in the public domain on social media platforms. This project aims to leverage this by developing an extensible and adaptable social media sentiment engine using big social datasets (initially targeting Twitter) to rank movies by opinion, informing industry marketing decisions and providing commercially valuable insight into the public’s emerging movie tastes and selections.

This is an 11 month position, with a pro-rata salary of £21,000. For informal enquiries, please drop me an email: tcrick@cardiffmet.ac.uk; further information and how to apply can be found on jobs.ac.uk and the Cardiff Met website.

Deadline for applications: Friday 19 June.

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Mathematical Relationships

angela+brian

I don’t think solving this problem will do much for Angela and Brian.

(see more excellent examples of the world’s finest academic writing at Thanks, Textbooks)

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New paper: “Top Tips to Make Your Research Irreproducible”

It is an unfortunate convention of science that research should pretend to be reproducible; we have noticed (and contributed to) a number of manifestos, guides and top tips on how to make research reproducible, but we have seen very little published on how to make research irreproducible.

Irreproducibility is the default setting for all of science, and irreproducible research is particularly common across the computational sciences (for example, here and here). The study of making your work irreproducible without reviewers complaining is a much neglected area; we feel therefore that by encapsulating our top tips on irreproducibility, we will be filling a much-needed gap in the domain literature. By following our tips, you can ensure that if your work is wrong, nobody will be able to check it; if it is correct, you can make everyone else do disproportionately more work than you to build upon it. Our top tips will also help you salve the conscience of certain reviewers still bound by the fussy conventionality of reproducibility, enabling them to enthusiastically recommend acceptance of your irreproducible work. In either case you are the beneficiary.

  1. Think “Big Picture”. People are interested in the science, not the experimental setup, so don’t describe it.
  2. Be abstract. Pseudo-code is a great way of communicating ideas quickly and clearly while giving readers no chance to understand the subtle implementation details that actually make it work.
  3. Short and sweet. Any limitations of your methods or proofs will be obvious to the careful reader, so there is no need to waste space on making them explicit.
  4. The deficit model. You’re the expert in the domain, only you can define what algorithms and data to run experiments with.
  5. Don’t share. Doing so only makes it easier for other people to scoop your research ideas, understand how your code actually works instead of why you say it does, or worst of all to understand that your code doesn’t work at all.

Read the full version of our high-impact paper on arXiv.

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2015 EAPLS Board member elections

EAPLS, the European Association for Programming Languages and Systems, aims to stimulate research in the area of programming languages and systems. Formally inaugurated in 1996, it provides a forum for researchers across the domain, working with related organisations and industry to initiate scientific events and stimulate the exchange of ideas, as well as raising funds, organising conferences and divesting financial support.

I’m standing in the 2015 EAPLS Board elections (current Board members); I believe there is a significant opportunity to rejuvenate the activities of EAPLS and raise its profile: building networks for early career researchers, sponsoring new events/initiatives, engaging with the major conferences and journals in our field, encouraging improved knowledge transfer activities with industry, as well as raising the profile of the wider research areas in both UK and EU funding streams. We can also be more active in the policy space, by highlighting the educational and economic impact of the wider research areas of programming languages and systems.

You can view my full election statement; all EAPLS members (free to join) are eligible to vote, with the election open until 15 April 2015.

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Paper submitted to CAV 2015: “Dear CAV, We Need to Talk About Reproducibility”

Today, me, Ben Hall (Cambridge) and Samin Ishtiaq (Microsoft Research) submitted a paper to CAV 2015, the 27th International Conference on Computer Aided Verification, to be held in San Francisco in July. CAV is dedicated to the advancement of the theory and practice of computer-aided formal analysis methods for hardware and software systems; the conference covers the spectrum from theoretical results to concrete applications, with an emphasis on practical verification tools and the algorithms and techniques that are needed for their implementation.

In this paper we build upon our recent work, highlighting a number of key issues relating to reproducibility and how they impact on the CAV (and wider computer science) research community, proposing a new model and workflow to encourage, enable and enforce reproducibility in future instances of CAV. We applaud the CAV Artifact Evaluation process, but we need to do more. You can download our arXiv pre-print; the abstract is as follows:

How many times have you tried to re-implement a past CAV tool paper, and failed?

Reliably reproducing published scientific discoveries has been acknowledged as a barrier to scientific progress for some time but there remains only a small subset of software available to support the specific needs of the research community (i.e. beyond generic tools such as source code repositories). In this paper we propose an infrastructure for enabling reproducibility in our community, by automating the build, unit testing and benchmarking of research software.

 
(also see: GitHub repo)

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