Monthly Archives: April 2012

Join the BCS/CAS Network of Computer Science Teaching Excellence

In March, the BCS Academy of Computing and Computing at School (CAS) sent an information pack (zipped) to every state secondary school in England, in order to explain the opportunities they would have from September 2012 to develop Computer Science as a rigorous academic component within a reformed ICT curriculum. The supporting materials in the information pack provides comprehensive information that should help head teachers and school governors make the right decisions:

Alongside the information pack was the announcement of the Network of Computer Science Teaching Excellence, to create a network of schools and universities across the UK to advance teaching excellence in Computer Science. Schools that are members of the network of excellence will:

  • be offered enhanced and heavily subsidised CPD for a teacher in their school;
  • be part of a regional teaching hub for sharing good practice and offering grassroots organised CPD;
  • have regular contact with university Computer Science departments to support and inspire teaching material;
  • be expected to teach Computer Science at Key Stage 3 or 4 as a catalyst for a renewed Computing curriculum as recommended by the Royal Society, which is benchmarked against the CAS curriculum;
  • have opportunities for showcasing their teaching practices and experiences at national conferences;
  • be proactively consulted for their views and opinions for future campaigns related to education policy.

The centres of excellence would become part of a national network for establishing best practice and spearheading innovative teaching in Computer Science, with ongoing support from CAS, the universities in the network and BCS. We need key schools spread across the UK to kickstart this initiative; as you can see from the map below (click for a live update), it has already generated a huge amount of interest, with over 400 schools registering interest.

The Network of Computer Science Teaching Excellence is open to all schools across the UKregister your interest here* and spread the word; by creating this national network and providing effective CPD for teachers, there is a prime opportunity to have a profound effect on Computer Science education in the UK.

*there will be some flexibility on the 30th April deadline…

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2011 ACM Software Systems Award: Eclipse

Today, the 2011 ACM Software System Award has been awarded to Greg Adams, John Duimovich, Erich Gamma, Kevin Haaland, Julian Jones, Philippe Mulet, Steve Northover, Dave Thomson and John Weigand:

For the Eclipse platform and its visionary design of a universal IDE (Integrated Development Environment) which provides developers with an extensible platform for application development tools, fostering an impressive world-wide open source software development community.

The Eclipse project (full award citation) began in 1999 and was initially conceived to address a number of perceived shortcomings in proprietary software developments tools. Eclipse is a programming environment that provides kernel IDE (Integrated Development Environment) functionality and allows developers to easily integrate their own extensions, specialisation and personalisation. The Eclipse team identified the conceptual kernel underlying any IDE and was the first to bring the microkernel approach to another domain.

Eclipse changed the way programmers think about building tools: instead of building tools by using stacks of libraries and then trying to integrate them, one starts with the Eclipse platform, which provides a set of general capabilities. The tool developers then teach Eclipse about their domain (Java, UML, modelling, etc). From the very beginning, Eclipse was designed as an open and extensible platform for application development tools with a Java IDE built on top. The platform provides a nucleus of building blocks and APIs including extension points though which new functionality can be easily integrated, providing high component reuse rates. It has transformed the market for software development tools, fostering a large open source community well beyond the original platform.

(also see: the 2010 recipients, as well as the full chronological listing of awards)

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The Complete University Guide 2013: Computer Science

Today saw the publication of The Complete University Guide 2013, one of the many university ranking guides, generally marking the start of the university ranking season in the UK.

Familiar names in the top 10 UK institutions for Computer Science:

Ranking 2012
1. University of Cambridge (1st)
2. University of Oxford (2nd)
3. Imperial College London (3rd)
4. University of Bristol (5th)
5. University of Southampton (6th)
6. University College London (4th)
7. University of St. Andrews (7th)
8. University of Warwick (9th)
9. University of Glasgow (12th)
10. University of York (8th)


As always, the rankings for Welsh institutions in Computer Science were of particular interest to me:

Ranking 2012
30. Swansea University (34th)
34. Aberystwyth University (30th)
35. Cardiff University (37th)
49. Bangor University (59th)
63. University of Glamorgan (58th)
72. Glyndŵr University (52nd)
88. Cardiff Metropolitan University (92nd)
94. University of Wales, Newport (102nd)

N.B. no data was available for Swansea Metropolitan University or the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

The Complete University Guide’s methodology for the subject league tables are based on four measures: Student Satisfaction, Research Assessment, Entry Standards and Graduate Prospects. To qualify for inclusion in a subject table, a university has to have data for at least two of the four measures; a blank in the Entry Standards and Graduate Prospects columns is not a zero score but rather denotes that no valid data were available.

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Pretend publications and counterfeit conferences

Further to the recent blog post by Anthony Finkelstein on pretend publications, this afternoon I received the following unsolicited email:

Dear Dr.,

I am chairing the IADIS International Conference Applied Computing 2012 and would like to invite you for the scientific committee of this conference that will be held in Madrid, Spain (please see

As a member of the committee, you will get some papers to review in the topics you select (topics list available You are entitled to be part of the proceedings book and CD-ROM and also have free entrance to the conference except if you are author or co-author of a paper and wish to present it yourself or get it published in the proceedings in case none of the co-authors registers for the conference.

Can I just ask you for a couple of names that could also be part of this committee? The idea is to increase the number of members in the committee in order to reduce the committee members’ workload.

Also, can you please send me your address so that we can send you a CD-ROM with the proceedings of this year’s edition?

Could you please let me know whether you accept this invitation the soon
as possible?

Hope to see you being part of this IADIS conference.

Best regards,
Applied Computing 2012 Conference Chair

I frequently receive emails inviting me to submit a paper to sham conferences or journals (or, better yet, to say that my “paper” has already been accepted for publication), but this is my first programme committee invitation. Needless to say, I am honoured.

More seriously, this is a worrying (and steadily increasing) phenomenon, particularly in computer science. An example that frequently tops lists of fake conferences is WORLDCOMP (see scathing critique here); agents purportedly representing this conference recently threatened the owner of the comp.compilers list that I follow.

Let’s be clear: these are not credible outlets for disseminating academic research, so how can we rid ourselves of these deceptive venues? Echoing the sentiments of Anthony, it will not be by exposing and condemning the organisers (potentially problematic from a libel perspective), but by systematically discouraging people from submitting. Spread the word.


Beware of bugs

Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it.

Donald Knuth (in 1977; explanation here)

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Happy 1st Blog Birthday

On 11 April 2011 at 1:15 pm, I wrote the first Computing: The Science of Nearly Everything blog post: Hello, World! Rather inspiring, I’m sure you’ll agree.

As you’d expect from the blog title and its tagline, the majority of my posts have focused on computer science (education and research), science policy and science communication, interspersed with a bit of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Richard Feynman and the odd quote or two. I’ve been very pleased with the interest and interaction on the blog, averaging between one and two thousand hits a month. Thank you dear readers, long may it continue. FYI, my favourite search term to the blog was “recreational scolding“…

So, the first year’s top five blog posts (excluding the Home page and About) are as follows:

  1. Feynman, Bethe and the beauty of mathematics
  2. Will 2012 be the Year of Computer Science?
  3. Expert Panel report on the National Curriculum review
  4. Sense About Science: Report Dodgy Science
  5. “These aren’t the drives you’re looking for…”

Now I’m off to write a “proper” blog post.

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