Category Archives: Policy

Commons Education Select Committee inquiry: The impact of exiting the European Union on HE

hocedubrexit

The Commons Education Committee has today launched an inquiry into the impact of Brexit on higher education. This inquiry follows the expansion of the Committee’s remit to include higher education, further education and skills in response to changes at the Department for Education.

The inquiry will explore the implications of UK’s exit from the European Union for EU students and staff in the UK, as well as the ramifications for Britons who want to work and study at higher education institutions in the EU. The Committee also aims to examine the effect of Brexit on the reputation of England’s universities and ask how they can remain competitive; the future of the Erasmus+ student exchange programme is also be examined as part of the inquiry.

The impact of Brexit on university research and funding is not covered by the inquiry as these policy areas are the responsibility of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; the Commons Science and Technology Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into the implications and opportunities stemming from the UK’s exit from the EU on science and research.

The Committee thus invites submissions on the following issues:

  • The likely impact of the UK exiting the EU on EU students studying in England
  • What protections should be in place for existing EU students and staff
  • The future of the Erasmus+ programme following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU
  • Risks and opportunities for UK students
  • How changes to freedom of movement rules may affect students and academics in English higher education institutions
  • How to ensure UK universities remain competitive after the withdrawal of the UK from the EU
  • What the Government’s priorities should be during negotiations for the UK to exit the EU with regard to students and staff at higher education institutions
  • What steps the Government should take to mitigate any possible risks and take advantage of any opportunities

The deadline for written submissions is Friday 11 November 2016.

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CPHC Statement on UK withdrawal from the EU

Today, the Council for Professors and Heads of Computing have issued a statement (which I have supported) on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union:

Before last week’s referendum, commentators expressed serious concerns about the impact of the UK withdrawal from the EU, and the inevitable uncertainty leading up to it, on the UK’s academic and industrial computer science sectors. CPHC believes it is vital that withdrawal negotiations are based on the best possible information about the current state of the various sectors and what is at stake under various options. The withdrawal of the UK from the Union could have a potentially profound impact on UK Computer Science education, research and industry. CPHC recognises that the referendum was the first step in a potential withdrawal from the EU, and that many discussions, decisions and negotiations are required before any exit is complete, indeed before Article 50 is even invoked. We aim to contribute to the information that will form the basis of any discussions and below we provide an overview of the potential impact of UK withdrawal, issues to be considered in any post-exit plan, and issues to consider in withdrawal negotiations.

 
Please see the full CPHC statement, which includes an overview of the potential impact and issues to consider for computer science and the wider UK technology sector.

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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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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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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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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 their new open access journal Science Advances

Along with a couple of hundred other scientists, I have recently signed and supported an open letter to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society, concerning the recent launch of their new open access journal, Science Advances:

This is an open letter concerning the recent launch of the new open access journal, Science Advances. In addition to the welcome diversification in journal choices for authors looking for open access venues, there are many positive aspects of Science Advances: its broad STEM scope, its interest in cross-disciplinary research, and the offering of fee waivers. While we welcome the commitment of the Association to open access, we are also deeply concerned with the specific approach. Herein, we outline a number of suggestions that are in line with both the current direction that scholarly publishing is taking and the needs expressed by the open access community, which this journal aims to serve.

The first of these issues concerns the licensing terms of the journal articles. The default choice of a non-commercial licence (CC BY-NC) places unnecessary restrictions on reuse and does not meet the standards set out by the Budapest Open Access Initiative. Many large funders, including Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust, do not recognise this as an open license. The adoption of CC BY-NC as the default license means that many researchers will be unable to submit to Science Advances if they are to conform to their funder mandates unless they pay for the upgrade to CC BY. There is little evidence that non-commercial restrictions provide a benefit to the progress of scholarly research, yet they have significant negative impact, limiting the ability to reuse material for educational purposes and advocacy. For example, NC-encumbered materials cannot be used on Wikipedia. The non-commercial clause is known to generate ambiguities and uncertainties (see for example, NC Licenses Considered Harmful) to the detriment of scholarly communication. Additionally, there is little robust evidence to suggest that adopting a CC-BY license will lead to income loss for your Association, and the $1,000 surcharge is difficult to justify or defend. The value of the CC BY license is outlined in detail by the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.

We raise an additional issue with the $1,500 surcharge for articles more than 10 pages in length. In an online-only format, page length is an arbitrary unit that results from the article being read in PDF format. Can the AAAS explain what the additional costs associated with the increased length are that would warrant a 50% increase in APC for an unspecified number of additional digital pages? Other leading open access journals, such as PeerJ, the BMC series, and PLOS ONE, offer publication of articles with unlimited page lengths. The extra costs create constraints that may adversely incentivize authors to exclude important details of their study, preventing replication and hindering transparency, all of which are contrary to the aims of scholarly publication. Therefore it seems counterproductive to impose this additional charge; it discriminates against researchers’ best effort to communicate their findings with as much detail as necessary.

We feel that the proposed APCs and licencing scheme are detrimental to the AAAS and the global academic community. As such, we recommend that Science Advances:

  1. Offers CC BY as standard for no additional cost, in line with leading open access publishers, so authors are able to comply with respective funding mandates;
  2. Provides a transparent calculation of its APCs based on the publishing practices of the AAAS and explains how additional value created by the journal will measure against the significantly high prices paid by the authors;
  3. Removes the surcharges associated with increased page number;
  4. Releases all data files under CC0 (with CC BY optional), which has emerged as the community standard for data and is used by leading databases such as Figshare and DataDryad.

We hope that you will consider the points raised above, keeping in mind how best to serve the scientific community, and use Science Advances to add the AAAS to the group of progressive and innovative open access scholarly publishers. We hope AAAS will collaborate with the academic community to facilitate the dissemination of scientific knowledge through a journal committed to fully embracing the principles of Open Access.

We kindly request that you allow your response(s) to be made public along with this letter, and look forward to hearing your response soon.

(please note that the views expressed here represent those of the individuals and not the institutions or organization with which they are affiliated)

 
We look forward to the response from the AAAS; you can read the full list of signatories on The Winnower or share the original letter.

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Simon Jenkins on computer science

In a polemic in The Guardian today, Simon Jenkins argues for a(nother) shake up of the UK’s education system, with less focus on STEM and computer science in particular.

This kind of misinformed ranting on the utilitarian view of STEM and why the UK should focus on being a service industry appears to be his CiF modus operandi — see a similar post from February on mathematics education. In particular, he displays a profound misunderstanding of the difference between digital skills/competencies and the rigorous academic discipline of computer science, as well as a lack of awareness of the profound changes to computing education in England from September for all pupils from age five onwards. He also doesn’t appear to be aware of the increasing demands from pretty much every industrial sector for high-value digital skills (both user and creator skills); see the recently published interim report from the UK Digital Skills Taskforce: Digital Skills for Tomorrow’s World. As for the perceived high unemployment rates for computer science graduates? Well, this isn’t the full picture and is also discussed in detail in the Taskforce report.

While it is tempting to deconstruct and refute his article line by line, I will just link to an excellent response from Chris Mairs, Chief Scientists at Metaswitch Networks and Chair of the UK Forum for Computing Education.

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Today’s “University View” column in the Western Mail

This is the short article I wrote for the University View column in today’s Western Mail:

Technology is arguably the biggest lever on our lives, affecting everything from the way we communicate, do business, shop, travel, access information and are entertained. Our dependence on digital infrastructure is increasing all the time; from the demand for high-bandwidth Internet connectivity through to the devices we carry in our pockets. We truly live in a computational world, glued together by software.

But the real question is: do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it? “Choose the former,” writes author Douglas Rushkoff, “and you gain access to the control panel of civilisation. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make”; in essence: program or be programmed.

So why do we have an seemingly antiquated perspective of technology education, primarily focusing on developing increasingly transient IT user skills, rather than equipping young people with a deeper understanding of how technology works, on how to solve problems with technology, on programming and computational thinking skills? Why are we not developing a generation of digital creators, empowered to make, break and manipulate their digital world, rather than a generation who are becoming consumers of technology?

This is a question I have been asking repeatedly over the past couple of years. Last year I co-chaired the Welsh Government’s review of the ICT curriculum, in light of significant reform across the rest of the UK. From September, there will be a new compulsory subject called Computing replacing ICT in England from aged five onwards, focusing on computer science, programming and computational thinking: “A high-quality computing education equips pupils to use computational thinking and creativity to understand and change the world.” Precisely so.

We are currently in the midst of a significant review of education in Wales, asking fundamental questions about what education should achieve for young people. Alongside this we have long term policy evolving around skills, identifying the types of skills we require to create a healthy and prosperous society that is economically secure but also agile and adaptable to changing industries and sectors. While I recognise it is important that we take stock of where we are in Wales and identify the most appropriate solutions to some of our educational problems, it seems bizarre that we are delaying on what appears to be a no-brainer: making digital skills and computing education a core part of our curriculum. It is not a question of rushing into solutions, or copying other countries — this is about creating aspirations for our young people, developing future-proof skills and global competitiveness. I am baffled that we still have to justify why they should be core for all. We should turn the question around: can anyone justify why we shouldn’t make computing a core part of the curriculum?

Ultimately it comes down to what we want a future Wales to look like. Do we want to be a knowledge economy, leveraging our culture and being innovative and creative with technology? The Welsh Government have identified a number of priority sectors for economic renewal, alongside significant investment in our science and engineering research base, as well as recognising the broader societal and economic importance of e-infrastructure, connectivity and digital inclusion. All of these are predicated on having a country and citizenry with high-value digital and computational skills. It currently remains to be seen if we can deliver a digital Wales.

 
(N.B. text published in the print copy of the paper may differ slightly due to copy-editing)

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Call for Papers: Recomputability 2014

I am co-chairing Recomputability 2014, the first workshop to focus explicitly on recomputability and reproducibility in the context of utility and cloud computing and is open to all members of the cloud, big data, grid, cluster computing and open science communities. Recomputability 2014 is an affiliated workshop of the 7th IEEE/ACM International Conference on Utility and Cloud Computing (UCC 2014), to be held in London in December 2014.

Recomputability 2014 will provide an interdisciplinary forum for academic and industrial researchers, practitioners and developers to discuss challenges, ideas, policy and practical experience in reproducibility, recomputation, reusability and reliability across utility and cloud computing. It will provide an opportunity to share and showcase best practice, as well as to provide a platform to further develop policy, initiatives and practical techniques for researchers in this domain. Participation by early career researchers is strongly encouraged.

Proposed topics of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • infrastructure, tools and environments for recomputabilty and reproducibility in the cloud;
  • recomputability for virtual machines;
  • virtual machines as self-contained research objects or demonstrators;
  • describing and cataloging cloud setups;
  • the role of community/open access experimental frameworks and repositories for virtual machines and data, their operation and sustainability;
  • validation and verification of experimental results by the community;
  • sharing and publication issues;
  • recommending policy changes for recomputability and reproducibility;
  • improving education and training: best practice, novel uses, case studies;
  • encouraging industry’s role in recomputability and reproducibility.

Please see the full call for papers; deadline for submissions (online via EasyChair) is 10 August 2014 17 August 2014.

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Review of Assessment and the National Curriculum in Wales

On 12 March 2014, Huw Lewis, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills, announced the appointment of Professor Graham Donaldson to lead a wide ranging review of assessment and curriculum arrangements in Wales. Since his appointment in March, he has been engaged in initial, one-to-one discussions with stakeholders (including me as one of the chairs of the ICT Steering Group) and has visited a wide range of schools across Wales.

On 16 May 2014, Professor Donaldson launched a call for evidence through which he seeks to generate debate and gather information that will form a key part of the evidence base for his review’s recommendations:

We all understand the importance of education for the future of our children and young people, and for Wales both socially and economically. Schools provide the fundamental building blocks of that future and it is therefore essential that the education they provide is as relevant, challenging and rewarding as possible. There is much to be proud of in Welsh education and we must build on these strengths. At the same time, we must also identify and address areas which can and should be improved. That is why the Minister for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis, has asked me to carry out a fundamental review of the national curriculum and assessment arrangements in Wales.

It is vital that I’m informed by the views of as many people in Wales as possible: teachers, academics, parents/carers, businesses, the wider community and, vitally, young people themselves. Everyone has a stake in the future and I want to be sure that all of your views are taken into account as I form my recommendations.

I therefore urge you to share your views with me and to encourage as many others as possible to do the same.

 
This is an crucial opportunity to shape the future of education in Wales; while government consultations often receive a paltry number of responses, a review of this magnitude deserves a significant response from all stakeholders. This is also an opportunity to reaffirm the recommendations of last September’s ICT review.

I thus urge all interested parties in Wales to submit a response to this consultation; the deadline for responses to the call for evidence is 30 June 16 July 2014.

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The Economic Significance of the UK Science Base

A new independent report for the Campaign for Science & Engineering (CaSE) published today shows that investing public money in science and engineering is good for the economy. The Economic Significance of the UK Science Base examines the economic impact of public investment in the UK science base.

uksciencebasecover

The report looks in detail at the relationship between public funding of science and engineering and three levels of economic activity: total factor productivity growth in industries; ability of universities to attract external income; and interaction between individual researchers and the wider economy.

The report shows that, at the level of industries, universities and individual researchers, public investment in science and engineering leads to economic growth. CaSE is thus calling for current and future governments to recognise that public spending on science and engineering is an investment with significant benefits for the economy and society.

The report was written by Professor Jonathan Haskel (Imperial College Business School), Professor Alan Hughes and Dr Elif Bascavusoglu-Moreau (both University of Cambridge). It was funded by a consortium of six CaSE members: British Pharmacological Society, The Geological Society, The Institution of Engineering and Technology, Institute of Physics, Royal Society of Chemistry and Society of Biology.

Read the full report or the key messages from the two page briefing note.

(N.B. I sit on the board of directors of CaSE)

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Inquiry into STEM skills in Wales

The National Assembly for Wales’ Enterprise and Business Committee is undertaking a follow-up Inquiry into STEM skills, after the publication of a report on the STEM agenda in Wales in January 2011. The terms of reference for this consultation are as follows:

  • What impact has the Welsh Government’s strategy Science for Wales and Delivery Plan had on STEM skills in Wales?
  • What progress has been made in addressing the issues identified in the Enterprise and Learning Committee’s 2011 inquiry into the STEM agenda, including:
    • The adequacy of provision of STEM skills in schools, further education colleges, higher education and work-based learning (including apprenticeships);
    • Value for money from the additional funding to support and promote STEM skills and whether the current supply of STEM skills is meeting the needs of the Welsh labour market;
    • The supply of education professionals able to teach STEM subjects and the impact of Initial Teacher Training Grants and the Graduate Teacher Programme on recruiting STEM teachers and education professionals;
    • The effectiveness of education and business links between education institutions and STEM employers.
  • Whether any progress has been made on addressing negative perceptions and gender stereotypes of STEM and promoting good practice to encourage women to acquire STEM skills and to follow STEM related careers.
  • What progress has been made on learning STEM skills through Welsh medium education and training?

See the full consultation; the Committee welcomes responses from both individuals and organisations, with a deadline of Friday 25 April 2014.

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2014 IET South Wales Annual Lecture

On Thursday 20th March I will be giving the 2014 IET South Wales Annual Lecture at Swansea University:

Computing: Enabling a Digital Wales

Digital technology (and thus computation) is an indispensable and crucial component of our lives, society and environment. In a world increasingly dominated by technology, we now need to be more than just digitally literate. Across science and engineering, computing has moved on from assisting researchers in doing science, to transforming both how science is done and what science is done. In the context of (Welsh and UK) Government science, technology and innovation policy, computer scientists (of all flavours) have a significant role to play. Tom will ground this hypothesis by describing his research interests at the hardware/software interface, his broader work in education and science policy, and then finishing by presenting a vision for a “Digital Wales” underpinned by science and technology innovation.

 
This talk is free, with registration online.

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HTTPS Everywhere

https-everywhere

HTTPS Everywhere is a Firefox, Chrome and Opera extension that encrypts your communications with many major websites, making your browsing more secure.

Encrypt the web: Install HTTPS Everywhere today.

(HTTPS Everywhere is a collaboration between The Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation; information about how to access the project’s Git repository and get involved in development is here)

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Policy Statement on Skills by the Welsh Government

Ken Skates AM, the Welsh Government’s Deputy Minister for Skills, has today unveiled a Policy Statement on Skills — a ten year plan “to help Wales evolve into a highly-skilled nation and create the conditions that businesses need to grow and flourish”, setting out the steps that need to be taken “to develop a resilient, responsive and sustainable post-19 skills system”.

The statement covers four priority areas for the Welsh Government:

  • Skills for jobs and growth: Focuses on how Wales can stimulate demand for a more highly-skilled society that can drive forward our economy in the pursuit of jobs and growth.
  • Skills that respond to local needs: Describes how Wales must develop a skills system which reflects the needs of local communities, including providing a streamlined and accessible employment and skills offer for both individuals and employers.
  • Skills that employers value: Recognises the importance of engaging employers to participate in the skills system and describes the level of co-investment needed alongside government if Wales is to remain competitive.
  • Skills for employment: Explores the role of the skills system in providing the employment support necessary to assist individuals into employment and to progress in work, both of which are central to our tackling poverty agenda in Wales.

From my perspective, digital skills should be front and centre in this new policy, both to ensure we have safe and confident digital citizens (see Delivering a Digital Wales), as well as to encourage the development of high-level skills for the Welsh Government’s priority sectors over the next ten years. This also links back last October’s review of the ICT curriculum in Wales, as well as the work of the UK Digital Skills Taskforce.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the coming months; download the full policy statement [PDF].

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UK Forum for Computing Education

A new expert body on computing education was established today: the UK Forum for Computing Education (UKForCE), which will provide an independent and unified voice to advise UK government and other agencies on issues relating to computing education. UKForCE is led by the Royal Academy of Engineering and will provide advice on the curriculum, qualifications and assessment and the supply and training of computing teachers.

As per today’s press release, the expert body has been established in response to the 2012 Royal Society report “Shut down or restart: the way forward for computing in UK schools”, which had as a key recommendation the formation of a UK forum for the UK’s computing bodies. UKForCE brings together representatives from across the communities of education, computer science, digital media, IT, engineering and telecommunications. The body will be independent of government and awarding organisations and will work towards improving computing education across all education sectors of the UK.

UKForCE will consist of a smaller strategic group, along with a broader representative forum (invitations to be sent out shortly); the current members of the group are:

  • Chris Mairs FREng (Metaswitch Networks)
  • Andy Connell (Keele University)
  • Bob Harrison (Toshiba Information Systems, UK)
  • Simon Peyton Jones (Microsoft Research Cambridge)
  • Bill Mitchell (BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT)
  • Liz Bacon (University of Greenwich)
  • Theo Blackwell (Next Gen. Skills)
  • Mark Chambers (Naace)
  • Debbie Forster (Apps for Good)
  • Quintin Cutts (University of Glasgow)
  • Tom Crick (Cardiff Metropolitan University)
  • Sue Nieland (e-skills UK)
  • Rhys Morgan (Royal Academy of Engineering)

Chris Mairs, Chair of UKForCE and Chief Scientist at Metaswitch Networks, said:


The new computing curriculum, which comes into effect in September 2014, is a most welcome step change in computing education. There are many amazing initiatives springing up to build upon this bold move both inside and outside the classroom.

UKForCE will be the connective tissue between all these initiatives, central government and other relevant bodies. With a coherent voice and government commitment, our children will be the world’s most savvy digital citizens and a tremendous asset to the UK economy.

As well as providing a springboard for great software engineers and computing specialists, effective delivery of the new curriculum can literally improve the life chances of an entire generation. UKForCE will help make this happen.

The creation of UKForCE, to sit alongside similar organisations such as ACME, SCORE and E4E, is a significant opportunity to raise the profile of computing as a discipline, as well as support its delivery across all four nations of the UK. I look forward to working with the forum in 2014, in particular to continue to promote the reform of computing education in Wales (see the review of the ICT curriculum in Wales from October).

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52 things to know about policy, science and the public

There have been a flurry of articles of late listing important things that scientists, politicians and the public should know about each other. I am collating them here because I enjoyed each of the pieces and think it likely that I (or others) will want to consult them in the future.

First to appear was a piece in Nature in November by William Sutherland, David Spiegelhalter and Mark Burgman — Policy: Twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims (which mutated into the Top 20 things politicians need to know about science when reported in the Guardian).

In reply a couple of weeks later Chris Tyler, the Director of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, listed his Top 20 things scientists need to know about policy-making.

Just two days after Tyler’s post, Roland Jackson of Sciencewise, a programme devoted to fostering public discourse about science policy, sought to remind both scientists and policy makers about the general public by enumerating 12 things policy-makers and scientists should know about the public.

Whilst offering a range of perspectives, there is certainly overlap between the 52 points; I recommend each of them as a worthwhile read for anyone interested in the intersection of science, people and policy.

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A set of top Computer Science Education blogs

Further to my most-read blog post (from May 2012: A set of top Computer Science blogs, 80,000 hits and counting), here’s a follow-up: blogs on computer science education.

As before, instead of a list, it more closely resembles a set: the order is irrelevant and there are no duplicate elements; membership of this set of blogs satisfies all of the following conditions:

  1. they focus on computer science education (research, policy and practice);
  2. they are of consistently high quality;
  3. I regularly read them.
  • Computing Education Blog by Mark Guzdial (@guzdial)

    Mark is a professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology and a researcher in computing education. His blog is about how people come to understanding computing, and how to facilitate that understanding, cross-cutting research, policy, practice and wider societal issues. And while it is US-focused (as you would expect), it is an excellent venue for the discussion of key topics in computer science education.

  • Teach Computing by Alan O’Donohoe (@teknoteacher)

    Alan is a busy chap: as well as being principal teacher of Computing at Our Lady’s High School in Preston, he’s the founder of both Hack To The Future and Raspberry Jam, the global community of events for everyone to discover the wonders of the Raspberry Pi. His blog tracks his five-year computing journey: from improving classroom practice (listen to his Teach Computing podcasts), contributing back to the community as a CAS Master Teacher, to shaping the development of a new curriculum subject in England.

  • Miss Philbin’s Teaching and Learning Journal by Carrie Anne Philbin (@MissPhilbin)

    Carrie Anne is an award-winning secondary teacher at Robert Clack School in Essex and a passionate advocate for women in technology. She is the creator of Geek Gurl Diaries, a YouTube web series for teenagers who want to be makers and creators of technology (which recently won a Talk Talk Digital Hero Award) and vice-chair of the CAS initiative #include to address diversity issues in computing. Her blog also covers the gamut of classroom practice, the transition from ICT to computing, supporting the wider community, to shaping policy in England.

  • Academic Computing by Neil Brown (@twistedsq)

    Neil is a research associate in the Programming Languages and Systems Group at the University of Kent, working on the BlueJ and Greenfoot projects. He writes thought-provoking pieces on topics spanning computing (and more broadly, STEM) education, programming and socio-technical issues. He also has a second blog on learning and applying mathematics through computing: The Sinepost.

  • An Open Mind by Miles Berry (@mberry)

    Miles is a principal lecturer and the subject leader for Computing Education at the University of Roehampton. He sits on the boards of both CAS and Naace, with wide experience of curriculum development in the UK. His blog, a personal perspective on education, technology and culture, covers a range of interesting pieces on computer science and programming pedagogy, CPD and agile practice.

  • Computer Science Teacher by Alfred Thompson (@alfredtwo)

    Alfred is a high school computer science teacher in New Hampshire, having previously been the K-12 Computer Science Academic Relations Manager for Microsoft and a software developer for 18 years. He currently sits on the board of the Computer Science Teachers Association. His blog covers a wide range of topics, including computer science and programming pedagogy, curriculum development and US education policy.

  • Knowing and Doing: reflections of an academic and computer scientist by Eugene Wallingford (@wallingf)

    Eugene is an associate professor and head of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Northern Iowa. He has been blogging since 2004 on topics across computing, software development, higher education, learning and teaching, as well as managing and leading.

  • Raspberry Pi Blog by the Raspberry Pi Foundation (@Raspberry_Pi)

    These guys need no introduction, especially after the two millionth Raspberry Pi was sold in October! With the huge success and penetration of the Raspberry Pi over the past two years, the platform now exists for the Foundation to fulfil its wider educational objectives. A diverse blog, ranging from technical posts, peripherals and resources, to superb examples of innovative uses of the Raspberry Pi.

  • CSTA Blog by the Computer Science Teachers Association (@csteachersa)

    The Computer Science Teachers Association is a membership organisation (free to join), supported by the ACM, that promotes and supports the teaching of computer science and other computing disciplines in the US, providing opportunities for K–12 teachers and students to better understand the computing disciplines and to more successfully prepare themselves to teach and learn. Its blog covers a wide range of topics across computer science education, programming, curriculum design and education policy,

  • CAS Online by Computing At School (@CompAtSch)

    Computing At School is a membership organisation (also free to join), supported by the BCS, that promotes and supports the teaching of computer science in UK schools. Formed in 2008, it now has over 7000 members from across schools, colleges, universities, industry and government and is the subject association for computer science. Along with numerous high-quality articles in the quarterly CAS newsletter, Switched On, CAS Online provides the UK computer science education community with a wide range of forums, events, policy discussions, consultations and a veritable wealth of resources to support learning and teaching.

This set is most definitely incomplete — please post your computer science education blog recommendations in the comments below. You can also read some of my posts on computer science education.

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