PhD Conference 2017

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Planning for the SICSA PhD Conference 2017 is now underway! The Conference is organised by PhD students for PhD students and this year is no exception with 15 students on the organising committee, representing institutions from across Scotland. It is a brilliant opportunity for students to network with industry, through sponsorship by companies such as Google, JP Morgan and Think Analytics, all of whom sponsored our event last year. Students also have the chance to discuss their own individual research during poster sessions with students in related disciplines. This collaborative environment is something that delegates love about the conference, providing opportunities for you to seek out different perspectives on your own research. Delegates also have the chance to hone skills such as presenting, reviewing and collaborative skills. With all of these benefits, I am hoping that next year we can encourage even more students to submit posters and attend the conference. Tickets are snapped up quickly, so watch out for communications in the New Year announcing that they are available!

The 2017 PhD Conference will be held in sunny Dundee, the city of Jute, Jam and Journalism. The event will be held over two days (27-28 June 2017) and I am delighted to announce that this year’s conference will feature keynote speaker Chris van der Kuyl. Chris is a graduate of the University of Dundee, one of Scotland’s leading entrepreneurs and chairman of 4J Studios, leading the creation of Minecraft for Microsoft Xbox 360. Those who have seen Chris speak before will know that this is not to be missed. His insightful reflections on the state of Computing Science in Scotland and across the world are inspiring and thought-provoking. Further announcement on keynotes and workshops are still to come, but the committee is working on some very interesting options at the moment in order to make this a conference to remember.

On a personal note, I have long supported the event and have encouraged PhD students from across Scotland to attend. I was co-chair of the student organising committee in 2010 and have attended whenever I can ever since. My involvement in this event was my first exposure into the complex world of event planning for academic conferences, and it was a great experience, albeit exhausting and stressful. Now, seven years on, I am involved once again as the Conference Academic Chair and am eager to find out once again what is happening in PhD research across Scotland, and to see how these can link with my own research interests.

The conference itself has changed over the years since it’s inaugural event in 2009. It now has an improved format over two days in order to better facilitate travel.  The organisation seems to get slicker every year and all organisational decisions are based on delegate feedback from the previous years, so everyone has a say in shaping the conference.    One big change I’ve noticed since 2009 is the the inclusion of academic reviews for poster submissions, which ensures that students receive worthwhile written feedback on their submissions.

I am excited to see what the next few months hold in store for myself and the rest of the organising committee. Keep an eye on the SICSA Twitter feed and regular SICSA emails to keep up to date with our progress and be ready to book your ticket in the New Year.

Data Exploration on Smart Watches

This week I visited the St Andrews HCI Research Group (@sachi) to talk about the potential of smart watches as a vehicle for data visualisation.  For some time I’ve been thinking about the expansion of data visualisation into larger and larger screens and how this seems incongruous with the latest mobile wearables.

The discussions after the talk were very useful. In particular the blurred boundary being tablet to mobile and mobile to wearable. This division of labour is a personal preference and in many cases is situational and context specific. If we can somehow understand the motivation behind device switching, we can go some way towards understanding the need for visualisation. This is turn will help to focus research on the types of visualisation and the uses that users might have for it. There’s no need in designing without context, after all.

CAS Scotland Conference 2015

On 7th November, I attended the CAS Scotland Conference. Below is the links to presentations I gave during the conference.



Introductory materials can be found at Permission is given to use any or all materials. I have provided a Microsoft Word version of the introduction booklet so that you can make changes if you wish.

Fellows Scheme for Early Career Researchers

The University of Dundee has just announced a Fellows Scheme for early career researchers,  There is specific interest is several research themes, including social inclusion:

Informatics for Social Inclusion encompasses diverse themes in Computing, all of which are united by the common thread that being human provides everyone with a special bond – a bond that technology can facilitate. We take social inclusion seriously, emphasizing that technology design should consider not just those who are early adopters of technology, but also those who through age or disability may have difficulty using technology. In addition, we consider the important role that technology can play in enabling enhanced quality of life through the use of technology supports.  For more information, see

If you have additional questions, you can write either to Vicki Hanson,, or Annalu Waller,

Post-doc funding approved

Relief of the highest order: post-doc funding accepted and approved.

So from January 2013 until July 2014 I will be investigating ways in which technology can be used to alleviate anxiety and improve dental care for individuals with intellectual disabilities. This will be a joint project with the School of Computing, the School of Dentistry, NHS and industry partners.

More news to follow …

Citing tweets: What about the tweeters?

I recently discovered that MLA (Modern Languages Association) has introduced a “correct” format for citing tweets in literature.

How to cite a tweet

Obviously, these tweets are not likely to carry much weight when compared to journals and, realistically, is as ridiculous as citing Wikipedia. However, what about the person who has tweeted, only to find themselves forever quoted in a report, paper or similar. (This might be doubly worse, since a paper that has allowed the citation of tweets is hardly likely to be of a high scientific research standard!).

So this got me thinking… Obviously, where anyone posts online, as a blog or article, this can be cited. However, the difficulty in maintaining URLs for tweets has meant that this form of writing has largely been ignored by the scientific community other than a form of communication and proliferation of ideas.

I don’t expect anyone to be quoting my opinions any time soon, I don’t think I have posted anything nearing sufficiently controversial. But should I be questioning my use of twitter?

If I am sharing my musings with the world as a means of exchanging ideas with others, gathering feedback or sharing my personal opinions, how can I ensure that I will not be forever held to account for these often random outbursts of text? Or for early opinions which I later change? Will this new phenomenon cause people to think more carefully about their twitter use? Will people censor their uploads? If I change to a closed account, will this change?

So many questions and, for now, so few answers.