This is a guest post by Dr Jarred McGinnis, Visiting Research Fellow in the Agents and Intelligent Systems Group of the Department of Informatics at KCL.
It could be my nationality. I’m American and we’re a chatty lot. Or, my career. I started out as an academic, a logician and theoretician. Then I moved toward more applied and managerial roles in industry. I’ve spoken to a lot of people with differing perspectives. I’ve come to appreciate the need for dialogue and understanding.
Besides my role as a Visiting Research Fellow here at King’s, lately I’ve been working with Ontotext who provides semantic repositories and semantic NLP solutions. They’re interesting to work with because they are building technologies, often seen as academic and esoteric, to be used in an enterprise setting within governments, organisations and businesses. Often, I am sitting between the technologists and the business owners translating the needs and desires of one party in the terms of the other as they try to decide whether semantics is something their organisation needs.
It was in the spirit of fostering that cross-discipline communication that I put together the Semantic Web Meet Up hosted in King’s incredible Anatomy Lecture Theatre. The title of the discussion was ‘What Linked Data Does, What Linked Data Need’. I wanted students, academics, technologists and business people to be in the same room talking about the same thing. The plan was to gather a number of professionals currently using semantics and discuss what further work is needed to bring this emerging technology to the mainstream. It would have been hard to have a better panel to cover the spectrum of linked data users. We had:
– Fabio Colasanti, Data and Information Architect at EuroMoney, a publisher of highly valuable economics and financial information.
– Tom Heath, Head of Research at ODI, a nonprofit (and technology neutral) organisation encouraging the opening of data, Linked or otherwise.
– Sofia Angeletou, Senior Data Architect at BBC, the publically funded broadcaster we know and love that has spearheaded the use of Linked Data.
– Pravin Paratey, CTO at Affectv a company that uses NLP and data-driven means to provided targeted and relevant ads to internet users.
We had an incredible turnout and the audience was fantastic. They were full of insightful questions and the discussion continued at the pub afterwards. I suspect this will be the first of many of these events here at King’s.
The KCL Tech Society is running another in its very popular series of student-led learning sessions tonight, Teach Me X. This session will be led by James Bellamy and is on mobile app development using iOS. The session is at 6-7 pm tonight, Monday 19 February, in room K3.11 at the Strand campus of KCL. Details from the Facebook page.
The Department of Informatics at King’s College London is proud to support this event through the provision of free pizza – since whoever heard of anyone coding without access to pizza!
The King’s College London Tech Society is a new student-led society for people interested in technology. They are organizing the first 24-hour Hackathon at a London university, for Saturday-Sunday 22-23 February 2014, and this will be the largest student-run hackathon in Britain. Already major sponsors such as Facebook and CodeAcademy are offering prizes for participants.
To prepare participants, the Tech Society is also running Teach-Me-X sessions, Monday evening lectures on relevant skills. The first session was last Monday 27 January on Ruby-on-Rails, led by Tech Society co-founder, Niklas Begley. As good programmers know, the quality of the code depends crucially on the quantity of pizza available. So the Department of Informatics at KCL was delighted to support this initiative by providing pizza for the session!
It’s the start of a new academic year, and we in the Department of Informatics at King’s College London are welcoming back our returning students as well as new cohorts of undergraduate, MSc and PhD students. As part of our induction process, we have student “buddies”, volunteers who show the new students around and introduce them to the Department and the College. This year, our buddies are easily identified, wearing the T-shirts that mark them out, emblazoned with the words “Informatics Revolution”.
So what is this Informatics Revolution? In one sense, it’s self-evident that informatics, which is concerned with the representation, storage, processing, and communication of information, has fundamentally changed the nature of our lives. Not just once, but time and time again, and it will continue to do so. As I write this blog entry, I think little of the wireless access to the Internet that my laptop permits, nor of the social media I’m using through this blog and the Facebook and other posts it will generate. Rather than my laptop, I might use my mobile phone (sadly not a phone with 4G – another revolution – or voice activated control) or tablet computer, and perhaps in two years time there will be another alternative. Today we delegate control to programs on these devices, and tomorrow we may do the same with robotic devices. All of these aspects are part of what makes up the Department of Informatics at King’s, from foundations underpinning such developments to the practical aspects of developing and deploying them. Revolutions again and again.
At King’s we’re working on robotic surgeons, on cybersecurity, on sequencing genomes, and on autonomous systems. Each one a revolution.
But Informatics Revolution is more than that. Here at King’s it’s an idea that provides a vision for what we can achieve, for both staff and students. This is the point in time at which the Department of Informatics has taken its final form, with the integration of our Centre for Robotics Research, joining our groups on Planning, Agents, & Intelligent Systems, on Algorithms & Bioinformatics, and on Software Modelling & Applied Logic, bringing a breadth and depth of research that is not common. The revolution begins here in providing the full range of what informatics covers within a single department.
Perhaps more importantly, we are a department that provides research and education that we believe is excellent and getting even better; the recent QS World University Rankings placed King’s 7th on the list of UK institutions for Computer Science! We are a department that is committed, through the energy and efforts of our staff, academic, administrative and technical, to sustaining and improving our provision. We are a department that seeks to engage our students, and to work with them (and to have them work with us) on driving forward to ensure our environment and our culture are vibrant and stimulating. Informatics Revolution is an idea that underpins a vision of shared contribution and achievement for both staff and students in a revision of traditional models of staff teaching students and students receiving that teaching. Together we will make it happen.
Viva la revolucion!