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Writing for Publications Lecture

For the past couple of years I have been doing occassional lectures as part of WIT’s Generic Skills programme for research postgraduates. The programme is delivered by academics from across WIT’s schools and is targetted to help MSc by Research and PhD students develop a range of generic skills that are essential to their development as researchers. Yesterday I delivered a lecture on “Academic Writing: Writing for Publications”; slides can be down load from here. In the lecture I tried to provide the perspective of a conference / journal peer reviewer, in particular highlighting common deficiencies in the structuring and presentation of research papers that are relatively easy to avoid.

CNSM 2011, Paris

At the end of October I spent a few days in Paris, attending the CNSM 2011 conference in the beautiful original building of UniversitĂ© Paris Descartes. I spent the Monday attending the TPC meeting of the NOMS 2012 conference, one of very few conferences that persist with face-to-face TPC meetings. It was my first time attending a NOMS/IM TPC meeting and I found it to be a very interesting experience; in particular I was very impressed with the detail with which the TPC examined the papers and their reviews. Whilst the ranking based on review scores was a reasonably good indicator of paper quality it was heartening to see that some papers low down on the ranking ended up being accepted (for example because they had 1 unreasonably negative review), whilst others high in the rankings were not accepted (for example because of questions of novelty in relation to authors’ previously published papers). I absented myself from the discussion when my own submission was being discussed, but I was happy to later learn that it was accepted as a full technical paper. Since I am one of the Poster co-chairs for NOMS 2012 my work didn’t finish after the TPC meeting. I spent much of the rest of the week selecting papers to be presented as posters. Some of these were recommended by the TPC meeting, some were selected from the remaining full paper submissions, and 20 of the 30 submitted short papers were also accepted.

On Tuesday CNSM itself started. It’s a single track conference which once again this year attracted a large number of submissions, leading to a low acceptance rate of 14.6%. This meant that the papers presented were uniformly of high quality and authors put a lot of effort into their presentations. Presentations that most stood out for me were Imperial College’s paper on bandwidth management in Home Area Networks (my student Annie Rana is doing similar work), the joint Imperial College / IBM Research paper on refinement of management policies (which reminded me of our own previous work on the authoring and analysis in the policy Continuum) and the paper from KTH on using gossiping algorithms for resource allocation in cloud environments. My colleague Steven Davy did a very good presentation of our paper entitled “Policy-assisted Design and Deployment of Virtual Networks”, which is work that Steven plans to extend over the coming months.

Besides the paper presentations I really liked the keynotes from both Joe Hellerstein from Google and Mark Burgess from CfEngine. Joe talked about the challenges of assigning tasks to machines in Google’s data centres, giving intriguing glimpses of the complexity of the optimisation problems they are solving. Mark’s talk was a lot more high level, almost philosophical in scope, addressing the balance between automation by computers and human intervention. Mark’s slides and notes are available here.

SFI Digital Ireland Workshop

On Monday of last week I gave a talk as part of SFI’s Digital Ireland Workshop in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. I stayed in Dublin the night before (and got locked inside an underground car park for about 45 minutes…) as my talk was in the first session. Since I arrived early Ciara and Helen from SFI kindly arranged for me to take part in the photoshoot with Minister Perry, who officially opened the event and, in doing so, highlighted the Irish government’s continued support for investment in science and innovation.

My session, entitled Social Media, Web and Mobile Applications was chaired by Mark Little, CEO of storyful.com. Mark gave a very good introduction highlighting the impact of social media on the traditional business models of media and journalism. I gave an overview presentation of TSSG, focussing on a selection of our ongoing projects (download the slides here). My talk was pitched somewhat differently to the other speakers, Michael Hausenblas and Vit Novacek, both from DERI, and David Kavanagh from scrazzl.com, all of whom spoke about linked data / semantics / search.

Once my talk was done I was able to focus on the remainder of the talks, which were from Principal Investigators of the main SFI-funded centres in the ICT domain, from PhD students / post-docs working in these centres, or from folks involved in start-up companies working in the same areas. Full details of the agenda and links to slides can be found here. Talks that stood out most for me were Barry Smyth’s introduction to the state-of-the-art on recommender systems and Pádraig Cunnigham’s similar introduction to the Clique cluster’s work on social network analysis. Also striking was Anil Kokaram’s presentation on his group’s work on video post-processing techniques and tools, which led not only to him being awarded an Oscar, but also to Google’s recent acquisition of Green Parrot Pictures, a start-up company that originated in the group.

However, the session that interested me most was the session on Data Analytics, Mining and Visualisation. Obviously analytics and big data are the hot areas in computing at the moment, so it was great to see that so much high quality work is being done in Ireland in these areas. Barry O’Sullivan, Director of 4C, did an excellent job of introducing the link between optimisation and analytics, providing some very interesting examples of how techniques from both areas can be applied. In particular, he discussed his group’s recent work on scheduling of procedures within Irish hospitals, which showed that significant reductions in patient waiting times could be achieved if optimisation techniques were applied. Having said that, he did acknowledge that there are considerable and understandable barriers to adopting such solutions in the system. Nevertheless this led to a very interesting discussion about how the public service in general could benefit from working with scientists to help them identify efficiencies that could have a major impact on cost reduction.

The last session of the day included an introduction to the Irish International Content Services Centre by Neil Leyden, one of the two winners of the Your Country Your Call competition. The ICSC will seek to replicate the success of the International Financial Services Centre, by bring together multi-national companies, indigenous start-ups, government agencies and research centres working in the broad digital content area. Whilst it is still early days this sounds like it could receive significant backing from the government, so it will be very interesting to see how it evolves.

Finally, I should mention that the final session included a relatively provocative comment from Google’s Eoghan Nolan, who suggested that Ireland is supporting too many research groups in the ICT area, not all of whom are world class and that the government should therefore seek to withdraw support from less well performing groups and/or seek to merge groups so that critical mass can be attained. Whilst this is contentious I think there is a lot to be said from moving a certain degree in this direction, although I would not like to see the situation where one or two groups were practically guaranteed to hoover up the lion’s share of the available funding.

For a start

After over a year of tinkering about with WordPress I’ve finally to get my act together and write a proper post. For the moment I plan to use the blog for work related stuff… or, more accurately, the sort of gratuitous self-promotion researchers like myself are fond of. Possibly I’ll also branch out into other interests at some stage.

As the tagline indicates I’m a researcher, working in the telecommunications / computer science area on problems broadly related to increasing the level of automation in managing communications networks and services. For just over 8 years I’ve worked as part of the Telecommunications Software & Systems Group (TSSG) in Waterford Institute of Technology in Ireland. You can read my bio for more info, but basically I spend most of my time supervising and working with PhD students and collaborating with our academic and industry partners in the FAME strategic research cluster.

That’s it for now; next week I plan to post some impressions of the SFI Digital Ireland Workshop, where I’m speaking on Monday, and the IET 2011 Intelligent Environments Conference in Nottingham, where I’m presenting a paper on Tuesday.