purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Model-Checking for Analysis of Information Leakage in Social Networks has been accepted into the post-proceedings volume of the conference it was given at. The acceptance is notable, in particular, for the referees' comments which amount in all cases to "have dealt with previous comments more than sufficiently, nothing more to do" which is good in the light of how much time I don't have between now and the camera ready deadline.
purplecat: (lego robots)
One of the odder things that happened to me at the tail end of last year was the below appearance in the EPSRC's Pioneer Magazine. It was bizarre chiefly because the first I knew about it was when a colleague showed me the article. The text is cut-n-paste from a piece the University Corporate Communications department wrote about me at the time of the first NASA Space Apps challenge (so approx. 5 years ago) and the pictures were lifted from my website. Still, not complaining...



purplecat: (lego robots)
Sunday: 16k run (thought I might work slowly up to half marathon distance and see how I feel about it). Usual household chores and catching up. Sausage Casserole for supper (may the various packet sauce companies never stop making Sausage Casserole packet sauce!)

Monday: Gave a talk at work (a re-run of my TAROS talk), seemed to go OK. Read project specifications from some of my students.

Tuesday: Wrote up a quick guide to software engineering for my project students in the hopes that their project plans would become more realistic as a result. Had some rather frustrating conversations with them in the afternoon. E.g.

Me: Why did you add all this complicated stuff into your project plan?
Student: Because it says the robot should explore the room in the project description.
Me: I'm sure it doesn't, let's take a look.
* We look at the project description. I read it out to the student. Including the bit about finding and displaying Mars surface data in a 3D simulator *
Student (panicked): But I don't know anything about 3D simulators!
Me: But it says in the project description "student must be familiar with 3D simulators"
Student: I didn't read that bit

Bear in mind that the project description is only 3 paragraphs long, I wasn't expecting him to have read and understood 10 pages of fine print. I've no idea what project he thought he'd chosen. I keep telling myself that, with 8 students, there was always a high chance that one would be at the lower end of the bell curve and I shouldn't invest too much time and energy in trying to rescue him. As B. has pointed out, there's a reason why I was so happy to give up teaching when I stopped being a lecturer. I'm definitely going to have to work on keeping my stress levels down, even with the fairly minimal amount of teaching that comes with the new post.

Wednesday: Went to a briefing meeting for an "Inreach" project in which I will mentor a bunch of undergraduates producing an activity for a University "Science Jamboree". Actually got some work that might pass for research done!

Thursday: Drove to work in order to collect the "robot table" that I use for some events. Problem project student emailed asking for a meeting because he couldn't get his Raspberry Pi onto the university Wifi network. Although I did actually have time I figured I could waste quite a lot of it on a day ear-marked for research doing this for him, so emailed back to say I wasn't available and he should familiarise him with running his Raspberry Pi powered robot directly, rather than over the network (was terribly proud of myself). B's older brother was at home when I arrived, though he left before my sister turned up to stay the night (she was speaking at a conference in Manchester).

Friday: Went out for lunch with B. We tried the new(ish) restaurant at the Whitworth which had been much trumpeted when it opened (indeed last time we tried to go there for lunch we couldn't get in). It was something of a disappointment the starter arrived after the main course (though B. thinks this was because we messed up when ordering) and my burger was burnt (B. tried to persuade me it was artistically char-grilled, but I'm fairly sure it was burnt). Conference call in the afternoon with the IEEE committee that's trying to come up with guidelines on the ethics of artificial intelligence and personal data.

Saturday: Spent the day at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry running a Lego Rover stand as part of International Day of the Girl. The plan was that groups of Brownies and Girl Guides would go around various stands to experience structured activities. Initially this was pretty chaotic with random children turning up and leaving, but by about midday they had sorted themselves out and a small group would, indeed, come to the stand to be lead through what was going on. I also talked to a fair few members of the general public and some people from Computing At School North West who seemed interested in the idea of adopting the Lego Rover activity as something primary schools might use, so all in all a useful (if tiring) day.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
For the past few years my job status has been permanent insecure, meaning that my post was funded by money from grants and should those grants end without another being obtained then I would be made redundant. As of 1st September, half my time will be permanent secure meaning they need a better reason than the money has run out to sack me.

As of 1st September for half my time I will be a Knowledge Exchange Support Officer which means my job will be turning my Lego Rovers public understanding activity into an Impact Case for the 2020 REF. The other half of my time will continue to be a permanent insecure job as a postdoc on the Verifiable Autonomy grant.

I'm fairly sure this was prompted the fact I started looking for lectureship jobs earlier this year and so some money was found in order to keep my in place to work on the Impact Case. So it's sort of nice to be wanted, though it would also have been nice to have got an interview for one of the lectureships. That said, this wasn't a done deal. I had an interview today with a five person panel consisting of the head of school (of computer science and electrical and electronic engineering), both heads of department (CS and EEE), the university head of impact and the school manager.

The job does allow me to apply for grants in my own name, however, so the opportunity is there for me to turn this into a full time academic post (with a heavy emphasis on public engagement) if I can make that work out.

Still, Yay! for being half time permanent secure!!!
purplecat: (academia)

We are pleased to inform you that your paper

"How Did They Know?" - Model-Checking for Analysis of Information Leakage in Social Networks

has been accepted for presentation at COIN@ECAI.


Matryoshka, the Boss, and I cooked up the idea for this paper while at Dagstuhl based, more or less, on the fact that I was going to be going to ECAI (European Conference on Artificial Intelligence) anyway (for an IEEE meeting on Robot Ethics) and so thought I would also attend the associated COIN workshop (which is about organisations of software agents). All that being the case it seemed a shame not to submit something to the workshop. We therefore took some previous work of ours on modelling groups of agents as further agents which we had applied to Digital Crowds, and Matryoshka's interest in "fixing the Internet", dumped it in a probabilistic model-checker and came up with some numbers for how likely messages were to reach unwanted parties via forwarding through social networks.

It needs a lot of further work, but it feels like it has some potential and the referees seem to have felt so too. In fact I'm not sure I've ever seen such unanimity towards "accept" among a set of reviews.
purplecat: (lego robots)
We are pleased to confirm that your paper:

Agent-based Autonomous Systems and Abstraction Engines: Theory meets Practice

has been accepted as a full paper at TAROS 2016, the 17th Towards Autonomous Robotic Systems conference.


This paper is more a set of system descriptions covering work on autonomous robot arms (done as part of the Reconfigurable Autonomy project I was working on until a couple of years ago), work on autonomous vehicle platoons (done as part of the Verifiable Autonomy project I'm currently working on) and the Lego Rovers work - and noting some incremental changes the practice of building these systems has had on the theory behind them.

However since we spend quite a lot of time system/demo building and they are really hard to write up and get published I'm quite pleased to get this published, even as a minor conference paper. It also helps maintain the link to research in the Lego Rovers work which I think is good in principle, and will help with any putative impact case.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Lemn Sissay is a Manchester poet, possibly best known for writing poems on the walls of pubs, included the beleagured pub on the corner near us. B. did not support his bid to become Chancellor of the University, opting for someone more scientific and straightforwardly academic. However our neighbours (the Manchester Museum and Art Gallery Mafia) supported his successful bid and we've seen him several times since and can't fault his ability to say the right thing at the right occasion. This video he made for the university is a case in point.


EDIT: Actually "right thing at the right occasion" sounds rather false. It's his ability to eloquently express something that an event or organisation is, ideally, striving towards that is impressive.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
From an email received by Matryoshka who has been masterminding everything:

I am pleased to confirm that your paper "Formal Verification of Ethical Choices in Autonomous Systems" has been accepted for publication in Robotics and Autonomous Systems.

This was originally a journal special issue version of our 2013 TAROS paper: Ethical Choice in Unforeseen Circumstances, but via a long and tortuous story its become more of a standalone extension of the work in its own right.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Liverpool has a new vice-chancellor, Janet Beer, who has been indulging in a little bit of a charm offensive. This has involved a lot of consultation I didn't really feel qualified to engage with, but also garden parties. I went to one of the garden parties.



According to the VC's speech at said garden party, this tree was on the point of death until Yoko Ono hugged it and it revived. What Yoko Ono was doing in the grounds of the Liverpool VC's lodge was not explained, though one assumes it was some "Liverpool celebrity" connection.




The VC's lodge itself.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (agents)
A slightly delayed announcement because the referee's comments required a lot of work, but this will be in AAMAS 2015 (Autonomous Agents and Multi-agent systems). It's a follow up to our 2013 paper Agent Reasoning for Norm Compliance: A Semantic Approach. Once again Birna took the lead, but I helped with a lot of the proofs and we did most of the work while she was on a two week visit to Liverpool in the Autumn.

In our last paper we allowed an agent to comply with a set of social (or other) norms by simply doing nothing. In this paper we tackle situations where "doing nothing" isn't actually appropriate. The up shot is that we can't guarantee than some agent can obey all social norms, but we do manage to define some norm set that any agent should be able to follow.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I got an email from Birna (University of Delft) yesterday to let me and a couple of other people know that she had won the Dutch Prize for Research in ICT 2014. This was for work on socially adaptive software - the idea being that software systems that are integrated into our personal lives need to obey not only legal rules imposed at national and international levels but the various personal and family rules and systems that vary from person to person and family to family. She's been looking at ways to allow people to state these personal and family rules and then to get the software to actual conform to them.

Birna and I (together with Michael Fisher and Koen Hindriks) have worked on a couple of papers where we tried to build a formal framework in which a logic-based agent programming language could obey rules provided "at runtime" rather than put in place beforehand by a programmer. This is only a part of the work that she's done on socially adaptive software but it is nice to feel we helped make a contribution towards her prize.

The award notification is in Dutch and, although I have been attempting to teach myself the language via Duolingo*, I'm nowhere near good enough to provide a translation.

*which is almost worth it for the entertainment value of the surreal sentences it uses to teach alone.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (agents)

I am pleased to inform you that your paper:

Towards Verifiably Ethical Robot Behaviour:

Has been accepted to be presented as a talk at the AAAI-15 workshop
on AI and Ethics.

We had a large number of submissions and the acceptance rate was
under 40%.


Nicely high level comments in the review as well which should be fairly easy to incorporate into the paper.

This is our attempt (together with Alan Winfield) to convert the work he describes here into a form were we can prove stuff about it. In short the previous work developed a framework that could integrate with whatever mechanism a robot was using to decide what to do and filter options down to those that were "most ethical" - the example used was a robot that normally would not collide with humans but, in the event that a human was about to walk into a hole in the ground, the robot would collide with the human in order to prevent them doing so. We converted this into a framework where we could prove that it was doing the filtering correctly in a very abstract description of the scenario and also generate some probabilistic results about likely outcomes in more concrete versions of the scenario.

We're also experimenting with something called Open Notebook Science and so have an Open Notebook for the work in the paper - I personally think the notebook is very dull but then the point isn't to be interesting so much as transparent.
purplecat: (academia)
We have received the reports from our advisors on your manuscript, "A Formal Basis for Digital Crowds", which you submitted to Distributed and Parallel Databases.

Based on the advice received, the Editor feels that your manuscript could be accepted for publication should you be prepared to incorporate minor revisions.


As one of my co-authors notes, having read the reviews, "We have until july 31st to get proficient at the last 15 years in communication protocols"
purplecat: (lego robots)
STEMNet picked me (along with some other STEM Ambassdors) to take part in a series of training videos. They've just been released on the web (the full set, The Lego Rover video, and a Tips and Tricks video which has a few clips of me in it).

I always hate seeing myself on film (doesn't everyone?). This is easily the most professional such thing I've been in and I was still cringing. It was a lot of fun to make though and involved much rapid changing of jumpers to give the illusion that it was filmed over several days.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I am pleased to inform you that your paper

Title: Actions with Durations and Failures in BDI Languages

has been accepted for poster presentation at ECAI'14 and a two-page publication
in its proceedings.


I actually received this notification a while back but I was sulking about the "two-page publication" part, wrestling with the childcare issues attending the conference was going to raise and generally not feeling particularly celebratory about it. However the original 8 pages have been brutally hacked down to 2, though I personally think it will be be a bit of a miracle if they are comprehensible to someone in that form and the original 8 have been issued instead as a University technical report so if anyone really wants to know what we were on about they can find out.

One of the reasons we went the technical report route was I realised while I was hacking how much I dislike discovering a reference is actually two page short paper from ECAI (European Conference on Artificial Intelligence) or IJCAI (International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence) because at that length the content is generally high-level hand waving or densely technical with no context or motivation. As a result of the compromise between my boss and I about what should go in our 2 page version, I have high hopes it manages to combine both high-level hand waving (boss's preference) and poorly motivated densely technical stuff (my preference).

For those actually interested in the content, we realised that sometimes doing stuff (e.g., moving from point A to point B) takes time, and sometimes it goes wrong while you are doing it, and that the existing rational agent programming languages didn't handle this very well. So we outlined in a general way how it should be handled. One of the referees thought it was an interesting problem but our solution was "a bit trivial". I resisted the temptation to write "well of course the solution looks obvious now" in my author's response.
purplecat: (academia)
We have received the reports from our advisors on your manuscript, "Practical Verification of Decision-Making in Agent-Based Autonomous Systems", which you submitted to Automated Software Engineering.

Based on the advice received, your manuscript could be accepted for publication should you be prepared to incorporate minor revisions.


This paper hasn't quite had the legs of the albatross paper (actually it hasn't even come close to being the burden the albatross paper was), but it has certainly done the rounds involving major rewrites and considerable extra implementation effort. Bits of it have also ended up in other publications (most notably the Communications of the ACM article) and that's always a bit worrying. I didn't want to end up in a situation where the actual nitty-gritty technical detail was rendered unpublishable because the high-level view had appeared elsewhere. One of the referees even flags this up and has asked for some clarifications about what has appeared elsewhere, but thankfully agrees there is sufficient novel work left to make it publishable.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
I read stuff like this and wonder if my situation is just highly discipline dependent, or I'm somehow oblivious to all the pressure. It's unlikely to be department dependent since I've worked as a postdoc in three high-ranking CS departments now.

The comments on the article suggest that it describes a situation that is particularly acute in lab-based science but I tend to be suspicious of comments below the line (not here, obviously, where you are all lovely, intelligent and rational people (fingers crossed that that is not a "summon troll" spell)).
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (agents)
I was going to start this post with the words "It is very strangeā€¦" but I suspect in the modern age it isn't strange at all, it merely hasn't happened to me before.

At any rate, when I woke up this morning it was to find I had been tweeted (or, at least, mentioned in a tweet)1 by a complete stranger. This alerted me to the fact I had an article in a magazine - Space Safety Magazine in fact2.

To be fair, I did know there was going to be an article in Space Safety Magazine. I even wrote it. I just wasn't really aware that it was imminently due to appear.

Here it is - it appears to be publicly available and is aimed at a more or less general audience: Safe Autonomous Space Software.

1. I'm sorry, I really haven't grasped twitter. I think I was just mentioned, but maybe he was tweeting at me.

2. No, this is really a thing, and presumably not just invented for the opportunity to appear as a guest publication on Have I Got News For You.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
It turns out that our Communications of the ACM article is available open access - I have no recollection whether this is journal policy, we paid for it to be open access, or it's just open access for a while. However if you're interested in reading one of my papers which aims to be at least a little accessible (aimed at computery folk rather than computational logicians specifically, for instance) then this is probably your opportunity.

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