Archive for September 2012
The aim of this joint event was to look at how the BCS can support and encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, especially in the technology sector; unsurprisingly, I spoke about the educational aspects of the problem and how we must continue to fund (and leverage) the UK’s science and research base.
My talk is below; you can also watch the other speakers.
I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. [...] I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose.
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (1999)
Big whorls have little whorls
That feed on their velocity,
And little whorls have lesser whorls
And so on to viscosity.
Tiny Transactions on Computer Science (TinyToCS) is the premier venue for computer science research of 140 characters or less.
This is certainly an interesting concept: computer science research papers whose body fits into 140 characters, although the abstract may be longer (up to 250 words), plus references. However, the abstract is not allowed to elaborate on the result; see, for example, Safe Haskell. TinyToCS focuses on the sound bytes to draw readers in and convey key ideas, but provides background and references to those who want to dig deeper.
As per the Call for Papers and the Chairs’ Note in Volume 1, the creators hope that TinyToCS contributes to the growing discussion on academic publishing in the modern era. While similar initiatives using 140 characters have been used for science communication on Twitter, this is the first time I have seen a serious attempt at disseminating computer science research — it will be interesting to see how this project develops.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation had always planned to manufacture in the UK, but last year had to make the decision to manufacture in China due to cost:
Last year, when nobody had heard of the Raspberry Pi, we had been unable to find a British manufacturer whose prices per unit (especially at a point where we were thinking of sales in the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands you’re seeing now) would work for us, and who believed that the project would be enough of a success for them to risk line space for us. There was just no way to make the Raspberry Pi in the UK and keep the price at $25 for the Model A (which will be released before the end of the year at the promised price) and $35 for the Model B.
Happily, things change. After six months of negotiation, both Premier Farnell and Element14 will now move the bulk of their Raspberry Pi manufacturing to South Wales, with the initial contract seeing the Pencoed plant producing 30,000 Pis a month, creating around 30 new jobs.
The highlights of Revision 2.0 include the ability to power a Pi with a powered USB hub, a fix for an issue that caused problems when connected to TVs by HDMI, a new reset circuit, two mounting holes and “Made in the UK” etched into the PCB near the power jack (click on image below). Revision 2.0 has been coming off the Pencoed production line for the past few weeks, so they will have already started arriving in orders (I have two of the Revision 1.0 + ECN0001).
This is great news for the Raspberry Pi Foundation and great news for Wales.
This week I had the pleasure of speaking at Cumberland Lodge, an educational charity and a unique conference centre in the heart of the Great Park, Windsor. Its patron is The Queen, who has granted sole occupancy of a beautiful seventeenth-century house for discussions aimed at the betterment of society.
I was an invited speaker for Life Beyond the PhD, a celebration of postgraduate research and an opportunity for PhD students to reflect on their future careers and develop the skills to get them there. The attendees are able to hear leading public figures recount the life decisions they made after their PhDs, as well as hearing from experts in higher education policy, communication, career development and impact. One of the aims of the conference is prepare students for an increasingly interdisciplinary academic life, as well as showing that PhDs have demonstrable value both inside and outside academia.
I was speaking in a session entitled Working Inside and Outside Academia: Views from the Recent Past, with Alice Bell and Paul Hurst, a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group. We each gave a brief biographical history, our educational background and described our motivations for doing PhDs and why we stayed in academic or not. While each of our stories and career decisions are by definition unique (and hence it might not be possible to abstract anything explicitly transferable from them), it felt useful reflecting on what I had done and describing the processes and motivations. My one overriding message was along the lines of “be ballsy” i.e. go for it and take the opportunities that pop up, especially early on in your career. With the huge changes in academia and academic careers over the past ten years, I would say you have to be more adaptable and diversified: clearly research is of huge importance, but also teaching, policy and public engagement.
While I did not get the opportunity to listen to the attendee’s ten minute presentations on their research at the end of the week, I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with a wide range of researchers from a diverse set of disciplines (not just scientists!). It was also a pleasure to listen to and chat with some of the other speakers, including the Rt Hon the Lord Smith of Finsbury (former Labour minister, Chairman of the Environment Agency), Professor Rosemary Deem (Vice Principal-Education, Royal Holloway) and Professor Julia Buckingham (Pro-Rector-Education and Academic Affairs, Imperial College London). It was also great to finally meet Sophie Duncan, Deputy Director of the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE).
A big thank you to Alastair, Owen, Faye and the rest of the Cumberland Lodge team for their warm welcome, hospitality and wide range of interesting discussions. If you are a PhD student in any discipline, I highly recommend applying for Life Beyond the PhD 2013 next August.