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SICSA: Collaborative Research in Computing

What does Scottish research pooling look like from the inside? Steven Kendrick, Executive Officer at the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA), gives a unique perspective.

SICSA received its first SFC funding in 2008. Now in its second phase of funding, the future of the SICSA is assured until 2020.

From the perspective of computing science research in Scotland, SFC research pooling has been an undeniable success. The cultural changes that the pool has fostered across our member institutions are palpable. Senior academics who have worked in the discipline for decades tell me time and time again that SICSA has enabled a real shift in thinking among academics around inter-institutional collaboration. The focus among most researchers is now on working together, rather than in competition with each other. Of course, each of the SICSA members has their own strengths and priorities, but we are now thinking as a collective unit.

Binary codeAt a higher level, the pool enables Scottish universities to work in collaboration and share knowledge for the good of the discipline. It helps us to leverage research funding for our members and gives us a strong, unified voice. For example, our Education group, comprising all 14 SICSA institutions, aims to continually improve the provision of computing education from primary level upwards. Similarly, our Athena SWAN network brings together academics at all levels from across Scotland to try to address the gender imbalance in computing and more generally to promote the advancement of women in STEMM. 

The SICSA funding programmes, Graduate Academy and Research Themes are all about building communities, developing research expertise and ensuring that the experience of the PhD community in Scotland is second-to-none. We deliver a lively schedule of events for researchers in seven core themes in computer science; as well as running short-term Research Themes and Challenges in emerging and interdisciplinary areas, such as “Future Cities”. We facilitate visits to Scotland by distinguished academics and industrial researchers from across the world and we make it possible for Scottish universities to host high-profile international conferences and summer schools. Our PhD conference brings together students from across Scotland every summer, to sow the seeds of future collaboration. Colleagues from south of the border tell us, “If only there were a similar event for students at English Universities”!

These are challenging times for Scottish Higher Education, but the continuation of SICSA provides a firm foundation for our members to collectively extend Scotland’s position as a world leader in informatics and computer science research.

Steven Kendrick, Executive Officer, Scottish Informatics and Computer Science Alliance (SICSA) - 15 Dec 2016