Coronavirus, working from home and cybersecurity

Post by Neeshé Khan (2018 Cohort)

As coronavirus sweeps across the globe all sectors are looking towards governmental bodies to issue statements that outline the next steps to contain this pandemic. Even from its early days, coronavirus demonstrated its far reaching impact on economies through effecting major sectors such as hospitality, tourism, governmental operations, hospitals, exports, imports and education (to name a few).

Italy is on an incredible total lock-down that hasn’t been seen by any developed state in recent memory. Wuhan’s lock-down is an incredible feat albeit too late. The US takes a more relaxed stance but has seen a number of cases where businesses are encouraging or mandating employees to work from home (WFH). In the UK, the Chancellor has just announced a £50b emergency response budget to the national health services, companies with less than 250 staff will be refunded for sick pay (for a period of 2 weeks/employee) and Statutory sick pay will be paid to all those who choose to self-isolate, even if they don’t have symptoms. I have also had conversations with people in the health service who are taking an unpaid leave of up to a month during this time to safeguard themselves. So things are getting serious and business can allow employees to work remotely for at least without suffering financially.

The dilemma with many businesses is that they’re not setup correctly or securely enough to allow remote working. This is no surprise as it costs businesses a great deal of money to secure remote channels that can access their information systems and ties in closely with their existing software and hardware architecture. Plus, it’s a complex operation to roll out and debug.

If your cybersecurity is compromised whilst WFH, sure enough someone (most likely you) will be held accountable. So, what does it mean for you if you’re at small business/start-up/charity/governmental department that’s just implemented a WFH policy.

Before leaping for joy at how convenient this might be for you (cutting out commuting time, money and health risks from mouth breathers) take a beat and consider doing the following:

Safe working space at home

This is a big one. Homes have a lot of distractions so what would this mean for your productivity? Would you end up putting in more time to make up for it? Is there enough structure at your place to allow you to take timely breaks and balance out your professional and private life? Would you remember to lock your device every time you step away or risk your child hopping on and sending out an email you were drafting and cause a formal cyber incident? Would it just mean more work for you? A ‘safe’ space should be your first thought when considering WFH.

Insurance coverage

Check what your company’s insurance policy is. If you (or your cat) accidentally spills something on your company device, is it covered off office premises? You don’t want to be out of access and be out of pocket for a policy implementation that wasn’t well thought out and you didn’t know what the risks would be.

Cybersecurity when WFH

Both elements above involve cybersecurity. Insurance coverage also covers the Availability aspect of cybersecurity and working space at home covers cyber accidents and incidents. Not many people would even know what a VPN is and wouldn’t have this set up for their home broadband. And that’s OK for your personal use! But when working on your home Wi-Fi it could impact your cybersecurity levels when WFH. Before you begin, ask your employer if they have systems in place that ensure your cybersecurity levels while working remotely are equally secure as when you’re on the premises. This could entail things such as encryption that add an additional layer of security when working remotely.

Access

I found out through experience that while small companies offer a ‘basic version’ of working remotely it can come with a lot of lag (you have a portal you go through via a personal device to access your work computer’s desktop). If systems aren’t set up correctly (well configured) your access can hang or crash. This could mean you’ll end up doing the same task for the tenth time! If you’re using your personal device to remotely access your computer and are frustrated with the system not working, you might be tempted to move files to your personal devices (so it all ends before you enter your kill zone) – don’t! This becomes more hassle than it’s worth and it’s much easier to get in touch with your IT department to report the issue to fix before you can begin your work on that task again – so sip some tea in the meantime.

In some cases the drives can be separated so while it all appears normally on your work computer this might not be the case for when you’re working remotely. Check with your employer if there’s a specific drive you need to move your documents to (while on premises) to ensure you have access to them remotely.

If you have a company provided computer such as a laptop then you’re clear of most of the headaches that come with lag, crashing systems and availability of documents – hurrah!

Prefer conversations instead of emails or texts

Try to have as many skype/video/call conversations as possible. This ensures that you are actually speaking to the person who you think you’re speaking to so your communication has what is known as Integrity in cybersecurity. Access through an insecure connection (such as your home Wi-Fi even if it has a strong password) can mean your account gets compromised and you have a man-in-the-middle intercepting and responding to your confidential company communications.

These are just some of the things that came to my mind when thinking about WFH cybersecurity and I hope it helps! If you’re a team leader encourage your team to adopt these practices. If you’re an employer, certainly consider these aspects prior to enforcing remote working. It would be good for companies preparing to have their employees WFH, to have a session that outlines best practice scenarios, remits of liability and answer any concerns or queries while we wait for coronavirus to pass.

–originally posted on Neeshé’s blog

Reflection on Writing and Presenting a Conference Paper

post by Laurence Cliffe (2017 cohort)

The Audio Mostly 2019 conference provided me with a relevant and convenient platform through which I could present an outline of my PhD research activity to date. Convenient, and also economical, as this year it was hosted by the University of Nottingham’s Department of Music, but also highly relevant, as many papers from this particular conference’s previous proceedings have presented themselves as being important points of reference though my PhD work to date. Having followed particular research projects of specific relevance to my PhD, Audio Mostly not only presents itself as an appropriate platform for the publication of my work, but also as springboard for other publishing possibilities. This is made evident by many projects being initially presented at Audio Mostly, and then having additional work included within them and then being published and presented as journal articles or at other conferences as the projects progress and evolve.

The published paper presented a synopsis of what I considered as the most pertinent points of my research so far. Rather than presenting specific research data from the results of studies, the paper presented the results of my practical lab-based activities in the development of a working technical prototype, and outlined my methodology and approach, and two proposed study environments, the latter being the subject of currently ongoing and future plans for the development of the project.

All of my supervision team had input on the paper, from proofreading to practical advice and providing some written introductory content. Another academic, involved in one of the proposed studies, also provided some written content specifically relating to the introduction of this specific part of the project. I wrote an initial draft and then sent it to the relevant parties with a specific request on how I thought they may be able to contribute and help with its authorship.

One comment from a particular reviewer proved very useful and centered around the use and definition of a specific acronym. This prompted me to investigate the issue further and, as such, has enabled me to focus my research to a much greater extent and to communicate more effectively the subject of my research to others. It has also provided a much clearer definition of the place of my research within its specific sphere of study.

As well as presenting the paper, I also had the opportunity to demonstrate my technical prototype at the conference. Having been scheduled to present my paper before my demo gave me the perfect opportunity to engage with people whilst demonstrating, answering questions, and continuing discussions as a result of my presentation, and also answering some of these questions practically via the technical demonstration. Generally, the feedback was complimentary and demonstrated an interest in my work, especially in relation to its study through practical application.

Authors whose papers were successfully accepted to the conference have since been invited to contribute to a special edition journal on audio interactivity and to build on the papers initially presented. This seems like a logical next step, as I have since completed some of the proposed studies, and therefore can include the findings and conclusions from these studies in the paper, with a view to formulating a journal article, and providing me with an opportunity to publish the subsequent stage of my PhD research.

On reflection, there are two particular challenges that sprint to mind as a result of this publication and presentation process. The first was the practical task of synthesising a 7000-word paper into a 20-minute presentation. What content to include? What content to leave for discussion? How much detail do I need to include on specific points to get the points across? These were all questions I was asking myself. Another challenge was the problem of presenting ‘live’ research. By the time I actually presented, my research had moved on. I’d changed some of the technology within the prototype and another study opportunity had presented itself which I hadn’t included in my future work section. This led to a bit of back peddling during the presentation, but I did have the opportunity to discuss these points with individuals during my demonstration.

Link to my paper.

Originally posted on Laurence’s blog.

Research Exploring Social Media, Young People and Mental Wellbeing

post by Cecily Pepper (2019 cohort)

Hello everybody, I’m Cecily from the CDT 2019 cohort. As part of my PhD research, I’m exploring how social media affects the mental well-being of young people, with a specific focus on our sense of self. I am recruiting and interested in hearing thoughts from all young people, but I am particularly interested in hearing from looked-after young people. I am also interested in hearing thoughts from social care professionals on this research topic.

For my PhD, I am conducting three studies, two of which are with young people and one with social care professionals. These will be informal, online discussions that explore the effects of social media on our sense of self, existing policies surrounding social media, young people and mental health, and how lockdown may have impacted upon young people’s social media use and mental health. I hope that the results of the studies will offer young people the opportunity to share their voice on this topic and the results may potentially have implications for future policies and social media design.

For more information on how to get involved in the research,
please see my webpage: cecilypepper.co.uk
or contact me at Cecily.Pepper@nottingham.ac.uk 

Please share this with anyone you feel might be interested in taking part.

Thank you!

 

Call for Participants: Identifying synthetic aerial images

post by Matthew Yates (2018 cohort)

Hello,

I am University of Nottingham 3rd year PhD student partnered with the Dstl. My PhD project is about the detection of deep learning generated aerial images, with the final goal of improving current detection models.

For this study I am looking for participants to take part in my ongoing online study on identifying synthetic aerial images. We have used Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) to create these.

I am looking for participants from all backgrounds, as well as those who have specific experience in dealing with either Earth Observation Data (Satellite aerial images) or GAN-generated images.

This is study 2 in larger PhD project looking at the generation and detection of GAN synthesised earth observation data.

For more information on the project and studies please visit https://aiaerialimagery.wordpress.com/

 

Purpose: To assess the difficulty in the task of distinguishing GAN generated fake images from real satellite photos of rural and urban environments.  This is part of a larger PhD project

Who can participate? This is open to anyone who would like to take part, although the involvement of people with experience dealing with related image data (e.g. satellite images, GAN images) is of particular interest.

Commitment: The study consists of a short survey (2- 5 minutes) then a longer detection task (10-20 mins but can be completed in own time) hosted on Zooniverse.org. 

This study involves identifying the synthetic image out of a set of image pairs then marking the parts of the image that informed your decision.

How to participate? Read through the information on the project site and proceed to the link for Study 2

Project URL: https://aiaerialimagery.wordpress.com/   (See Study 2)

Study URL: https://formfaca.de/sm/_kBsk76eo

About the Zooniverse platform: https://www.zooniverse.org/lab

For any additional information or queries please feel free to contact me:
+44 (0) 747 386 1599     matthew.yates1@nottingham.ac.uk

Thanks for your time.

Matthew Yates

 

Internship as UX/UI designer

post by Serena Midha (2017 cohort)

As someone whose journey so far has been straight through education, from school to BSc to MSc and PhD, exposure to life outside of the education bubble has been fairly limited. So, for the internship, I was keen to work in industry!

With the arrival of the pandemic in my third year, there was a fair amount of concern that the opportunity for an internship was sparse. Around the time when I was starting to mildly panic, there was an advertisement for a virtual internship as a UX/UI Designer. The company was a start-up called Footfalls and Heartbeats and they had developed a technology that meant that knitted yarns could act as physiological sensors. The internship was focussed on one product which was a knee sleeve designed to provide physiological feedback to physiotherapists and athletes during training. The product was still under development, but the prototype looked just like a soft knee brace which weightlifters wear and the data it could measure included the range of motion of the knee and a squat repetition counter; the product had potential to measure velocity but that was an aim for further in the future.

The description seemed tailored to my idea of an ideal internship! It was related to my PhD as my research involves investigating effective ways of conveying brain data to users, and the internship project investigated ways of conveying the physiological data from the knee sleeve to users. The description of the project also suited my interests in sport (and weirdly knees and sewing). I applied and was lucky enough to be accepted. The application process had a few stages. The first stage was the submission of a CV and personal statement. After that, I got asked to do a practical task which involved a UX task of evaluating where I would input a certain aspect of the knee sleeve connection within the app, and a UI task of making high fidelity wireframes on Figma (a design software) based on low fidelity wireframes that were provided. The task had a 5-day deadline and I had no UI experience. To be honest, I had never heard of Figma (or high fidelity wireframes or basically anything to do with UI), so I basically spent all 5 days watching YouTube videos and doing a lot of learning! An interview with a director and data scientist/interface designer followed the practical task and they liked my design (somehow I forgot to tell them that I had only just learned what Figma was)!

There were two of us doing the internship; I was supposed to be designing the desktop app and the other person was to design the mobile and tablet app. We were supervised by the data scientist who interviewed me and he was a talented designer which meant he often took on design roles in the company. He wanted to create an office-like atmosphere even though we were working remotely so the three of us remained on a voice call all day (muted) and piped up when we wanted to discuss anything.

With the product still very much under development and its direction ever-changing, our project changed during every weekly team meeting for the first 4 or 5 weeks. I think this was because the company wasn’t really sure where the product was going and thus they would ask us to do something, like display a certain type of data, only for us to find out the next week that the product couldn’t measure that type of data. The product was supposed to be a business to consumer product and thus we started designing a detailed app fit for end users, but the company’s crowdfunding was unsuccessful so they changed direction to create a business to business product. This meant that our project changed to designing a tablet demo app which showcased what the product could do. They definitely didn’t need two internship people for this project but we made it work!

The most stand-out thing to me about the whole internship was the lack of market research within the team – I don’t think there was any! The product was designed for professional athletes and physiotherapists, yet I really couldn’t see how the two main sources of data it could measure would be useful for either party. I was pretty sure athletes wouldn’t want an app to count their reps when they could do it in their heads and I was pretty sure that physios were happy measuring range of motion with a plastic goniometer (and patients with swollen knees wouldn’t be able to fit on the knee sleeve). I raised these points and the company asked me to speak to my personal physio and his feedback was that he would have no use for the knee sleeve; however, the company decided to carry on with these functions as the main focus of the knee sleeve measurements and I think this was because measuring this data was most achievable in the short term. The whole thing was proper baffling!

However, by the end of the internship we had produced a really nice demo app. I had learned a lot about design in terms of how to design a whole app! We generally started with sketches of designs which then were digitised into low fidelity wireframes and then developed into the high fidelity end version. I also learned about some really helpful tools that designers use such as font identifies and colour pallet finders. We produced a design document which communicated in detail our designs to the engineers who were going to make the app. And I had a very valuable insight into a start-up company which was chaotic yet friendly.

My supervisor on the project was great to work with. He made sure we got the most out of the internship and had fun whilst doing it, and he created a very safe space between the three of us. The company had a very inclusive and supportive atmosphere and they made us feel like part of the team. I think the product has a lot of potential but needs developing further which would mean a later release date. I’m most looking forward to seeing what happens with the knitted technology sensors as they can have many potential applications such as in furniture or shoes.

 

 

Build a Better Primary

post by Dr Rachel Jacobs ( 2009 cohort)

My studio in Nottingham – Primary – is running a large crowd funding campaign to support developing the building and keeping the arts resilient in Nottingham post the pandemic. They are offering an opportunity to receive artworks, art books, postcards and more in return for support for their developments.

Primary is a local artist-led contemporary visual arts organisation, based at the old Douglas Road Primary School in Radford, Nottingham. They run a free public programme of events and exhibitions, and provide studio spaces to over 50 resident artists. They are a vital arts space for the city. They have worked regularly with Horizon and the Mixed Reality Lab through my work and other collaborations with researchers.

If you are interested in supporting them and receiving artworks in return look at the website here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/build-a-better-primary

Please also pass this on to anyone you know who loves art and you think might be interested!

Thank you!
Rachel

 

Call for Participants – Interaction for Children & Young People

Have you been affected by not seeing your family and friends during Covid-19 restrictions?

Horizon CDT PhD student Mel Wilson (2018 cohort) is looking for participants to help with her research into the effects of Covid-19 on children and young people.

You can find out more details on how to participate here.

For any additional information or queries please feel free to contact Mel at  Melanie.Wilson@nottingham.ac.uk.

 

Podcast – Creating an Autistic Space

Jenn Layton Annable (2020 cohort) is researching the intersection between gender, autistic experience, and self-identity.

Jenn joins Hanna Bertilsdotter-Rosqvist on the podcast by AutSpace to discuss how terminology, the choice of words, is essential in the process of creating an autistic space. Another important feature is the unusual internal sensory differences that Jenn experiences.

In the talk, Jenn refers to an article called Sensory Strangers. This is a chapter in the book Neurodiversity Studies: A New Critical Paradigm published by Routledge which Jenn is a co-writer of.

If you are interested in reading the article you can find it here.

 

Attending FAccT 2021

posted by Ana Rita Pena (2019 cohort)

The ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability and Transparency  (FAccT 2021) is an interdisciplinary conference with an interest in research on “ethical” socio-technical systems. Hosted entirely online the 2021 edition was the 4th edition of the conference, which started with fairly small in 2018 but has received a growing amount of interest in the last couple of editions.

The conference started on the 3rd of March with the Doctoral Colloquium, following with a Tutorial’s day (divided into three tracks: Technology; Philosophy/Law/Society and Practise) and a CRAFT day.

Before the consortium we were asked to prepare an informal presentation on our PhD work to present to the other participants in small groups. Having small breakout groups led to very engaging back and forth discussions on everyone’s work. Following on from that we had the choice of several discussion topics each in a different breakout room, the topics ranged from research interests to career advice to current world events. For the last activity of the consortium, we were divided into similar research interests and each group was allocated a mentor. The discussions we had ranged from understanding how all of the attendees’ research fitted together within a higher ecosystem to discussions on various approaches to incorporating our world/political views within our research. At times when focusing on our work it is easy to lose sight of the higher picture and even critically evaluate our own approach to our work, so being able to have a space to discuss it with a varied group of people working in a similar area was one of the most enriching experiences of the conference.

Another personal highlight of the conference was the CRAFT session “An Equality Opportunity: Combating Disability Discrimination in AI” which was presented by Lydia X. Z. Brown, Hannah Quay-de la Vallee, and Stan Adams (Center for Democracy & Technology). The CRAFT sessions are specifically designed to bring academics of different disciplines together to discuss current open problems. While algorithmic bias and discrimination regarding race and gender are more widely studied, disability bias has been severely understudied, this in part caused by the difficulty to summarise the varied disability spectrum in discrete labels. The session’s discussion was to imagine and think about possible ways to address disability bias, while still giving a voice to people with lived experiences.

After the weekend, there were three full days of paper presentations. Each day there was a panel session with a given topic followed up with the keynote. On day one the panel topic was “Health Inequities, Machine Learning, and the Covid Looking Glass “ followed by an excellent keynote by Yeshimabeit Milner from Data For Black Lives on Health, Technology, and Race (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmaNsbB-bIo for the keynote video). The second day discussion was around the topics of the flaws of mathematical models of causality and fairness approaches. To end the conference on a bit of a more optimistic note the final discussions were possible future directions and the role of journalism and the importance of good journalism to audit algorithms and make them accountable to the public.  The keynote speaker was Julia Angwin who was the first journalist to report on the COMPAS recidivism prediction tool bias. The COMPAS dataset bias was one of the issues that made the topic of algorithmic fairness gain some traction and that is still commonly used in the literature of Fairness in Machine Learning. Julia is currently in charge of The Markup, an independent and not-for-profit newsroom that focuses on data-driven journalism.

The different discussions enabled in the conference gave me some space to look at my own work and critically reflect on what I am doing, why I am doing it and the approach that I am taking, which is a conversation with myself that is still in process. It was not necessarily the very interesting research that was presented,  but the deep discussions that had taken place that made my attendance of FAccT 2021 an enriching experience.

Here are some of my favourite papers of the conference:

Representativeness in Statistics, Politics, and Machine Learning
(https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3442188.3445872)

Epistemic values in feature importance methods: Lessons from feminist epistemology (https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3442188.3445943-)