Community Support

HIIT supported the Helsinki ICT Community by providing funding for the following activities:

  • Organising events such as workshops, conferences, hackathons, bootcamps, and summer schools.
  • Initiating new collaboration on potentially high-impact research challenges, often in a multi-disciplinary and cross-university setting.
  • Inviting postdoctoral researchers for short visits that may lead to recruitment.
  • Visiting high-profile universities or other organisations abroad.
  • Boosting the careers of young researchers by providing short-term “bridge funding”.

This funding was not limited to the HIIT research programmes, but was open to the whole Helsinki ICT community. In addition, it served an important purpose by being applicable to cases where other funding instruments were not easily available or the funding from other sources was not sufficient.

For a sample of the activities of the HIIT programmes, please see Research Highlights.

In 2017, 26 Community Support proposals received about 100 000 euros in total. About two thirds was granted for organising 16 events, in which HIIT typically covered about half of the total cost. One young researcher and two initiatives for new collaboration were supported. In addition, HIIT sponsored four research visits from Finland abroad and three visits from abroad to Finland.

Distribution of Community Support in 2017.

Examples of supported activities

AI Day 2017

The Artificial Intelligence Day held on 13 December 2017 in Dipoli, brought together 600 artificial intelligence experts and enthusiasts from universities, research organisations, companies and the public sector. The organiser of the event, the new Finnish Center for Artificial Intelligence FCAI established by Aalto University and the University of Helsinki, wishes to make the AI Day an annual event for promoting matchmaking, information sharing and cross-border collaboration.

More accurate transcription factor binding models

New model for the structure of transcription factor binding sites and a corresponding machine learning method developed by researchers at the University of Helsinki and Karolinska Institutet can handle large high-throughput data sets of DNA sequences.

The activity (“expression”) of genes in cells is regulated in part by so-called transcription factors (TFs). Such TFs are proteins that may bind to DNA in order to make regulatory effect on a gene associated to the binding site. To understand the regulatory mechanism in detail, it is essential to uncover for each TF the patterns or “motifs” in DNA to which the TF has strong binding affinity. Probabilistic models describing these binding affinities can be used, for example, to predict regulatory regions in a genome that are responsible for the expression of the corresponding genes.

In this research, we propose a novel modeling technique and an expectation maximization (EM) learning algorithm, implemented as software tool MODER, for discovering the modular structure of TF binding motifs. Using monomeric motifs, represented as Position Weight Matrices (PWMs), as the basic modules, the EM learning discovers both monomeric PWMs and their dimeric combinations.

The method and several new binding motifs discovered by it has been published in Nucleic Acids Research.

Figure: (A) A PWM model for a monomeric motif. (B, C) Two dimeric PWMs learned using the PWM (A) as the basic module.

Reference: J. Toivonen, T. Kivioja, A. Jolma, Y. Yin, J. Taipale, E. Ukkonen. Modular Discovery of Monomeric and Dimeric Transcription Factor Binding Motifs for Large Data Sets. Nucleic Acids Research, vol. 46, no. 8.

For more information:
Jarkko Toivonen, University of Helsinki, jarkko.toivonen@cs.helsinki.fi and
Esko Ukkonen, University of Helsinki, esko.ukkonen@helsinki.fi

Di­gital Hu­man­it­ies in the Nor­dic Coun­tries 2018 Con­fer­ence

Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 3rd Conference (DHN 2018) was organised at the University of Helsinki in March 7-9 2018. The conference, organised by HELDIG – the Helsinki Centre for Digital Humanities, brought together over 300 researchers and practitioners of digital humanities. As the digital humanities as a field is a complex mixture of partially overlapping domains, such as humanities computing, multimodal cultural heritage, and digital culture studies, the conference attracted guests from a variety of disciplines in humanities, language technology, and computer science.

Themes for DHN 2018 were History, Cultural Heritage, Games and Future, selected to comply with local DH interests as well as current thinking about the DHN setting in an international context. The overarching theme for the conference was Open Science, emphasising the role of transparent and reproducible research practices, open dissemination of results, and new forms of collaboration, all greatly facilitated by digitalisation. Conference also included nine pre-conference workshops. Part of the conference was organised as a public event, Di­gital & Crit­ical Fri­day at Tiedekulma, which also included three Open Sci­ence themed work­shops.

Based on the feedback by almost a hundred participants, the conference was successful in its aim to bring people together and to function as a high-standard platform for presenting one’s digital humanities research. The conference also presented a rather new feature for humanities scholars of peer-reviewed publication ready presentation (that were also published in conference proceedings: http://ceur-ws.org/Vol-2084/). For a more detailed analysis of the composition of DHN2018, see: http://ceur-ws.org/Vol-2084/preface.pdf

More information on DHN 2018: http://heldig.fi/dhn-2018

Association of Digital Humanities in the Nordic countries (DHN): http://dig-hum-nord.eu

International collaboration on AI powered systems for mental health

Thanks to community support provided HIIT, in 2017 a series of workshops and invited talks have initiated collaboration on using AI for mental health in particular considering workplaces.

Invited talks included Professor Kai Vogeley, University of Cologne | UOC · Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, who gave a talk in December 2017 on Neural Mechanisms of Intersubjectivity – From “Detached” Cognitive to “Truly” Social Neuroscience.

A concrete outcome of a workshop by invitation held in August 2017 has been joint supervision of a PhD candidate now successfully admitted at the Faculty of Medicine in the area of conversational agents for mental health. Isaac Moshe is jointly supervised by Niklas Ravaja (professor of eHealth and wellbeing at University of Helsinki Faculty of Medicine), Professor Giuseppe Riccardi (professor of computer science at University of Trento), and Heleen Riper (professor of eMental-Health / clinical psychology at VU University Amsterdam).

These developments mark important progress in interfaculty collaboration inside the University of Helsinki and strong collaboration with important and recognised experts in Europe on applying advanced technologies for mental health.

FRUCT21 Conference

The 21st Conference of the Open Innovations Association FRUCT was organised on 6-10 November 2017 in Helsinki. There were over 100 participants from more than 20 countries.

FRUCT is a large regional cooperation framework that promotes principles of open innovations cooperation between academia and industry. The FRUCT Association was established in 2007 by Nokia, and Finnish and Russian universities. Nowadays FRUCT consists of over one hundred active members and more than three thousand followers.

CoSDEO Workshop on Usable Security

In an increasingly connected world where the distinction between digital and analog gradually blurs, security is of imminent importance. However, traditional schemes rely on ever longer and frequently changed passwords and patterns are stretched to their limits (e.g. memorability and interface constraints). A new paradigm is required which stresses that that security is not an end in itself but that it has to provide at the same time usability. Such usable security has received increasing attention in industry and academia in recent years.

On March 19th 2018, the 6th CoSDEO Workshop on Usable Security (https://cosdeo.github.io/) will be conducted in conjunction with PerCom 2018 in Athens, Greece. With the support of an HIIT open call, Florian Alt (http://www.florian-alt.org/) from the group for Media Informatics at the University of Munich (LMU) could be won as a keynote speaker for the event. Florian is well known for his work in the field of Usable Privacy and Security, having proposed the SnapApp and SmudgeSafe applications which can mitigate shoulder surfing and smudge attacks on authentication systems. Florian will talk about ‘Ubiquitous Security – Challenges and Opportunities for Usable Security in the Ubicomp Age’.

In addition, the workshop featured invited talks by former Helsinki University Postdoc Hien Truong (NEC, Germany) and Dawud Gordon (twosen.se), as well as an industry keynote by Jan Lühr (anderscore).

Multi-Disciplinary Research Collaboration in VR for Physical Therapy

Together with Prof. Lily Díaz-Kommonen’s group in Aalto ARTS, Prof. Yu Xiao’s group in Aalto ELEC received seed funding from HIIT in autumn 2017 to initiate multi-disciplinary research collaboration in the area of virtual reality (VR) for physical therapy. By applying the “bodystorming” design methodology they came up with potential health-related scenarios where VR technology could be utilized. After that, they developed a VR game for Android phones to demonstrate one of the scenarios. The results of the study were presented at Aalto Digi and Experience breakfast on virtual and augmented reality on December 14, 2017.

Source: Lily Diaz, Yu Xiao, Jihye Lee, Tea Dickman. Health scenario for VR technology instrument. Aalto University. December 2017.

Rajapinta unconference

The first annual Rajapinta unconference was organised in Dipoli in November 2017. The event was open to everyone interested in the study of digital society or digital methods for social sciences. The themes included using machine learning for social sciences, the design of digital systems used by public government, sociology motivated studies of software and developers, and other cross-disciplinary themes involving social sciences and computing.

Thursday 2.11. was a workshop day that had two themes: online research ethics and infrastructures of digital data collection.

Friday 3.11. was an unconference day, which built upon the ideas and proposals of the participants.

The unconference was supported by HIIT and Kone Foundation.

Research Visit to Mozilla

Software experiments, adapted from the scientific method, help to establish causation and give predictive power. One of the most popular forms of experiment, called A/B testing, has been used repeatedly by technology forerunners like Google, Facebook and Microsoft over the last two decades. In A/B testing, two different versions of software can be tested with different sets of users without them even noticing. For instance, an old version of the software vs. a new version with a slightly changed color of a button in the user interface can be delivered to users. The collected user data, e.g. user clicks can be used to determine which version performs better, and product development decisions can be made based on the results.

Sezin Yaman’s PhD work focuses on how software experiments can be used to support development decision-making. Towards the end of her PhD studies, she did an HIIT sponsored research visit to Mozilla Corporation in Silicon Valley, California, where she worked on the applications of her current PhD research findings. During her stay, she conducted interviews and observational studies in order to explore how running experiments in an engineering organization can feed into creating better products.

The Mozilla visit was the last task in Yaman’s PhD project, and it greatly benefited her research work and future plans. At the moment, she is working on finalising her dissertation at the Computer Science Department, University of Helsinki, to be completed in the upcoming autumn. After that, she is planning to further explore software experiments and development decision-making processes in Finnish software companies.

Collaboration with CNR IEIIT on Indoor Localization and Activity Recognition

Indoor localization and activity recognition from WiFi signals is a field of active research in Communication, Pervasive and Ubiquitous computing domains in recent years. Specifically, fluctuation in signal strength, phase and energy distribution over frequency domains can be used as environmental stimuli to sense location, presence, activities and gestures in the proximity of a wireless receiver such as, for instance, a wifi access point, smartphone or Internet of Things (IoT) devices. For instance, gestures can be observed from Doppler Shifts in a reflected signal, gait of a person moving towards a wireless receiver can be extracted from phase changes in the reflected signals, or even movements as tiny as breathing were visualized exploiting Fresnel effects between a transmitter-receiver pair. However, most of these studies have been conducted in controlled laboratory environments with low interference from the surroundings and with single subjects only. It is an open challenge to improve the robustness of these recognition protocols to work in realistic environments.

With the support of the HIIT open call, Sanaz Kianoush, a PostDoc researcher from CNR IEIIT was invited to visit Helsinki region and in particular Aalto University from 01.02.2018 through 21.02.2018. Sanaz Kianoush’s research interests include Localization in Wireless Sensor Networks, Low-complexity and Energy-efficient localization in Cognitive Radio Networks. Specifically, during her stay, she collaborated with researchers of the Department of Communications and Networking (ELEC, Aalto University) on Multi-antenna systems for device-free activity recognition, localization and counting.

The studies are still ongoing but good progress has been made on the recognition and tracking of gestures from multiple subjects simultaneously. The established research collaboration will be further strengthened in the upcoming months as the studies on the generated data and the design of recognition models is further progressing.

RISK2017 Conference on “Risk and Security”

Security has become a growing concern to governments, companies, and international organizations. Cyberattacks, for instance, have caused considerable damage and exerted illegitimate influences on public opinion and policy making processes. Yet conventional risk assessment methods are not ideally suited for the analysis of these new forms of risks, which creates the demand for fresh concepts and improved tools.

In this setting, the 3rd Annual Conference Nordic Chapter of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA), held at Aalto Design Factory on 2-3 November, focused on the timely theme Risk and Security. The conference brought together more than one hundred practitioners and academics with interests in risk analysis and its applications in areas such as ICT, energy, environment, health and transportation. In particular, the conference sought to foster a closer dialogue between the two communities of safety and risk analysis, and to explore what opportunities the possible integration of methods and tools from these partly overlapping communities can offer.

The keynote speakers and panelists included leading academics and practitioners. For example, Ilkka Laitinen (Deputy General of the Finnish Border Guard) provided practical insights into the challenges of managing security risks; Terje Aven (University of Stavanger) clarified the unique characteristics of security risks; Mark Burgman (Imperial College London) considered the reliability of geopolitical forecasts; and Ahti Salo (Aalto University) elaborated on the potential and limitations of adversarial risk analysis. The scientific programme – which included a dedicated session on cybersecurity – is available at https://blogs.aalto.fi/risk2017/programme/. The conference dinner was held at restaurant Löyly where sponsors (including HIIT, represented by Dr. Andrew Paverd from Aalto University) expressed their warmest greetings.

The Nordic Chapter of the Society for Risk Analysis is a regional division of the Society for Risk Analysis Europe (SRA-E). It serves as a node for networking between risk researchers, policy makers and other decision makers in the Nordic and the Baltic countries. For more information, see http://www.sraeurope.org/home.aspx?pag=1432

Collaboration in Computer Vision with ETH Zürich

Determining correspondences in images of a scene plays a key role in many computer vision applications. Starting from December 2017, Iaroslav Melekhov made a 4-month research visit to the Computer Vision and Geometry group (CVG) at ETH Zürich and worked on this challenging problem under the supervision of Dr. Torsten Sattler. The CVG group is part of the Institute for Visual Computing that focuses on computer vision with a particular focus on geometric aspects.

The visit gave Melekhov an opportunity to interact with some of the leading researchers in the field. The collaboration resulted in a joint paper, which will be included in Melekhov’s PhD thesis. Moreover, new connections with ETH researchers were established, creating opportunities for further collaboration in the future.

Iaroslav Melekhov’s research visit to ETH Zürich was supported by Aalto University and HIIT.

Helsinki February Workshop on Theory of Distributed Computing

20 researchers working in the area of distributed algorithms met in a HIIT-sponsored research workshop in Helsinki in February 2018. The one-week event organised at Aalto University brought together computer scientists from Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, and Switzerland, among them professors, postdoctoral researchers, and doctoral students.

A key theme of the workshop was advancing our understanding of what kind of tasks can be solved efficiently in very large computer networks and other distributed systems. The research area is rapidly progressing, and the workshop focused on exploring the boundaries of what is currently known, identifying the most important open questions, and developing algorithmic techniques and mathematical tools for solving them. The workshop has already initiated a new joint research project related to the use of computers to design distributed algorithms.

More information on the workshop is available at http://research.cs.aalto.fi/da/feb2018/