Call for Proposals to Support the Helsinki ICT Community

In these calls, we wish to support initiatives that support HIIT’s mission. The next deadline is 6.6.2019.

In these calls, we are looking for proposals related to following activities:

  • events – organization of events
  • collaboration – initiating new university-company, cross-university and/or multi-disciplinary scientific collaboration
  • recruitment of postdocs – inviting potential talented postdoc candidates to visit Finland
  • visit abroad – sponsoring of longer research visits abroad
  • career – boosting the career of highly successful doctoral students

The idea is that in these open calls the target is to support activities with clear added value and high potential impact, in cases where no existing funding instrument is easily available or the available funding is not sufficient.

In case you have an excellent idea that you feel does not fit well to any of the categories below, please send email to Patrik Floréen.

Note that this call is NOT limited to the HIIT research programmes, but OPEN to the whole Helsinki ICT community, defined for this purpose as the HICT network: the main applicant / contact person needs to be listed as a HICT supervisor at Younger researchers or even students are encouraged to apply (when applicable), and listed as co-applicants, as long as their supervisor / the main applicant is a member of HICT. Please make sure that the main applicant is informed, as the main applicant will be the contact person, also responsible for the reporting.

Prepare your application online via Webropol

Call target

The mission of HIIT is to enhance the quality, visibility and impact of research on information technology, and we are looking for initiatives that support this mission. Our longer-term (over one year) commitments are channeled through postdoctoral researcher positions in the strategic HIIT research programmes; in this call we focus on shorter-term funding and support activities that take place during the calendar year of 2019 – these activities may continue even further in the future, but the requested funding needs to be spent by the end of this year (31.12.2019). Activities to be funded may have started earlier, before submitting a funding request. We expect typical funding requests to be between 1.000 and 20.000 euros (with the lower end for example for sponsoring a workshop, and higher end for funding MSc thesis work (e.g., a few person months) on a topic supporting new collaborative research. In exceptional cases, we may consider even larger grants.

Decision criteria

As already stated above, the objective of HIIT is to enhance the quality, visibility and impact of the Helsinki region research on information technology, so successful applications are expected to clearly support one or more of these objectives. In addition, as a joint research institute of Aalto University and University of Helsinki, priority is given to applications initiating or enhancing collaboration between the two universities, supporting common focus areas in ICT and the strategies of both universities, and demonstrating clear added value by supporting activities that might not take place without this support.

There is no restriction on the number of the proposals a professor can submit, but in the funding decisions, we may also consider the overall balance between the various fields of ICT (in Helsinki).

Decision process

The funding decisions are made by the HIIT Steering Group, which has meetings once per month. Applications should be sent at least one week in advance.

Funding categories

EVENTS – Support for organizing of events

  • The target of this funding category is to provide support for organizing workshops, conferences, hackathons, bootcamps, summer schools or other events in Finland or abroad. In the application, please explain who is the targeted audience, how you plan to market your event, and how this event will increase the visibility, impact or quality of Helsinki ICT. In marketing, HIIT expects to be acknowledged for sponsoring the event. The event may take place abroad, for example, as a satellite workshop of a major conference, but the main applicant needs to be a HICT supervisor, and in charge of the organization of the event. HIIT provides typically only partial support (e.g., covering traveling expenses of one or two invited speakers). In addition to financial support, we can also help in acquiring a “university neutral” web site for the event (under, if the event is jointly organized by the two universities, and the organizers do not wish to use the default web templates of Aalto or University of Helsinki. HIIT currently does not maintain its own administrative staff, so the practical arrangements need to be handled by the applicants themselves together with their local service organizations.

COLLABORATION – Support for initiating new university-company, cross-university and/or multi-disciplinary scientific collaboration

  • HIIT is willing to support new research initiatives that involve at least two research groups interested in common potentially high-impact research challenges that require collaboration of several research groups. Such collaboration is often multi-disciplinary and cross-university: strengthening collaboration within a single department is not totally out of the picture, but not our first priority. However, note that the proposals do NOT have to include research groups both from the Aalto and UH CS departments: for example, new collaboration between an Aalto CS professor and another professor at University of Helsinki (not necessarily CS), or perhaps another school in Aalto, makes a good candidate for this funding. Concretely, such an initiative could be, for example, funding for a MSc thesis work supervised by a HICT professor, on a multidisciplinary topic agreed upon with the new potential collaborator (and utilizing their expert knowledge or data).
  • HIIT is also willing to support new research initiatives that involve on the one hand one or several research groups in Aalto University or University of Helsinki and on the other hand one or several companies or public organizations. Please note that it says “university-company” in the headline to be short, but the counterpart can also be public organizations. The objective of these new research initiatives is to explore grounds for further collaboration. Ideally, this would be a seed for planning a new research project, which would seek separate external funding.
  • Visits abroad are generally not supported by this instrument, unless the visit is directly linked to a concrete project proposal: for example, travel funding related to planning of a new EU project proposal is OK (but the purpose of the trip has to be clearly explained in the application).

RECRUITMENT OF POSTDOCS – Support for inviting potential talented postdoc candidates to visit Finland

  • Recruitment of talented postdoctoral researchers is one of the key elements in advancing HIIT’s mission. HIIT coordinates joint postdoc calls twice a year, but in addition to the regular calls, we now launch a new continuous call for inviting especially talented postdoctoral candidates to pay a visit to Helsinki/Espoo. The idea: in case you meet a person you think would be an excellent candidate for a postdoc position, but no suitable call is open at the moment, you can invite such a person for a short site visit, and HIIT can cover the expenses provided that the following requirements are fulfilled:
    • The candidate is truly exceptional, and would strengthen the Helsinki ICT community
    • The candidate is looking for a postdoctoral position
    • The candidate is willing to give a guest lecture both in Otaniemi and in Kumpula
    • The visit program and the candidate’s CV are planned and publicly announced well before the visit
    • The candidate can be interviewed by any member of the Helsinki ICT community
    • If several parties are interested in making an offer, the candidate is informed jointly of all the available possibilities, and the candidate will decide with whom to start negotiations
  • The inviting host is responsible of all the practical arrangements (including arranging meetings with other professors willing to interview the visitor).

VISIT ABROAD – Support for longer research visits abroad

  • Researcher visits to high-profile universities or other organizations can be beneficial for increasing the visibility, impact or quality of Helsinki ICT, but the expenses of such visits are often quite high, and funding is typically divided among several funding organizations. HIIT will not cover all the travel expenses of such visits, but can be one of the sponsoring organizations.

CAREER – Boosting the career of highly successful doctoral students

  • In some cases, the last stage of doctoral studies can be somewhat problematic, as the student may have submitted the thesis already for pre-examination, and would be willing to move on in his/her career, but the funding project may “lock” the student in the old research themes and physically in Finland, while getting experiences of new environments and ideas might be better for the student at this stage of the career (and make his/her CV stronger). Moreover, the incentive to finish the PhD as early as possible is not a very good one, if it just means early termination of the contract of the student. To alleviate these problems, HIIT can provide short-term (1-6 months) “bridge funding” for selected students who have shown excellent progress in their studies, and would like to spend some time before defending the thesis in another organization (typically, a foreign university or research organization). The student may even graduate before or during the HIIT-funded period, in which case the funding provides a possibility for a short “pilot postdoc period” that may help in acquiring the actual postdoc position.
  • The main applicant is the HICT supervisor of the student, and the application clearly needs to explain the details of the planned visits. We only consider students whose track record is excellent and who finish the PhD in less than 4 years. In addition to completing the application, please email the summary of the track record of the student (incl. CV and list of completed courses) to Patrik Floréen. Please also indicate the start date of the doctoral studies and leave of absence periods. Estimate when the doctoral studies will be completed.

Prepare your application online via Webropol

HIIT activities handled outside of this call

The items below are just let you know of recent developments and to remind you of other activities currently supported by HIIT.

MSc student rotation program

HIIT wishes to support cross-university rotation of research-oriented MSc students. The implementation of these activities will be planned together with the new rotation programs that are currently being discussed both in Otaniemi and Kumpula.

Helsinki Distinguished Lecture Series

HIIT is coordinating a high-profile lecture series on Future Information Technologies, see The idea is not to run yet another series of scientific guest lectures, but to attract a more versatile audience and focus on highlighting the research challenges and solutions faced by current and future information technology, as seen by the internationally leading experts in the field. An ideal candidate is an esteemed visionary with an academic background (e.g., the CTO of an IT company, or a university professor with high societal or industrial impact). If you have a suitable candidate in mind, please contact the coordinator of the Lecture Series, Giulio Jacucci. Never initiate discussions with a potential candidate without consulting Giulio first. The final funding decisions will be made by the HIIT steering group.

Joint calls for doctoral student recruitment and evaluation

HIIT organizes through the HICT doctoral education network twice a year a recruitment and evaluation process, with the target to encourage talented students to apply for a doctoral student position in the hosting universities. The reviews produced during the evaluation process can also be used for making decisions about available doctoral student funding. The contact person regarding these activities is Aija Kukkala, email:

Joint calls for recruitment of postdoctoral researchers and research fellows

HIIT coordinates joint recruitment activities postdoctoral positions, regardless of the funding source. The goal is to increase our international visibility though jointly organized marketing and evaluation processes. We aim to organize the calls twice a year.

Contact person: Patrik Floréen

Recent supported activities

Multi-disciplinary research is leading to broader perspectives on socio-technical systems

This year’s ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency took place in Atlanta at the end of January. Jouni Harjumäki, a data science master’s student at the University of Helsinki, participated in the conference with support from HIIT.

Computer science oriented research in this field has, broadly, followed one of two lines. The first, fairness-aware machine learning, is often concerned with datasets encoding socially unacceptable biases (for example, prejudice against a certain group of people reflected as a lower rate of desirable outcomes), definitions and properties of various bias measures, and methods for mitigating these biases in a supervised learning scenario. The other major area of research has focused on making complex machine learning models more transparent and their decisions more explainable.

While topics around these questions were discussed at the conference, now in its second iteration, there was a trend toward more holistic approaches to socio-technical systems. Instead of merely defining a social phenomenon as a mathematical problem, and then optimizing it, several papers encouraged scholars and practitioners to tackle the issue in much deeper terms, trying to come to terms with the complex interplay of the social and technical aspects of the system.

The diversity of the presenters and other participants made this possible – in addition to people with a computer science background, there were a great number of social scientists, philosophers, legal scholars, and others. Also, not everybody was an academic: industry and non-governmental organizations were also represented at the conference. As machine-learning based and other technical systems are being propagated throughout society with ever increasing impact on people’s lives, computer scientists cannot and should not ignore the social questions – or worse, try to solve them by themselves.

Aalto’s Mobile Cloud Computing Group is Collaborating with CMU in Wearable Cognitive Assistance

Cognitive assistance is a promising application area for wearable computing. In the context of mechanical assembly, the user is guided through the step-by-step sequence of a task workflow. The end point of each step (e.g. a particular screw mounted flush into a workpiece) needs to be defined precisely, while being tolerant of alternative paths to reaching that end point (e.g. hand-tightening versus using a screwdriver). Authoring a wearable cognitive assistance application is time-consuming and often requires collaboration between a task expert and a software developer with highly specialized skills in computer vision. Developing a single application typically takes several person-months of effort.

Aalto’s mc2 – Mobile Cloud Computing group is collaborating with Prof. Mahadev Satyanarayanan‘s group at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to create more effective tools. The CMU group has developed Gabriel, an edge computing platform for cognitive assistance, and has experience from several applications built on top of it. The mc2 group has complementary expertise in automatic extraction of workflows from first-person videos.

Truong-An Pham from the mc2 group made a two-month research visit to CMU in Autumn 2018. Among the results of the collaboration is a three-stage toolchain for generating cognitive assistance applications for mechanical assembly:

  1. A workflow is extracted automatically from videos of experts performing a task. Since the extraction process is imperfect, a workflow editing tool is provided for making corrections.
  2. The vision-based object detectors needed for the task are created. Accurately detecting the presence and location of relevant objects in a video frame is the key to recognizing progress on a task. The work is done by a task expert, who creates training data for deep neural networks using a web-based tool.
  3. The extracted workflow and the object detectors are linked to generate task-specific executable code for the task-independent Gabriel platform. Cognitive assistants are represented as finite state machines (FSMs), in which each state represents a working step or an error case. Changes detected in the input video stream trigger state transitions. Libraries are provided to create, persist and debug the FSMs.

The next major step in the project is a user study conducted at Aalto University in May 2019.

Cooperation with The Alan Turing Institute is moving forward

In early March 2019, Aalto University, the University of Helsinki and The Alan Turing Institute signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which expresses the desire of the parties to develop their cooperation further. The Alan Turing Institute is the national institute for data science and artificial intelligence in the UK, known for its high-quality research and teaching. Attempts will be made to facilitate visits of the academic staff to participate in joint teaching, training and research, and to collaborate on joint publications. Interesting opportunities may also exist for joint funding submissions and exchange of data sets and other scientific materials.

The professors Kimmo Kaski (Aalto), Petri Myllymäki (UH) and Mark Girolami (ATI) have been named as the administrative contact persons of the initiative.

Researchers in computer vision and natural language processing are finding common ground

Computer vision and natural language processing are normally thought of as two separate research fields. However, significant merger is happening in some areas, such as image and video captioning and visual question answering. This creates interesting opportunities for collaboration.

The Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing conference (EMNLP) has opened a special track on vision and language. Hamed Rezazadegan Tavakoli, a postdoctoral researcher at Aalto University, attended the 2018 conference in Brussels. Tavakoli and his collaborators build systems that perceive their environment and describe it using natural language. During the conference, he met with Professor Noah Smith from the University of Washington to discuss the grounds for a mutual project.

Multidisciplinary research project explored possibilities of wearable technology in performing arts

A multidisciplinary research project titled “Digitalising Performance With Wearables and Software” brought together Aalto ARTS, Aalto Science and the University of the Arts Helsinki for fruitful collaboration. The idea was conceived by Dr. Sofia Pantouvaki, a Professor of Costume Design, and Dr. Mario Di Francesco, a Professor of Computer Science. Realising that light was going to be a crucial part of the project, they contacted the Professor of Lighting Design, Dr. Tomi Humalisto from the University of the Arts. This team of three professors from different fields worked out the framework and objectives for the project that would culminate in a technology enhanced art performance.

The artistic content of the project was left open for the students to decide. Three students with diverse backgrounds worked intensely for three months and came up with an interactive performance between a circus artist, costume, lights, space and sounds. Costume design student Tjaša Frumen, computer science research intern Emilio Lopez and lighting design student Mia Jalerva were the core international team, Frumen coming from Slovenia, Lopez from Argentina and Jalerva from Finland.

The group worked on the project in multiple locations around Helsinki and Espoo. The costume of the performer was made at the Costume Design Workshop of Aalto Studios, the software was tested at Motion Lab of Aalto’s computer science department, and the lights were designed and built at VÄS lighting design studio at UniArts. Kallio Stage was the venue for the final performance.

During the course of the work, a number of technical challenges had to be addressed. The costume of the performer, circus artist Aliisa Rinne, contained 16 meters of wire with LED lights, sensors and other technology. These had to be embedded so that she was able to move smoothly and even use the trapeze. The software worked without requiring manual operation during the performance, making the light to either follow the performer or repel her, for example.

The professors were impressed by the results of the work and see great potential in the future of performer-technology interaction. While self-regulating, wearable technology has been used in dance quite a lot already, other performing arts such as theatre, musical theatre and even opera could reach new levels of technology interaction. The project also serves as an inspiring example of multidisciplinary collaboration, in which diverse expertise is utilised and developed further in a creative way.

For more information, please see the write-up of Aalto Studios. A video recording of the final performance is available in YouTube.

Fairness and bias of the COMPAS algorithm compared to human assessments

The Data Mining Group of Aalto University is collaborating with researchers from the Indian Institute of Science, Polish Academy of Sciences and the University of Turku to explore algorithmic and human fairness and bias in decision making. In particular, they focus on racial bias in the predictions of the Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS) algorithm, a criminal risk assessment tool used in sentencing in a number of states in the U.S. The project, titled “Algorithms, fairness, and race: Comparing human recidivism risk assessment with the COMPAS algorithm”, was initiated at the Helsinki Summer Institute in Computational Social Science 2018.

The project consists of two parts. In the first part the team explored a wide set of fairness metrics and demonstrated how data preprocessing performed in previous (published) studies affects the fairness assessment of algorithmic recommendations. In the second part they collected their own data to evaluate human fairness and bias, which they then compared with the COMPAS assessment. In doing so, they drew from sociological concepts of in-group bias, social status, and stereotyping to formulate hypotheses about the patterns of associations between the respondent’s race, the race of the evaluated defendant, and the recidivism predictions.

The second part was based on a vignette survey run on TurkPrime. The respondents were presented with short descriptions of defendants and asked to predict recidivism risk. The survey was designed to have a balanced composition of white and black respondents, who were presented with vignettes of white and black defendants. Defendant descriptions came from real data on pre-trial defendants, which makes it possible to compare their COMPAS scores, real recidivism data, and risk assessment by survey respondents.

The first results were presented as a poster at the European Symposium Series on Societal Challenges in Computational Social Science held in Cologne, Germany on December 5th-7th, 2018. Preliminary analyses show that respondents are more lenient towards the offenders of their own race, but the differences are not large. However, if we exclude the defendants with medium-risk COMPAS scores and cases with high disagreement among the respondents (the majority is supported by less than 3/4 of the respondents of the same race), then race does not play a role and prediction rates agree. This suggests that decisions in ambiguous medium-risk cases are most susceptible to bias. Currently the team is working on finalizing the analysis and writing up a paper.

Aalto’s Mobile Cloud Computing group deepens collaboration with IE Business School

In a world where the functionality of products and services is rapidly growing, artificial intelligence (AI) could provide new tools for understanding the structure and dynamics of the ideation challenge in innovation, e.g. where do original and creative ideas come from, and how AI tools could enhance this important part of the often ad hoc and sub optimal innovation process.

With the aim to research these tools, Giancarlo Pastor Figueroa, a Postdoctoral Researcher in the mc2 – Mobile Cloud Computing group, has made three one-week visits to IE Business School, an institution recently ranked 3rd by Financial Times in a comparison of European business schools.

The visits have strengthened Giancarlo’s collaboration with Professor Peter Bryant to combine technical expertise with deep understanding of business. Some current research tasks include:

  • To derive functions to assess the compound functionality of products and services.
  • To design machine learning models to replicate the process of innovation.

In addition, Giancarlo and his collaborators at IE Business School are preparing a Horizon 2020 proposal on automated mobility, and exploring other cooperation opportunities with Aalto University.

Effectiveness of Augmented Reality explored in a user study in Heureka

Professor Yu Xiao’s group at Aalto ELEC has initiated multi-disciplinary research collaboration with professor Atte Oksanen’s group at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Tampere. They have developed an Augmented Reality quiz for the visitors of the Finnish Science Center Heureka. While walking around, the visitors see questions and problems on augmented objects in the exhibition space.

The focus of the user study is to analyze how people perceive the Augmented Reality and how it influences their social behavior. The experiences of 3 different groups of people are compared: those using the augmented reality application, those using a regular mobile application and those doing a quiz on a sheet of paper. Results from over 400 participants have been collected, and the analysis is in progress.

A video about the research is available on the Aalto Mobile Cloud Computing group website.

Animal Computer Interaction Conference: What it Means to be an Animal Participant

In December 2018, researchers in animal science and computer science met for the fifth annual Animal Computer Interaction (ACI) conference, held in Atlanta at Georgia Institute of Technology. Much like humans, animals have also been using computers for a long time. Historically animals have used computer technology in space, used lexigrams (symbol keyboards) to form language, and dolphins have used underwater keyboards.

Drawing parallels to human-computer interaction (HCI) research, which studies how humans use computers, ACI aims to investigate how animals interact with technology and the design of related devices. These technologies are developed to be used with animals in zoos and sanctuaries, working animals, domesticated animals in our homes, and wild animals. In HCI, user-centred design is an established methodology for designing with the user by including them as a participant within the design process itself. However, with animals, it is not so clear what it means to be a ‘participant’. For instance, humans can give feedback and consent to being in research – but how can this be achieved with animals? Being a participant, in some way, within the design processed is important in animal-computing to strive towards better and more informed designs.

Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, from Aalto University’s Computer Science department, along with Charlotte Robinson (Sussex University) and Patricia Pons (Polytechnic University of Valencia) brought this topical issue to attention in the form of a world café workshop titled ‘Designing for Animals: Defining “Participation” in Animal-Computer Interaction’ at the ACI 2018 conference. Ilyena recently attained her PhD in England in dog-computing systems where she looked at methods for allowing dogs to interact with screen devices. Bringing her expert knowledge now to Aalto, she has recently published the first literature review on ACI as well as the first dog-driven screen device.

The workshop was attended by more than twenty ACI researchers and students, animal behaviourists, and practitioners bringing a multidisciplinary group together. Here, questions were raised on participation: on how to support the animal involvement in technology, how to define participation, and the different roles animals could take in technology.

Besides group activities, keynote talks were given to stimulate the conversation by Melody Jackson, head of the ACI lab in Georgia Tech.; Clara Mancini, head of the ACI lab at the Open University, who also founded the field; and Yoram Chisik, from Rhein-Waal University of Applied Sciences, who related ACI to child-computer interaction.

For more information, please see

Rajapintapäivät brought together researchers of social and computer sciences

Digital and computational social science approaches are raising interest among researchers. Rajapintapäivät gathered more than fifty scholars in Otaniemi in mid-November to discuss their research and issues related to interdisciplinary collaboration.

Rajapinta is a scientific association and researcher community that advocates the social scientific study of ICT and ICT applications to social research. The association aims to improve interdisciplinary collaboration and to provide opportunities for meetings and networking. The association’s second annual event Rajapintapäivät, supported by HIIT, was organized in Otaniemi on November 16-17. Despite its Finnish name, the majority of the event’s content was in English.

The event’s themes were related to many forms of interdisciplinary research involving social sciences and computing: for example, using machine learning for social science research, the design of digital systems, coding education, large-scale data collection from social media, and studies of software and developers.

Rajapintapäivät drew together approximately 50 participants in the main event. The majority were academics from different fields of social science or computer science, along with scholars from humanities and legal studies, and a handful of representatives of the public sector, private sector analytics firms and civil society organizations.

The event’s workshop day on November 16th saw three workshops. One focused on the ethical challenges of research projects involving digital data and digital methods. The second workshop discussed infrastructures for data-intensive social sciences in Finland. The third workshop was a thesis seminar aimed for students working on a Master’s thesis on relates to digital society, social scientific study of ICT, or ICT applications to social research.

The main event was an unconference on November 17th. In an unconference, the content is provided by the participants in a self-organized manner, and the space was open for anyone interested to organize a session. There were altogether 24 sessions in the unconference programme. The day included, in addition to regular academic presentations, several more experimental sessions; for example an open fishbowl panel on studying algorithms and spreading knowledge on good digital privacy practices for researchers. A further example was a peer meeting organized by data scientists working in social-scientific projects, covering issues such as the role data scientists could take in an interdisciplinary project, dealing with the need to know both CS and social sciences, and appropriate publication venues for results emerging from such projects. Such peer meetings were seen as a helpful means of fostering collaboration as projects including researchers with different backgrounds are increasingly common.

The event was free of charge to participants thanks to generous support by HIIT. The event was also supported by Kone Foundation.

Utilizing Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) in Creative Agent Societies

Simo Linkola visited Falmouth, UK for two months to collaborate with Prof. Rob Saunders. The visit was part of Simo’s PhD studies and was organized under the current ICT 2023 project Collaboration Awareness and Creative Self-adaptivity (CACS). The goal of the collaboration is to study how GANs may be utilized in creative multi-agent systems where each agent controls the training of its own GAN. A proof-of-concept system was built to study technological and theoretical aspects of the problem, and the initial results were promising enough to warrant continuing the work after the visit. The collaboration is expected to result in at least one peer reviewed publication.

Computer vision applied to analysis of learning interactions

Professor Yu Xiao’s group in Aalto ELEC received seed funding from HIIT to initiate multi-disciplinary research collaboration with professor Kristiina Kumpulainen’s group at the Faculty of Educational Sciences of the University of Helsinki. The objective is to develop tools for analyzing student-student and student-supervisor interactions on videos captured in classrooms. An approach based on using a deep neural network for pose recognition was presented in the CICERO workshop on digitalization and artificial intelligence.

Foundations of Data Economics explored in a seminar

As the first snow of this winter fell and melted away, Aalto University had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Bruno Carballa Smichowski of Université Paris XIII and Groupe Chronos for a Seminar in Data Economics. The seminar was attended by a dozen of Aalto doctoral and some master’s students, and a few guests from outside of Aalto. For a week from Monday to Friday, we enjoyed every morning Bruno’s elucidative explanations on why data is very different from the other factors of production and how the resulting economy is different. The topics we covered included how data gains its value, data platforms (including platform companies and their business models), the (anti)competitive dynamics in the data economy, and some of the typical and alternative governance models for data. On the final Friday we had an open discussion on how data unions could be provided as a service, and other topics that emerged in the seminar.

The seminar continues now until the end of the year with the students writing essays on select topics. The current plan is then to arrange a small workshop on data economy, with an open CFP, in the March-April time frame. For further information, feel free to contact Prof. Pekka Nikander or Dr. Ruth Kaila.

Research collaboration with MIPT on Chatbot System development

Luiza Sayfullina made a 2 month research visit to the iPavlov lab, which is one of the most progressive labs in Russia in Natural Language Processing and Chatbot Systems in particular. The lab belongs to Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and is honored with Facebook AI Academic Partnership and NVIDIA GPU Research Center status. It is led by Professor Mikhail Burtsev, who kindly agreed to host Luiza during her stay.

Luiza was working with the open source DeepPavlov library that contains NLP components such as Named Entity Recognition, Question Answering, Intent Classification and Insult Detection for developing Chatbot Systems. She focused on researching available knowledge bases and how they can be used to improve a Question Answering system (Q&A system). In particular, Luiza and her collaborators employed Microsoft Probase and Wikidata word relations to form relation-specific embeddings to be used with a Sequence to Sequence model for a Q&A system. At the moment, they continue their experiments and plan to publish a paper on this topic.

Luiza’s research visit was supported by HIIT and she also wishes to thank the iPavlov lab for an educational and pleasant stay.

HIIT Open 2018 programming contest

16 teams took part in the HIIT Open 2018 programming contest on 26 May 2018 in Otaniemi. The contest was open to everyone interested in programming and algorithmic challenges – this year we had a record number of participants, with 16 teams and a total of 42 contestants. In addition to the participants from the universities in Helsinki region, we also had participants from Finnish companies and high schools, and for the first time we also got three teams from the Tallinn University of Technology.

The winning team was “Ukkonen Fan Club”, with Antti Röyskö, Kalle Luopajärvi, and Hannes Ihalainen, all of them from the University of Helsinki. The 2nd place went to the team “Wave of Technology”, with Janne Kokkala (Aalto University) and Ville Pettersson (Valas Media), and the 3rd place went to the team “Karhukopla”, with three high school students: Juha Harviainen, Siiri Kuoppala, and Roope Salmi.

The teams had 13 tasks to solve, and 5 hours of time. In each task the teams had to write a computer program that solves a given task correctly and efficiently. The winning team solved 11/13 tasks correctly; all tasks are available at

For more information on the HIIT Open programming contest, please see – the contest has been organized since 2016 in collaboration between HIIT, Aalto University, and the University of Helsinki.

Helsinki Di­gital Hu­man­it­ies Hack­a­thon #DH­H18

Helsinki Digital Humanities Hackathon #DH­H18 brought together students and researchers of humanities, social sciences and computer science. Digital humanities, as understood here, is about applying modern data processing to solve research questions in the humanities and social sciences. At its best, such close collaboration offers unique benefits for both fields: scholars in the humanities are able to tackle questions too labour-intensive for manual study, while computer scientists encounter new and challenging use cases for the tools and algorithms they develop.

The participants of #DHH18 worked in small groups for one week, formulating research questions with respect to particular data sets, applying and developing methods and tools, and giving public presentations in the end. A number of themes were suggested by the organisers as a starting point:

  • People in the News. The National Library of Finland’s Newspaper corpus contains nearly all newspapers and periodicals published in Finland from 1771 to 1919. Computational tools are applicable to interesting questions regarding the people who appeared in the news and the way they were presented.
  • Russia <=> Finland. Large fulltext corpora of contemporary media can be used for analysing how Russia is and has been portrayed in Finnish newspapers and Finland in Russian ones.
  • Early Mod­ern Pub­lish­ing. The proposed objective was to analyse computationally changes in publication practices, genres, and roles of publishers, using large databases of English literature in the early modern period.
  • The Death Psalm of Bishop Henry. Computational tools can be used for addressing some of the methodological challenges involved in studying orally transmitted literature. The Death Psalm of Bishop Henry is the oldest and most prominent Finnish example of a story that written down only centuries after the incident.
  • Helsinki in Geot­agged So­cial Me­dia. Social media data can provide valuable clues about cities and what their inhabitants do, where, when and why. Large volumes of geotagged Twitter, Instagram and Flickr posts from Helsinki are available, and working with such data entails many interesting challenges.

#DHH18 was the fourth hackathon in the series, following #DHH15, #DHH16 and #DHH17. Digital humanities is an inherently multidisciplinary field, and the participants gain valuable experience of working in multidisciplinary research projects. The hackathons also broaden the participants’ understanding of digital humanities, and what is possible to achieve with such collaboration.

For participant reflections on #DHH18, see for example David Rosson’s and Markku Roinila’s blogs.

Results of Aalto’s game workshop showcased at Flow Festival

Aalto University was present at the Flow Festival in a big way. Among the attractions was a game exhibition, where the visitors could e.g. interact with robotic pets and team up with another player to defeat colorful lights in a retro arcade-game. They could make connections with the mind and the body to save the environment and collectively light up Aika-lava, a large wooden structure by Aalto’s Architecture programme.

These and other creative ideas were developed during a one-week workshop given by Robin Baumgarten. Presenting the results at Flow 2018 intensified the motivation of the students to learn about combining software and electronics for high-quality user experiences and enhanced Helsinki’s brand as an ICT talent hotspot. The workshop and the exhibition were supported by HIIT.

ICER 2018 Conference in Espoo

ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research (ICER 2018) was organised in Espoo on August 13-15. The conference started with co-located workshops and Doctoral Consortium (DC) on Sunday 12th. A total of 127 participants from 18 difference countries attended the main conference between Monday and Wednesday. In addition, there was a Works in Progress workshop held right after the Conference, providing participants with an opportunity to gain critical and in-depth feedback on their research ideas or projects.

ICER 2018 provided a forum for presenting and publishing high-quality research in computing education. The main focus was computing education in higher education level, but research in K-12 level was also presented. Research foci were diverse covering aspects such as teaching and learning methods, software tools supporting learning, topical misconceptions, recruitment and students’ background factors, career tracks and teachers.

The conference was designed to encourage authors and audience to engage in lively discussion about each work presented. The 28 accepted research papers provided the main focus of the conference. However, the submission categories allowed for different types of participation, supporting work at different levels ranging from formative work to a completed research study. Students accepted for the doctoral consortium participated in an all-day workshop conducted by prominent leaders in the computing education research community, and presented their work at the conference in a dedicated poster session. In addition, ICER 2018 offered a track for lightning talks, 3-minute presentations that articulate an idea for a research study, provided an update on current research, or invited collaborators. The keynote speaker at the conference was Kirsti Lonka from the University of Helsinki. Her keynote addressed “Growing minds – 21st century competences and digitalisation among Finnish youth?”

ALGO 2018 conference in Helsinki

In August 2018, more than 300 computer science researchers, practitioners, and students from all over the world gathered in Helsinki. ALGO is a premier event in algorithmics featuring the European Symposium on Algorithms and co-locating with 6 specialized conferences and workshops (IPEC, WABI, WAOA, ALGOCLOUD, ALGOSENSORS, and ATMOS). The event is organized annually at the end of summer, and this year it took place at Aalto University from the 20th to the 24th of August. ALGO 2018 attracted an all-time record number of participants since the birth of the event.

Algorithms are a key engine in modern data science. With the growth of data size nowadays, the need for algorithmic innovation has become more important than ever. ALGO conferences feature contributed presentations on cutting-edge algorithms designs, engineering, and applications in various areas of studies: sensor networking, biology, economics, and transportation systems.

Besides attracting researchers from topmost institutes in the world, ALGO 2018 was greatly honoured by an impressive lineup of 5 keynote speakers and 5 other invited speakers. The keynote talks addressed the roles of algorithms arising in practical settings, e.g. French college admission and in auctions.

For more information, please see

StanCon 2018 Conference in Helsinki

StanCon 2018 was oganised in Helsinki on August 29-31. Stan is a probabilistic programming and statistical modeling language used by tens of thousands of scientists, engineers, and other researchers for statistical modeling, data analysis, and prediction. StanCon 2018 consisted of one day of tutorials and two days of talks, open discussions, and statistical modeling. 271 participants from all 0ver the world attended the conference.

StanCon introduced cutting-edge methods and applications for statistical modelling – ranging from galaxy clusters to social media, brain research, and anthropology. In Finland, AI research is particularly strong in the field of medicine.

“Statistical modeling can be used, for example, to improve the safety of drug testing in children. The time it takes for a child’s body to metabolise a drug depends not only on the weight of the child, but also on the ability of the liver to process the drug. The dosage size of the drug should, then, be reduced more than the weight alone would suggest. Modelling methods can be used to evaluate the effects of drugs on an individual level,” says Professor Aki Vehtari of Aalto University.

One of the keynote speakers at the conference, Maggie Lieu, a researcher at the European Space Agency, uses statistical modeling to determine the mass of galaxy clusters. “Hierarchical modeling has several advantages when there are millions of variables and a lot of noisy data in space. Using modelling, I can get meaningful results in up to ten minutes and study clusters of galaxies in one go instead of a single galaxy group at a time.”

Elements of collaborative economy introduced to Aalto’s design management courses

Thinking of a course as a collaborative economy leads to new ways of keeping track of the contributions of students. “Inside the course, master’s level students will be able to take part in many projects and do daily evaluation of other students that they have worked with” says Jenni Huttunen. Students can contribute by working, helping or reusing knowledge, material or contribution that others have made. Besides being motivating to the students, monitoring the data is helpful for the teaching staff, enabling them to have a more detailed understanding of the work of each student. Evaluation can be more dependent on peer-reviews than before.

The planned collaborative setting would be different from the group work we see today in Aalto. The objective is to promote a collaborative economy style of working where each student would be free to contribute to many projects, not just the one their designated team is working on.

The collaborative economy idea will be introduced on two courses of Neppi – Networked Partnering and Product Innovation: design and technology. The Neppi courses will be part of Aalto’s International Design Business Management curriculum in 2018 and will welcome students from other disciplines.

The digital solution is based on the idea that by promoting sharing of information and skills freely, a course accumulates more “revenue”, such as better learning and thus most likely, better products. Therefore the solution should lower the barriers between groups and disciplines, and promote knowledge sharing, which is not an easy task. The idea phase solution was realised by Raffaella Tran as part of her diploma project. The objective was to capture the initial ideas to a concrete form in order for them to be evaluated and co-developed further. The project is currently looking for co-developers interested in collaborative economy and education development. The working group has been happy to see there has been some initial interest in using the app on other workshop style courses also.

Models of drug behaviour in adults can be recalibrated for children

Eero Siivola recently returned from a 3 month research visit to Novartis, Switzerland. The visit was a part of a collaboration project between Novartis and Aalto. During the visit, Eero and his collaborators studied how non-parametric regression methods can be used to find out how a model describing drug behaviour in a body differs between adults and kids. The studied method was tested with real medical data and the early stage results are promising. The collaboration continues after the visit and the aim is to publish the results in the form of a journal article.

Summer Institute in Computational Social Science Organised in Helsinki

Summer Institute in Computational Social Science(SICSS) was organised at Duke University by Matthew Salganik and Chris Bail. However, around the globe, in New York, Chicago, Cape Town, Seattle and Boulder – and Helsinki – alumna of the previous SICSS organised satellite locations: places for their local community to support learning and increase skills for both social scientists and computer scientists in this new emerging multidisciplinary field.

During the first week, at the SICSS Helsinki partner site, we have discussed and worked on research ethics, automated data collection and machine learning techniques for social science research. The instruction included materials developed by Matthew and Chris as well as materials developed by the SICSS Helsinki organiser team: Matti Nelimarkka, Juho Pääkkönen and Pihla Toivanen, all from Aalto University. Furthermore, they followed and discussed video lectures from other SICSS sites, including David Lazer and Duncan Watts.

“The goal of this first week is to get everyone up to speed with skills like coding and data-analysis, but also think how these novel methods and approaches relate and extend the existing theories and background of social sciences. This problem demonstrates the interdisciplinary nature of computational social science as a field.” says Matti Nelimarkka, the lead organiser.

The second week group work projects reflect on how computational social science research and approaches can be used to study various social and computer science questions. The four groups focused on versatile topics. One of them conducted a methodological investigation of computational methods themselves by comparing unsupervised methods and traditional qualitative methods. Another group utilised computational methods to address methodological problems in psychology and survey questionnaires. Other groups focused on more empirical investigations: how does opinion change occur – a traditional question asked by communication and media studies people and political scientists. We also had a group which focused on addressing fairness through survey mechanics and algorithmic investigations.

This article is based on previous blog posts at Rajapinta-blog.

We thank the generous financial support from the Russell Sage Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation as well as from the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT, which allowed organisation of this event.

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.

Continuous Experimentation Empowers Software Development Decisions

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.

Di­gital Hu­man­it­ies in the Nor­dic Coun­tries 2018 Con­fer­ence

Digital Humanities in the Nordic Countries 3rd Conference (DHN 2018) was organized at the University of Helsinki in March 7-9 2018. The conference, organized 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 organized 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: For a more detailed analysis of the composition of DHN2018, see:

More information on DHN 2018:

Association of Digital Humanities in the Nordic countries (DHN):

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 a 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 sucecssfully admitted at the Faculty of Medicine in the area of conversational agents for menatl health , Isaac Moshe joint supervised by Niklas Ravaja professor of eHealth and wellbeing, Faculty of Medicine at UH, Professor Giuseppe Riccardi from the University of Trento, and Heleen Riper, PhD Professor eMental-Health/ clinical psychology.

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

Panagiotis Papapetrou Visited Aalto University in Spring 2018

Panagiotis Papapetrou was a visiting professor at the Department of Computer Science of Aalto University in March 2018. Panagiotis Papapetrou is a professor at the Department of Computer and Systems Sciences of Stockholm University, Sweden. During his visit professor Papapetrou gave a course in Aalto University, which was titled “Learning from electronic health records”. The course focused on recent research developments on the topics of representing and summarizing electronic health records as well as algorithms for predictive modeling of complex health data. In addition, professor Papapetrou collaborated with the group of Aristides Gionis on the problem developing novel algorithms for interpretable and actionable classification of time-series data. The visit of professor Papapetrou was co-funded by the Aalto University School of Science Institute (AScI) and the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology (HIIT).

HIIT Sponsored 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 which 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 ( will be conducted in conjunction with PerCom 2018 in Athens, Greece. With the support of an HIIT open call, Florian Alt ( 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 features invited talks by former Helsinki University Postdoc Hien Truong (NEC, Germany) and Dawud Gordon (, as well as an industry keynote by Jan Lühr (anderscore).

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 organized 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

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.

HIIT supports event about socio-technological innovation for the economy

Economy is undergoing a shift and needs new global and localised socio-technological interventions to accommodate the changes. To address the issue, a seminar “Blockchain Experiment Starting: Can local currency become new strength of Helsinki?” was held on 7 September 2017. The seminar brought together institutions, activists, researchers and citizens to think about the core challenges related to monetary system today. It was organised by ValueCraft coop together with the Ministry of Finance and the Prime Minister’s Office, with financial support from HIIT.

The morning talks presented a versatile array of views on economy. Many investigated the opportunities created by local, community and digital currencies in connections with emergent technologies such as blockchain or the obstacles on the way of complementary currency experiment in Finland. The keynote speech was given by Susana Martín Belmonte from Instituto de Moneda Social, Spain. The afternoon was dedicated to, see more information about the event.

The overall attitude towards the topic was enthusiastic, yet the scene for local and complementary currencies experiments seems challenging because of the heavy regulation involved. Moreover, even if the time seems right to think of the economy in alternative ways, multidisciplinary academic research would be of benefit.

As a follow-up, the new initiative Aalto Observatory got seed funding from the Aalto internal seed funding call for the year 2018. Aalto Observatory looks to build a multidisciplinary academic research node on new economy and complementary currencies first inside Aalto, secondly globally. Both, ValueCraft coop and Aalto Observatory will continue to work on projects in the domain of new and sharing economy, including complementary currency interventions. For more information on Valuecraft, please contact Pekka Nikander, and on Aalto Observatory Maria Joutsenvirta.