1st Workshop on Evaluation and Experimental Design in Data Mining and Machine Learning (EDML 2019)

Helmut Neukirchen, 22. November 2018

My experience with evaluating implementations of machine learning algorithms is that the content of many accepted research papers cannot be reproduced, in particular because the used implementations are not open-source and the authors typically do not even answer emails requesting to use their implementations. This is one aspect of the

1st Workshop on Evaluation and Experimental Design in Data Mining and Machine Learning (EDML 2019)
Workshop at the SIAM International Conference on Data Mining (SDM19), May 2‑4, 2019

Description

A vital part of proposing new machine learning and data mining approaches is evaluating them empirically to allow an assessment of their capabilities. Numerous choices go into setting up such experiments: how to choose the data, how to preprocess them (or not), potential problems associated with the selection of datasets, what other techniques to compare to (if any), what metrics to evaluate, etc. and last but not least how to present and interpret the results. Learning how to make those choices on-the-job, often by copying the evaluation protocols used in the existing literature, can easily lead to the development of problematic habits. Numerous, albeit scattered, publications have called attention to those questions and have occasionally called into question published results, or the usability of published methods. At a time of intense discussions about a reproducibility crisis in natural, social, and life sciences, and conferences such as SIGMOD, KDD, and ECML/PKDD encouraging researchers to make their work as reproducible as possible, we therefore feel that it is important to bring researchers together, and discuss those issues on a fundamental level.

An issue directly related to the first choice mentioned above is the following: even the best-designed experiment carries only limited information if the underlying data are lacking. We therefore also want to discuss questions related to the availability of data, whether they are reliable, diverse, and whether they correspond to realistic and/or challenging problem settings.

Topics

In this workshop, we mainly solicit contributions that discuss those questions on a fundamental level, take stock of the state-of-the-art, offer theoretical arguments, or take well-argued positions, as well as actual evaluation papers that offer new insights, e.g. question published results, or shine the spotlight on the characteristics of existing benchmark data sets.
As such, topics include, but are not limited to

  • Benchmark datasets for data mining tasks: are they diverse/realistic/challenging?
  • Impact of data quality (redundancy, errors, noise, bias, imbalance, ...) on qualitative evaluation
  • Propagation/amplification of data quality issues on the data mining results (also interplay between data and algorithms)
  • Evaluation of unsupervised data mining (dilemma between novelty and validity)
  • Evaluation measures
  • (Automatic) data quality evaluation tools: What are the aspects one should check before starting to apply algorithms to given data?
  • Issues around runtime evaluation (algorithm vs. implementation, dependency on hardware, algorithm parameters, dataset characteristics)
  • Design guidelines for crowd-sourced evaluations

The workshop will feature a mix of invited speakers, a number of accepted presentations with ample time for questions since those contributions will be less technical, and more philosophical in nature, and a panel discussion on the current state, and the areas that most urgently need improvement, as well as recommendation to achieve those improvements. An important objective of this workshop is a document synthesizing these discussions that we intend to publish at a prominent venue.

Submission

Papers should be submitted as PDF, using the SIAM conference proceedings style, available at https://www.siam.org/Portals/0/Publications/Proceedings/soda2e_061418.zip?ver=2018-06-15-102100-887. Submissions should be limited to nine pages and submitted via Easychair at https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=edml19.

Important dates

Submission deadline: February 15, 2019
Notification: March 15, 2019
SDM pre-registration deadline: April 2, 2019
Camera ready: April 15, 2019
Conference dates: May 2-4, 2019

Further info

Web page

We will soon be able to take a bath in the Arctic sea

Helmut Neukirchen, 16. October 2018

I am participating in the eSTICC (eScience Tools for Investigating Climate Change at High Northern Latitudes) NordForsk-funded research project. As part of the project an impressing (or depressing) simulation of the Greenland ice sheet and climate change has been created (the simulations ran on a supercomputer located in Iceland) that shows the surface air temperature in the Arctic and Greenland glacier ice thickness, e.g. when will the Arctic see ice be gone during summer (we got used to already now) and during winter (=no ice at the North pole in winter) according to the simulations:

We all should act:

Hvað er í gangi í Fossvogsskóla? / What's going on at Fossvogsskóli elementary school? -- Or: How a school tries to scare away special needs children

Helmut Neukirchen, 24. September 2018

Update from start of autumn 2018: the try to scare away our special needs child from school continues (exactly one year ago after the first incident described below) -- at the meeting at the start of the new school year, the head from the support team told us:

  1. Teaching closes at 14:20, but we were told the support staff works only until 14:00, hence it was suggested to stop teaching our child 14:00. According to laws and regulations, our child has the same right and obligations to attend school as other children!
  2. We were told, our child will get less support, because he got older. But in fact the gap between our child and his classmates gets bigger, teaching material thus more difficult and he needs in fact more support.

Original post form 25.9.2017:

Fossvogsskóli elementary school in Reykjavik proudly refers to its history as open school (see, e.g. working programme 2015/2016, p. 4, in Icelandic; no newer working programme available online). In their policy (in Icelandic), the introductory sentence is "Í Fossvogsskóla er mikil áhersla lögð á einstaklingskennslu og að koma til móts við mismunandi þarfir, hæfileika og áhuga hvers og eins" (Fossvogsskóli places great importance on individual teaching and to accomodate the different needs, talents and interests of each and everyone); the first main goal enumerated in the policy is: "að leitast við að koma til móts við þarfir nemenda, stuðla að alhliða þroska hvers og eins og gefa nemendum kost á að vinna hver með sínum hraða" (to strive for to approach the pupil's needs, support the general development of each individual and giving each pupil the opportunity to work each with her/his pace).

In 2017, however, changes are going on at Fossvogsskóli that contradict the above. In the following, experiences from 2017 at Fossvogsskóli are described, followed by a couple of questions that are interesting to investigate.

I have a special needs child who has a delayed development (as diagnosed by The State Diagnostic and Counselling Centre (Greiningar- og ráðgjafarstöð ríkisins)). At Kindergarden in Reykjavik, he had a special support teacher (sérkennari) who did an excellent job (with support from the community centre (þjónustumiðstöð) of the city of Reykjavik) (special thanks to both!). When he finished Kindergarten, we were looking for options concerning elementary school. We talked to the special-needs school Klettaskóli, but we were told that our son does not fulfill the acceptance criteria, but is supposed to rather attend a "normal" school. Thus, we where happy to learn from the headmaster of our district's elementary school, Fossvogsskóli, that the city of Reykjavik follows a policy of inclusion (Skóli án aðgreiningar, in Icelandic) and that our son is more than welcome and will get every support that is necessary.

And in fact, during first to third class, he got excellent support (thanks!) and learned reading and writing and simple math. We met regularly with teachers and the school's support team of our son to talk about past and future of our son and created each time an individual curriculum (einstaklingsnámskrá). Also these teachers referred to Fossvogsskóli being an open school so that we parents can at anytime attend class to see how our child performs and how he is being taught.

Towards the end of the third class, we were told that our son will get new teachers in the fourth class and we agreed to hold a meeting towards the end of the school year to discuss the smooth transition to the fourth class. However, when we asked to set a date for this meeting, we were put off until the beginning of the next school year of 2017/2018.

After the summer of 2017, our son did not only have new class teacher but Fossvogsskóli also got a new headmaster. Things changed when the new school year started:

When asking at the beginning of the new school year for holding a meeting concerning the future of our son, we were again put off. However, then after 6 weeks, we were asked to hold a meeting (without being given any agenda/topic so we assumed that the purpose of the meeting is to create a new individual curriculum (einstaklingsnámskrá) together with the new teacher and support team).

However, at that meeting six staff member from the school (but not, e.g. the headmaster) were sitting opposite to us. (To us, this looked like a tribunal.) The only thing that the new class teacher told us, was that our son has to leave school as he cannot follow the teaching anymore and rather disturbs. She claimed he is good in drawing (which he is in fact not at all) and when we asked whether it is possible to give him the same support that he got in first to third class that was denied. We were pointed to Klettaskóli. However, I explained then that my son does not fulfill the criteria to attend Klettaskóli. As a response to this, the head from the support team mentioned that she has heard that Klettaskóli offers some "home class" (heimabekkur) that might provide support at a special need child's homeschool. Finally, we were asked whether we have prepared anything for the meeting (how could we without an agenda), but we were simply shocked and I told the attendees that I am shocked and my wife was not able to talk anymore. Without creating an individual curriculum (einstaklingsnámskrá), the meeting was terminated and we were put off again to meet at some point in future. Since then, have not head anything (not from class teacher, not from support team, not from the headmaster).

We show the typical symptoms of a Traumatic Stress Reaction: the meeting was the Impact phase, we are currently undergoing the Recoil and Rescue phase, such as not being able to sleep and the desire to talk about (e.g. writing this text, but we also talked to many headmasters of other schools in Reykjavík, offices and administrations -- having lost the trust into Fossvogsskóli, we were reluctant to contact the headmasters of Fossvogsskóli, but we asked now for a meeting, however they did not reply yet.). We sought professional help who actually work on finding solutions and help us to reach the Recovery phase. Notably, Fossvogsskóli has even a procedure dealing with shock/psychological trauma, but this seems only to apply to pupils, not parents that explicitly mention being shocked.

This raises a couple of questions:

  1. Was this a decision of the class teacher or of the headmaster?
    1. If it was a decision of the teacher: May a teacher alone decide this without consulting the headmaster?
    2. If it was a decision of the headmaster: Why did the teacher organise that meeting and not the headmaster?

    As long as the above question has not been clarified, the term staff will be used in the following to refer to the involved people.

  2. Is staff aware that the decision to be not willing to teach our special needs child violates policies and laws on all four administrative levels?
    1. It violates the school's policy (to strive for to approach the pupil's needs, support the general development of each individual and giving each pupil the opportunity to work each with her/his pace).
    2. It violates the municipal policy of inclusive schooling (Skóli án aðgreiningar).
    3. It violates national law (school attendance is mandatory in Iceland and if our special needs child does not fulfill the admission criteria (specified in a national law) of the special needs school Klettaskóli, he has to attend the "normal" school -- however how can he, if the class teacher refuses to teach him?)
    4. Iceland has ratified the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child according to which every child has the right to attend school. (Notably, the first to third year teachers teach the United Nation's Convention on the Rights of the Child to the pupils.)
  3. How was that meeting prepared in advance? Was all the participating staff aware of what will be the topic? (We as parents were not.) Had the special needs support staff time to prepare? If yes, the actions according to official procedures would have been that before the meeting the following steps would have been carried out:
    1. The official procedure in such cases would have been that the school contacts the community centre (þjónustumiðstöð): why did this not happen?
    2. In addition, the special needs school Klettaskóli provides officially advice to other schools: why did the special needs support staff of Fossvogsskóli not contact them? (If the support team's head would have prepared, she would have known that no such thing as "home class" (heimabekkur) exists, but rather only a "participation class" (þátttökubekkur) at a single "normal" school, Árbæjarskóli, not Fossvogsskóli; if they would have prepared, they should also have known that Klettaskóli is the official advisory school for special needs education.)
  4. Why did the staff attending the meeting not try to find solutions for the problem? Instead, they were very negative and not willing to actually discuss the problem.
  5. Why did none of the other staff attending the meeting object and say that this is illegal or at least violates school policy? Are they not aware of the laws, regulations, and policies that apply? Or were they also as shocked as the parents and thus not able to talk? Or did they not dare to argue against the class teacher due to a very strict regime of either the class teacher or the school in general?
  6. The meeting was a very bad experience for us parents and I explicitly said that we are "shocked": why did this not rang alarm bells at the attending staff?
  7. Why was it necessary to have such a tribunal-style meeting? Meetings with many people are good to discuss problems and find solutions. However, this meeting was not aimed to find solutions nor to discuss. It would have been much better to inform us in advance in an informal way about what we have to expect during the meeting! In particular, we were asked during the meeting whether we have prepared anything -- how could we if we were not informed ahead about the agenda of the meeting?
  8. My wife did meet some of the participants for the first time: the class teacher and the head of the support team -- why did they not introduce themselves and how could it happen that my wife has never met them before: we head regular meeting during first to third class and asked a couple of times for a preperational meeting for the fourth class, in particular having it before fourth class started?
    If we would have known about the problems that the class teacher has, we could have taken actions before! But that teacher gives our child no opportunity to learn: we notice that our child is not tired anymore when he is home after school. From our experience, this means he is not being taught but bored at school -- which of course leads to his reactions the class teacher complains about: he starts to disturb which is in fact a call for help saying: "I am bored please give me something to learn according to my needs". (Note that inclusive education is the state-of-the-art in education because inclusion helps all pupils, because every child is different and every child has his/her own special needs in learning.)
  9. Why was no individual curriculum (einstaklingsnámskrá) made and is still not made? (Fossvogsskóli has to according to regulations!)
  10. Why do such decisions target the weakest members of society? Disabled people are already in a bad situation, why does staff at Fossvogsskóli make their life even more difficult instead of helping them?
  11. In which society do we want to live? Is the experience we perceived during the meeting the kind of society staff at Fossvogsskóli aims for?
  12. Why did staff of Fossvogsskóli not contact us again after the meeting as promised?
  13. Why do the headmasters of Fossvogsskóli not answer our email requesting to have a meeting to discuss the problem? (This was a simple yes/no question.) Update: Three days after I asked the headmaster of Fossvogsskóli to talk with her she finally replied and agreed to meet. Let's see the outcome of that meeting
  14. What steps (besides obviously apologising) does staff Fossvogsskóli intend to apply in future to restore trust in the school? (In addition to destroying within that 10 minutes of the meeting the trust into Fossvogsskóli concerning our special needs child, they also destroyed the trust of sending our two other childrens to Fossvogsskóli.)
  15. What steps does staff of Fossvogsskóli intend to take to support our special needs child or is it intended to scare special needs children away so that staff can focus on non-special needs children?

11th Nordic Workshop on Multi-Core Computing (MCC2018)

Helmut Neukirchen, 19. September 2018

The objective of MCC is to bring together Nordic researchers and practitioners from academia and industry to present and discuss recent work in the area of multi-core computing. This year's edition is hosted by the Chalmers University of Technology (Gothenburg, Sweden).

The scope of the workshop is both hardware and software aspects of multi-core computing, including design and development as well as practical usage of systems. The topics of interest include, but is not limited to, the following:

Architecture of multi-core processors, GPUs, accelerators, heterogeneous systems, memory systems, interconnects and on-chip networks
Parallel programming models, languages, environments
Parallel algorithms and applications
Compiler optimizations and techniques for multi-core systems
Hardware/software design trade-offs in multi-core systems
Operating system, middleware, and run-time system support for multi-core systems
Correctness and performance analysis of parallel hardware and software
Tools and methods for development and evaluation of multi-core systems

There are two types of papers eligible for submission. The first type is original research work and the second type is work already published in 2017 or later. Participants submitting original work are asked to send an electronic version of the paper that does not exceed four pages using the ACM proceedings format, http://www.acm.org/publications/proceedings-template, to https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=mcc2018. The same URL is to be used should you want to present an already published paper as described above. In that case, you need to clearly specify that the paper is already published and where the paper has been published.

No proceedings will be distributed. Contributions will not disqualify subsequent publications in conferences or journals. (This is a real "work"shop to facilitate discussion.)

Call for Papers (CfP).

The conference web page is https://sites.google.com/site/mccworkshop2018.

Full Paper Submission: October 8th, 2018
Author Notification: November 2nd, 2018
Registration Deadline: November 22nd, 2018
MCC Workshop: November 29th - 30th, 2018

The workshop will be held at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.

New head and deputy head of Faculty of Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science

Helmut Neukirchen, 2. July 2018

Starting from 1. July 2018, our faculty has a new head and deputy head (for two years):

Head: Rúnar Unnþórsson

Deputy head: Helmut Neukirchen

Feel free to contact us in case of any problems that fall into our area of responsibility.

Many thanks to the old heads, Kristján Jónasson and Halldór Pálsson for the great job they did!

Steinn Guðmundsson is still in charge of the study programmes Computer Science, Software Engineering, and Computational Engineering.

Switching to Microsoft cloud servers now putting all Icelandic state institutions at privacy risk

Helmut Neukirchen, 5. June 2018

The Icelandic government finalised a contract with Microsoft which covers using Microsoft Office365 cloud services (including email services) in all state institutions (Icelandic announcement).

At least the introduction of Office365 on the Icelandic state-level, leads to some media coverage at Kvennablaðið including Twitter -- well in fact, there was already in the past Twitter-coverage by the Nordic e-Infrastructure Collaboration (NeIC), but they were forced to remove that tweet (honi soit qui mal y pense).

In fact the, same concerns as for the Office365 introduction at University of Iceland apply -- but this time at an even bigger scale (e.g. while other national governments try the best to keep their IT system inaccessible to anymore else, Icelandic government seems not to care at all. Many other institutions handle sensitive data, e.g. when the Icelandic Directorate of Health outsourced patient data to an Icelandic IT provider, privacy concerns were raised. With Microsoft Office365, data will be moved abroad and makes it subject to wiretapping by foreign secret services or direct access via the US CLOUD act and the the European Commission's matching counterpart: E-Evidence).

2nd Nordic High Performance Computing & Applications Workshop, University of Iceland, Reykjavík, 13-15 June 2018

Helmut Neukirchen, 1. June 2018

Thanks to financial support from the Nordic e-Infrastructure Collaboration (NeIC) pooling competencies initiative, I am again able to organise together with my colleagues Morris Riedel (Jülich Supercomputing centre) and Matthias Book (University of Iceland) an HPC training workshop:

The University of Iceland is offering a free cross-national training workshop on high-performance computing (HPC) and applications at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík, Iceland, 13-15 June 2018 (noon-to-noon).

This training workshop is intended for novices (such as MSc or new PhD students) as well as for more advanced HPC users from Iceland and abroad. This time, there is some focus on data.

More information and registration on https://cs.hi.is/HPC/hpcworkshop2018.html

Note that there is another course on research software development (which is not specific to HPC), namely the CodeRefinery workshop in Reykjavik 21-23 August 2018. While it is also funded by NeIC (or part of NeIC in fact), the topics and trainers are different.

A general overview on the HPC activities of the University of Iceland's computer science department can be found here: https://cs.hi.is/HPC/html

New head of University IT department switches from open-source server to Microsoft cloud servers which is a privacy threat

Helmut Neukirchen, 1. March 2018

Updates:
While I mentioned in my original post the US supreme court case to decide whether Microsoft has to hand over data from European Office365 servers to US, the US supreme court decided to not investigate this, because the new CLOUD act is now in force which anyway allows this (and without any court/investigating judge involved as it would be the case for a search warrant). While you may think that this violates the new European privacy directive, the European Commission is in fact working on a matching counterpart: E-Evidence. Time will tell whether European courts consider this as legal or not. But until then, it is obvious that using cloud services means that your data is not safe. (It is anyway not safe as I explained below as we can rely on that any network traffic, including our emails, leaving Iceland, in particular when going through UK, will be wire-tapped by foreign services.)

I was asked to remove some easy to google links to newspaper articles concerning the new head of the University IT department as it may violate the University's Code of Ethics ("Staff and students of the University show each other respect in behaviour, speech and in writing.").

The university administration tries to wipe away privacy concerns by referring to standards such as the privacy and security policy ISO/IEC27001 or European law. But it is naive to rely on non-European companies implementing European law:

"At the Office 365 launch, Microsoft U.K.'s managing director Gordon
Frazer, gave the first admission that cloud data, regardless of where it
is in the world, is not protected against the Patriot Act Act.

The question put forward:
Can Microsoft guarantee that EU-stored data, held in EU based
datacenters, will not leave the European Economic Area under any
circumstances — even under a request by the Patriot Act?

Frazer explained that, as Microsoft is a U.S.-headquartered company, it
has to comply with local laws (the United States, as well as any other
location where one of its subsidiary companies is based).

He said: "Microsoft cannot provide those guarantees. Neither can any
other company."
"
Source: http://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-admits-patriot-act-can-access-eu-based-cloud-data/

For exactly that reason, many European universities and research centres forbid to use external and foreign cloud services for critical information (see, e.g., page 5 of the University of Dublin Cloud Computing Policy and Guidelines or the fact that German universities introduced their own private cloud, Sciebo, because external clouds are forbidden -- instead of outsourcing service (and competence) and depending on external providers as HÍ does, the German universities "insource", i.e. set up their own cloud (and gain cloud competencies)).

I think the above mentioned request to remove critical contents from my web page shows that the state of academic freedom is not the best at University of Iceland.

My protest has in the meantime reached international coverage (this tweet linked here has magically disappeared): the Nordic e-Infrastructure Collaboration (NeIC) used its Twitter account to report about the fact that I resigned on 2.3.2018 from representing University of Iceland in the Nordic e-Science community (how can I represent my University if the administration has a completely different view on IT? I sent the new head of the University IT department an email on 1.3.2018, but he did ignore that email (other university employees confirmed that he did not answer emails from academic staff); as he did not reply, I decided as last resort to resign hoping that he replies to that email -- but he still neither replied to that email. Also later email sent to him via the University discussion list were not answered). NeIC is associated with NordForsk and while on 2.3.2018, a NordForsk representative had a lot of understanding for my resignation, NordForsk forced NeIC on 5.3.2018 to remove the tweet. Honi soit qui mal y pense... Instead, a new tweet has been posted that only refers to a workshop that I organised together with my colleagues in 2017.

By the way, the job advertisement for the position of new head of the University IT department mentions explicitly that the job requires experience in introducing changes. So this may explain why changes are being pushed through in a completely undemocratic way.

Due to protests, the introduction has been postponed by one week. But this does not address any of our general concerns. Instead of solving the problems, they are just postponed by one week. The administration makes still very clear that the changes will be implemented just one week later without any democratic discussion.

In addition to a discussion on the university mailing list, I got many supporting personal emails and people where visiting me in my office to express that they agree with me. For example, the following was pointed out in addition:

In fact, Icelandic government, administration, and parliament were suggesting an open-source software policy -- why does University of Iceland not follow it? The following references are in Icelandic only:

Here is my original article:

Our University's computing IT department got a new head. As he does not answer emails to ordinary staff, such as professors like me, I decided to go public:

One of his first decisions was to switch off the old IMAP/SMTP-standard and open-source based email system (Cyrus and Sendmail) operated at our computing centre RHÍ. Instead, we are forced to use Microsoft Office365. It seems that he wants to make an impression as new IT head, but this is in fact a bad start:

We employees in Tæknigarður got an email that the University of Iceland is stopping to use its email system from today 11:00 and we employees thus have today to be between 10:00-11:00 in our offices to give IT personnel access to our computers so that they can setup a new email program that uses a new external email provider.

This change is implemented first in Tæknigarður, but soon the University email accounts of employees in other buildings will be affected until all email accounts (including all our students) are not provided by the University anymore.

I am very concerned about this massive change that the administration is introducing without any discussion. The head of the University IT department, does not answer my email for further details, but here is what I am aware of:

1.)
We shall not use our usual email programs anymore, but the University wants us to use Microsoft Outlook as only software for email and refers thus to http://rhi.hi.is/office365/ and writes
"
- Windows notendur geta fylgt þessum leiðbeiningum til að setja upp póstinn í outlook http://rhi.hi.is/node/1184
- Mac notendur geta fylgt þessum leiðbeiningum til að setja upp póstinn í outlook http://rhi.hi.is/node/1196
- Linux býður ekki upp á outlook en hægt er að nota vefviðmótið á outlook.hi.is
"

(short English translation: Windows users shall install Outlook, Mac users shall install Outlook, for Linux Outlook is not available, but a Web interface can be used.)

To me, this is not acceptable, I want to continue to use the email client that I am used to (which is not Microsoft Outlook, but Thunderbird on Linux). In addition, I cannot be in my office today 10:00-11:00 (I have a meeting) to allow changing my email system and some of the colleagues in Tæknigarður are abroad, e.g. in sabbatical.

2.)
The new external email provider will be Microsoft, i.e. all email that we get is not sent anymore to our University in Iceland, but to Microsoft servers abroad where the email is stored and when we want to read our email we have therefore to retrieve them from the Microsoft servers abroad.

As a computer scientist, I consider this as a severe security problem: with the old system where our email servers were located at our computing centre RHÍ, an email that I sent to another HÍ colleague was just sent from my office to the RHÍ building, stored there at the RHÍ email server and that colleague retrieved it from there, i.e. that email did not leave the University and our RHnet network (Rannsókna og háskólanet Íslands).

Now, an email that I send to a colleague next door is sent to the Microsoft server abroad, stored there all the time and when my colleague wants to read that email, she or he has to retrieve from the Microsoft server abroad where from now on all our email is stored.

If the Microsoft servers are located in the USA, they will be read by the National Security Agency (NSA) and their XKeyscore system as revealed by Edward Snowden. In fact, as soon as our email leaves Iceland, it may be subject of XKeyscore according to this map.

So when you send a Donald Trump joke to a colleague, NSA can read it and it has been documented by The New York Times that two European travelers reported they were denied entry to U.S. after having made U.S. jokes on Twitter.

Even if the Microsoft servers to which we will have to send and from where we have to retrieve our email would not be located in the U.S., but elsewhere in Europe: Iceland has two submarine cables that go to European mainland and our email might go through FARICE that arrives in UK; Snowden said "They are worse than the U.S.": the Tempora system of the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) extracts "most" internet traffic (incl. emails) going through the UK and preserves the data for three days to have enough time to search it.

Via the UKUSA Agreement, UK and USA exchange data and from our Scandinavian partners, it is known that at least Sweden and Norway are also involved.

And even if you hope, your emails will not be sent via the FARICE cable, but via the DANICE cable directly to Danmark and for Danmark, no UKUSA Agreement is known: our emails will be stored at Microsoft and while Microsoft Europe claims that the European General Data Protection Regulation applies to their data centres in Europe: the US
administration argue that U.S. law applies to all Microsoft datacentres all over the world (because Microsoft is a U.S. company): "The administration has the support of 35 states led by Vermont who say they routinely seek access to data stored overseas".

So in future think twice what you send in emails that you thought are HÍ internal: your next visit of a scientific conference in the U.S. is in danger.

Already the fact that starting from now, people make think twice what they write is in my opinion a very bad thing and does not fit at all the concept of academic freedom that should be given at a university.

3.)
Why is this change pushed through with such a short notice?
The announcement to us in Tæknigarður was sent to us just last Thursday after office hours, namely at 17:27 o'clock, i.e. essentially one working day between notice and change today on Monday morning. Why is this change not done outside of teaching during summer?

Also the style of ordering all employees to their office today 10:00-11:00 shows that the administration is getting out of hand and ignores the fact that we have academic duties due to which we may not be in our office at that time.

Administration is there to support university teachers, researchers and students to do what is the purpose of a university: higher education and research. -- The purpose of a university is not administration and university teachers, researchers and students are not members of the university in order to support the administration.

The faculties even pay for the IT services that we are using internally. So this sounds like a free market system, but a free market system works only with competition and consumers having a choice. But we have no choice and our IT administration does not listen to us.

Why is democratic participation of the affected staff and students completely lacking? Future directions of the University should be discussed in Háskólaráð and other committees? The University of Iceland should be a place of open discussion. Instead the administration tries to push through this significant change.

4.)
We have a perfectly running email server running at RHÍ. This software is open source and based on standards that allow us to use any email client that we like to use for writing and accessing our emails. While all trends in academia is towards openness (the University just spent significant efforts to introduce open access for publication), the University of Iceland's administration is now replacing that open source email server software by a proprietary software from Microsoft. Microsoft is anyway already dominating the market in Iceland. The University of Iceland has a social responsibility to promote diversity in all fields. Instead, students will now see when they log-in to the Universities email system, a Microsoft logo giving the impression that there is no alternative to Microsoft.

5.)
A justification for this significant change is missing!

Is it the price? The old email system is open source software, i.e. it is available for free. Setting it up may take a couple of days for the system administrators at RHÍ, but this has already happened and our email services are running without any flaws. Of course, from time to time system administrators have to spend some time, e.g. to install security updates, but this is not an 8 hours per day 5 days per week activity.

For the costs of the Microsoft service, I have to rely on what Microsoft advertises to businesses:
I assume the "Office 365 Business Premium" plan (RHÍ mentions Skype for Business only available in that plan) which is $12.50 per user and month before VAT:

Let's assume HÍ got a special price of $10 per user and month and let's assume that while the change will affect all 1600 staff and more than 10 000 students, a special offer requires only to pay for 10 000 users and instead 12 month per year only for 10 month per year. This would yield

10 000 users * 10 months * $10 = 1 million dollar per year

While I hope, that HÍ will not pay 1 million dollar per year for that service to Microsoft, the costs will not be insignificant.

Now compare these costs to the open source solution that costs just a part-time system administrator (plus some server hardware).
In any case, these costs will be significantly lower what HÍ pays to Microsoft.

6.)
As I am doing research in the field of eScience, I in addition extremely worried in abandoning open standards and using proprietary products instead. Also from a security point of view, I am convinced that proprietary closed-source products (such as Microsoft) are less secure due to a lack of source code reviews by independent security experts.

I was an Icelandic delegate to a working group of the Nordic e-Infrastructure Collaboration (NeIC). Given the new head's IT policies, I am very worried about the future of eScience at the University of Iceland as provided by our computing centre RHÍ as e-Infrastructure provider. I am convinced that eScience must be based on open standards and open-source software -- but how can this be the case with an e-infrastructure provider where the head is not convinced if this? Notably, one of our two HPC system administrators at our computing centre RHÍ has quit his job here at RHÍ (and started at a different Icelandic organisation doing HPC) after the new head took over. So it seems, I am not the only one who sees no eScience future at University of Iceland. I therefore resigned being a delegate on behalf of RHÍ/University of Iceland to the Nordic e-Infrastructure Collaboration (NeIC) both because it makes no sense to be delegated with an e-Infrastructure provider in the back that has a completely different opinion and also to protest against the decision of the new head the University's IT department who has no experience with an academic environment nor with eScience and is thus likely to ruin the existing e-infrastructure.

Most academic staff is pretty upset. It seems that the new head is used to push through decisions against the will of the end users. He has a background in IT for banks and public administration, but he seems not to understand that a university is completely different and a place of academic freedom and diversity. For example, the rectors of the University of Iceland have the ambitious goal to become one of the top 100 universities in the world (according to the Times Higher Education ranking) which means, the University of Iceland needs to employ top researchers. Given the fact that the Icelandic-speaking population is less than 400 000 people, it is obviously these top researchers cannot be Icelanders only, but need to be international researchers who do not speak Icelandic. Still, the email concerning the email infrastructure being changes was only send in Icelandic to the affected employees. Alone this shows, that the new head of the University's IT has no idea of an academic work environment which is by definition international.

This shows what goes wrong if a non-academic person is hired into an academic workplace and not willing to listen to his customers, the professors and students.

LaTeX templates for theses at University of Iceland / LaTeX sniðmát ritgerðar/lokaverkefna Háskóla Íslands

Helmut Neukirchen, 27. November 2017

Our nice administration has unfortunately achieved that the LaTeX templates for PhD theses and MSc theses at the School of Engineering and Natural Sciences are not available anymore (they used to be available via UGLA, but the links there do not work anymore...)

Update: The templates are officially back, but with a new URL, on the School's new Intranet.

For safety, I keep them archived:

Luckily, I found the templates on ShareLaTeX/Overleaf. Here they are:
LaTeX template MSc

For the PhD template, a different LaTeX template is available which includes a README.

For your slides, Katrín Halldórsdóttir created a LaTeX Beamer template (the tex file is GPL, however the logos are property of the University).

Software Engineering for High-Performance Computing Survey

Helmut Neukirchen, 10. November 2017

If you are a member of the HPC community, i.e. have some experience in HPC (either in an HPC expert role at a computing centre or in a user role such as a scientist), please fill out the questionnaire below where we ask for your usage of software development best practises. Filling out the survey just takes 5 minutes:

Software Engineering for High-Performance Computing Survey

If you want to advertise the survey, below is a slide and a flyer:
Slide (PPT)
Flyer (PPT) / Flyer (PDF)