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Department of Information Technology

News from the Department of Information Technology

Below we present news, activities and other information from the divisions and researchers at the Department of Information Technology.

Department of IT at COP27 in Egypt
Vera van Zoest, researcher in data analysis and machine learning for smart cities, visited the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el Sheikh during the final week of the negotiations.

She shares her experiences of the climate summit:

It has been an amazing experience to be able to take part in such a global event. The entire city turned into a conference and has been completely renovated to welcome the 40.000 participants. Even in the hotel it was clear that the beach resort welcomed no tourists for two weeks, but only COP27 participants. This created a very nice atmosphere, strangers joining each other for breakfast and dinner, as everyone is part of the COP family.

The negotiations are of course the center of the conference, and as an observer it felt like an honour to be allowed to watch some of these sessions, in which even the press is not allowed. But apart from the negotiations there were a lot of side events, like seminars and panel discussions in meeting rooms. Several large halls were filled with country pavilions from all over the world, showcasing their achievements and developments, as well as having their own seminars. Imagine a conference with 50-100 parallel sessions! A lot to choose from and a lot to plan. I stayed mostly within the domain of my interests: data and models, decision support systems, energy, and security.

What I, as a data scientist, felt particularly rewarding to see, was the continuous mentioning of the importance of data, but more importantly, to make sense of data through models, AI, digital tools and decision support systems. The food-water-energy nexus, for which we previously developed a decision support system in the EU CRUNCH project (, was also mentioned a lot. Furthermore it was of course amazing to see all new technologies, like electrical airplane engines being developed in Japan. If it’s up to them, we will be flying electric planes by 2040. Smart city technology is everywhere. The US Center pavilion emphasized the importance of data to build prediction models and early warning systems. Prevention is so much cheaper than bearing the consequences of climate change, and it is great that we can use data to support that.

Besides attending the conference, I had the honour to be invited by the Swedish Embassy in Egypt to a museum tour and reception, and a digital meeting with our new climate minister Romina Pourmokhtari. Overall it has been an overwhelming but great and inspiring experience, and I would like to thank StandUp for Energy for providing me this unique opportunity.

To read more about Veras experiences, you can read her blogs on Twitter: @standup4energy or LinkedIn:

Designing for Human Well-Being: A Case Study with Informal Caregivers of Individuals with Cancer
Åsa Cajander and Awais Ahmad have participated in a research project that attempts to bridge the knowledge gap between formal and informal caregivers by creating web-based support systems. This is currently an ongoing project that will act as a case study for the design and development of health information systems with a big focus on the user.

Informal Caregivers such as a spouse, other close relatives or friends of cancer patients can play an essential role in home-based treatment and care. However, the informal caregivers might not be prepared for this responsibility, and they might have several unmet requirements for taking care of patients in the home environment. The informal caregivers’ physical, social and psychological health is also profoundly affected due to the health conditions of their relatives.

We propose a User-centred Positive Design as a hybrid framework by merging the traditional User-cantered design and positive design frameworks to enhance the informal caregivers’ subjective well-being. Our ongoing project (Carer-eSupport) will be used as a case study, and its main objective is to co-create and evaluate a web-based support system for informal caregivers of people with cancer. The proposed framework can be used for the design and development of health information systems with a special focus on users’ wellbeing and positive emotions.

Fulltext available on this link

Escaping unsustainable digital interactions
Growing and even excessive use of digital technology has unquestionably fuelled demand for digital devices and online services leading to a wide range of societal and environmental impacts.

In sustainability terms, ICT as a whole is estimated to produce up to nearly 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
As presumed responsible innovators, the HCI (Human Computer Interaction) community should now consider design strategies that will reduce use and demand for digital technology for the good of both its users and the planet-strategies perhaps even seen as retrogressive in an era where digital technology is constantly implicated in innovation and economic growth.

In this research article, the researchers explore how they may design intentionally moderate digital interactions that retain their participants' "more meaningful" experiences. They report on the outcomes of two design workshops to uncover experiences of meaningful device and service use, to inform practical designs for 'moderate and meaningful' interaction. From this, they offer design recommendations that aim to address the multiple negative impacts that digital technology can create, and discuss the possible barriers to these designs.

You can find the article in its entirety on this link, the article has Open Access

Information systems in nurses' work: Technical rationality versus an ethic of care
New digital information systems are continually being implemented in healthcare. They are expected to increase efficiency, reduce costs and facilitate the monitoring of healthcare, as well as increase patient safety, satisfaction and empowerment.

Nurses increasingly interact with health information systems (HIS) in their daily work. Information systems in nurses work: Technical rationality versus an ethic of care examines how the problems that they confront in that interaction can be understood through the theoretical concepts of technical rationality and an ethic of care.

The findings are based on a qualitative study of nurses in one Swedish hospital. They suggest that HIS did not support the holistic care of patients, and were not adapted to the varied and often urgent situations that nurses faced in their daily work, leaving them feeling isolated with their problems.

In summary, HIS were found to serve the administrative aims of a hospital organisation, based on technical rationality, rather than supporting patients' needs as seen from an ethics of care perspective. The contribution of the study is to show how the use of these two conceptual tools connects nurses' daily problems with HIS to more fundamental issues about the values upon which healthcare is grounded.

Read the full article on the Wiley website

This article was written by Minna Salminen-Karlsson and Diane Golay.

Master students from the IT dept. receives award for best paper
The organisation giving out the award is Jordbrukstekniska föreningen (JTF), this is the first time JTF is giving out an award for the best essay. The recipients are the two students Elsa Jerhamre and Carl Johan Casten Carlberg for their essay: Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture.

We have previously written about smart farming and interviewed Vera van Zoest who was the students supervisor when they wrote the paper.

You can read that interview on our website.

Big congratulations to Elsa and Carl Johan!

New Ångström Laboratory finalist in Uppsala Municipality's Architecture Prize 2022
Nya Ångström is Akademiska Hus and Uppsala University's largest joint venture of all time. Now the project can win the Uppsala Municipality's architecture award 2022.

On 13 May 2022, the 30,000 sq m project Nya Ångström in Uppsala was inaugurated. The building was created to enable the Department of Information Technology to be co-located with other departments at Ångström. But the building also opens up for collaborations with business and the city. The project also provides a welcome addition of modern research and learning environments to the campus. The house was designed by the architectural firm PE Teknik and Arkitektur and construction began in the spring of 2018.

About Uppsala Municipality's architecture prize

Since 2020, Uppsala Municipality has been awarding prizes for good architecture and sustainable solutions for buildings, public places or entire environments. The award will encourage builders and architects to develop projects to a high architectural level with good sustainability. The award will engage the construction industry and Uppsala residents in the work with a well-designed environment and raise debate about the values that good architecture provides.

Uppsala Municipality's architecture prize will be awarded on June 20 and the jury consists of people from the academy, Uppsala municipality and city developers in the business community.

Read more about the prize on Uppsala municipality's website.

New Beijer Laboratory in AI at the Department of IT
Today we hosted an inauguration for a new Beijer Laboratory in AI at House 10. Thomas Schön at the Department of IT received funding from the Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation.
Our Head of Department Lina von Sydow gave a speech about this new venture and we also got to hear speeches from Cecilia Wikström at the Beijer Foundation, Anders Wall who is the chairman of the Beijer Foundation, vice-rector Johan Tysk and professor Thomas Schön. We will post updates on what was said in the coming days.

A big congratulations to Thomas Schön and everyone involved.

Text from TekNat:
The first Beijer Laboratory at the Faculty of Science and Technology was made possible by a donation from Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation. The lab will be led by the Beijer professor of artificial intelligence. This position has been held by Thomas Schön since 2020. The funding provided by the Beijer Foundation amounts to SEK 2.6 million per year for 5 years. However, there are strong possibilities of permanent support, as is the case for two other Beijer science labs in the fields of medicine and pharmacy and one at SLU.

Anders Wall, chair of the Beijer Foundation, Cecilia Wikström, director of the foundation and Anders Hagfeldt, Vice-Chancellor of Uppsala University, were present at the inauguration on 10 May at the Ångström Laboratory. Johan Tysk, Vice-rector of the Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, thanked the Beijer Foundation for investing in the new lab, which means a lot both to the faculty and the university.

Overall impact
“We’re pleased that the Beijer Foundation wishes to conduct artificial intelligence research with a focus on life sciences, as well as social science problems and opportunities. As I see them, these are extremely interesting research areas, but at the same time these are things I think we’ll all notice and be affected by in our daily lives,” said Johan Tysk.
Since 2020, the Carolina Rediviva University Library has also been host to a five-year research project called AI4Research, in which researchers from across the university can gather to develop their research areas with the help of AI. The project’s scientific leader is Beijer professor Thomas Schön, who spoke about what inspires his research.

“Either it should be the absolute best basic research or it should be about using it in ways that are relevant to society. For me, it’s very important to be able to see how algorithms can actually be used to solve real-world problems, and then to be able to channel this so we know what type of basic research we’re going to be working with.”

A broad spectrum of collaboration
The agreement between the Beijer Foundation and the Faculty of Science and Technology was then signed. According to Anders Wall, this was the most exciting project he has seen so far, because it includes so many areas.

"I'm also very happy that we have a place in Carolina Rediviva, and we also have access not only to the education and development that takes place in Building 10 of the Ångström Laboratory, but also a relationship with other faculties and other people within the university."

Facts about the Beijer artificial intelligence laboratory
The new Beijer Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in Building 10 of the Ångström Laboratory is funded by the Kjell and Märta Beijer Foundation. The Beijer Laboratory aims to create a new, unique people-centred engineering discipline with a focus on two fields of science:

AI with a focus on research applied to the life sciences
AI with a focus on research into its societal impacts

Two people will be employed under the name “Beijer researchers” and will receive SEK 2.6 million in funding per year for 5 years, with the possibility of extension.
In 1990, a donation from the Beijer Foundation laid the foundation for the Beijer Laboratory for Genome Research at Uppsala University. In 2013, the foundation awarded funding to two more research fields at Uppsala University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). Today, these are known by the names Beijer Laboratories for Genetic Research and Neuroscience, Pharmaceutical Research and Animal Research.

Read more:
Beijer Foundation
New professor leads the initiative for AI as a research tool
Beijer Foundation to fund new AI professorship

Integrating AI into university courses and programmes
Expertise in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) is in high demand and has broadened to take in more professions. The new national WASP-ED programme is now being launched to develop education in AI. “We will be scaling up our capacity to teach artificial intelligence,” says Anna Foka, senior lecturer at Uppsala University’s Department of Archives, Libraries and Museums (ALM).

In the world of research, artificial intelligence is often described as the new industrial revolution. AI is involved in everything from voice control and computer vision to collaborating robots, autonomous vehicles and advanced visualisation and interaction.

The Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation is now launching a new development programme to increase the capability and capacity of Swedish universities to offer relevant, up-to-date courses and programmes in AI. Programme leader Professor Fredrik Heintz of Linköping University comments: “We now have the opportunity to work on a national level with education issues related to AI and other transformative technologies. Our goal is to support all education, not only engineering, to take a significant, qualitative step forward in their work with AI and what we call transformative technologies.”

More information

“And then what happens?” Promoting Children’s Verbal Creativity Using a Robot
Researchers from dept. of IT recently published an article about AI and how robots can promote children's verbal creativity. The article was published in ACM.

See a YouTube clip about their findings and project

While creativity has been previously studied in Child-Robot Interaction (cHRI), the effect of regulatory focus on creativity skills has not been investigated. This paper presents an exploratory study that, for the first time, uses the Regulatory Focus Theory (RFT) to assess children’s creativity skills in an educational context with a social robot.

We investigated whether two key emotional regulation techniques, promotion (approach)and prevention (avoidance), stimulate creativity during a story-telling activity between a child and a robot. We conducted a between-subjects field study with 69 children between the ages of 7 and 9 years old, divided between two study conditions:(1) promotion, where a social robot primes children for action by eliciting positive emotional states, and (2) prevention, where a social robot primes children for avoidance by evoking a state related to security and safety associated with blockage-oriented behaviors. To assess changes in creativity as a response to the priming interaction, children were asked to tell stories to the robot before (pre-test) and after (post-test) the priming interaction. We measured creativity levels by analyzing the verbal content of the stories. We coded verbal expressions related to creativity variables, including fluency, flexibility, elaboration, and originality.

Our results show that children in the promotion condition generated significantly more ideas, and their ideas were on average more original in the stories they created in the post-test rather than in the pre-test. We also modeled the process of creativity that emerges during storytelling in response to the robot’s verbal behavior. This paper enriches the scientific understanding of creativity emergence in child-robot collaborative interactions.

Link to the research paper at ACM:s website

UTN Pedagogical Prize 2021 goes to Elias Castegren at IT
Congratulations Elias!

The motivation is as follows:
Elias Castegren manages to engage the students and through pedagogical skills he manages to make teaching fun. He is greatly committed which is noticeable through quick response, a student writes "If you send an email with a question or thought, you can always be sure that he will try to help you until the problem is solved."

In addition to being keen to help his students, he exudes a willingness to get all students to learn and succeed. Elias receives good criticism and is always prepared to make changes to the course to make it better for the students during the course. In a course that students find difficult, they feel a special confidence in Elias who takes their mental health very seriously. He reminds students that they can always contact him to find individual adaptations and thinks that everyone should have a life outside of their studies.

As the cherry on top, Elias has managed to carry out the course Imperative and object-oriented programming methodology in an appreciated way while being course coordinator for the first time.

With his commitment and ability to make a theoretically heavy course both fun and easy to understand, where both students' learning and mental health has been in focus, Elias Castegren is awarded UTN's pedagogical prize 2021.

More knowledge is needed about how AI affects the work environment
Åsa Cajander at Vi2 has recently been involved in writing a collection of knowledge about AI, robotics and the work environment. The knowledge collection is written together with Bengt Sandblad and Magdalena Stadin who also do research at Vi2.

In an interview with Arbetsliv, Åsa talks about the need for more research in AI and robotics in how it affects us.

Read the interview with Åsa at his link (Swedish only)

New aggregate ranking is wind in Uppsala University’s sails
In a ranking that aggregates three of the world’s premier university rankings – QS, THE and ARWU – Uppsala University ranks at 96 as the best Swedish university. The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia is behind this aggregate ranking, which was launched three years ago.

“This is not a ranking using our own indicators, but simply an aggregate of the three top ranking systems that we usually follow and report indicators to, so it’s still quite interesting to see the effect of aggregating different ways of measuring,” says Emma Östlund, controller in the University Administration who has worked with reporting to ranking systems from the University.

Smart technology - the future of farming
Students Elsa Jerhamre and Carl Johan Casten Carlberg wrote a master thesis on smart farming that caught the eye of their reviewer, Dr Vera van Zoest.
Vera herself is doing research in data analysis and machine learning for smart cities and thought the thesis was deserving of being spread to a wider audience and turned into a published research article which is what this interview will be about.

The data collected in the master thesis consists of literature reviews and interview studies with 21 stakeholders consisting of farmers, cooperative employees, researchers and government representatives.

What is smart farming and why is it an interesting subject?
“Smart farming is the future for farming: increased yield, less workload and adaptation to climate change. Smart farming is a system of decision support tools, often based on large sets of data. For example, a network of sensors, also known as internet-of-things, can collect large amounts of data on the wellbeing of animals” – Vera van Zoest explains.

There are multiple benefits to smart farming that could aid both well-being of animals and our planet.

“Wearable devices can measure for example heat and hormone levels, and cameras can detect the physical wellbeing of the animals. In this way, the feed of the animals can be automatically adjusted to their individual needs.”

“At the same time, drone systems monitor large crop fields to detect illnesses and predict yield. By adjusting water resources, fertilizer and pesticides to the amounts actually needed, lots of waste can be avoided.”

What kind of challenges is facing farmers that want to utilize the technology available for smart farming?
Elsa, Carl Johan and Vera wanted to highlight that some of the most important hurdles are the expensive investments required and lack of financial support from external stakeholders, the lack of technical education amongst farmers, lack of connection between technical systems, difficulties understanding and acting on the data, unpredictable consumer markets and a lack of cybersecurity.

This shows that there are definitely some very challenging obstacles to overcome for farmers that want to explore smart farming technology.

On the other hand, there is a movement towards developing more smart farming tools, it is only a matter of how to overcome these challenges.

“Meanwhile, companies and cooperatives see smart farming as an opportunity for increased cooperation, involving end-users in the development process, streamlined logistics and a trend towards Software-as-a-Service.”

“The agricultural sector has been under development for decades, and the shift towards smart farming techniques and data-driven agriculture may be one of the greatest transitions. It is no longer a question if smart farming will continue to develop, but how the hurdles will be resolved and which stakeholders will benefit the most from its opportunities.”

Did anything that came up during your research catch you off guard?
The writers found that the data they collected during their research was more or less what they expected.

“The results of the interviews matched pretty well with what we had seen in literature, so many results did not come as a big surprise. For example, for many farmers, the investments in smart farming are too expensive, which increases the gap between richer and poorer farmers.”

But there were definitely some things that they did not foresee, like the primary reason why farmers were interested in smart farming.

“At the same time, we saw some novel results from the interviews as well. For example, it became clear that some farmers also just like the idea of being the first to try something new, “the amusement factor”. We also see a strong transition towards Software-as-a-Service, which saves large investment costs but allows farmers to make use of new technologies.”

What’s next for research into smart farming?
Vera explains that while the topic is relevant to her own research, she is first and foremost doing research on smart cities, but she does not completely rule out future research into the subject.

“Most of my research is focused on smart cities, but the countryside is often neglected in most research on internet-of-things and “smartness”. This research article has helped us to create an overview of the current state of smart farming, from which we have learned a lot.”

“In fact, many techniques are very similar between smart cities and smart farming but applied in a totally different way. It’s interesting to realize that the facial recognition cameras that are installed on the airport for automatic passport control are very similar to the techniques used to recognize individual cows for targeted feeding!”

“Meanwhile, there are still many open questions which would be interesting to look at in the future.”

About the author:
Dr Vera van Zoest is a 29-year-old postdoctoral researcher in data analysis and machine learning for smart cities at the Department of IT at Uppsala University. She has been at the university and the department for 2.5 years.

Link to the article

“This is an overview article. Rather than presenting new methodology, it presents an overview of the state-of-the-art of smart farming through an extensive literature review and an interview study.”

Who will find the next billion-dollar math equation that will create the Google of the future?
David Sumpter, professor at the IT department, recently published an opinion article in the English newspaper The Guardian. In the Article, Sumpter is talking about different mathematical equations and ideas that have shaped the IT sector in one way or another, the biggest one might be Google (PageRank).

Which mathematical equation or theory will take us into the future of IT?

Read the complete article on The Guardian website

David Sumpter is a professor of Applied Mathematics at the Department of Information Technology in the Division of Systems and Control (DoCS)

Congratulations to the new professors at Dept. of IT
The pandemic put a temporary halt to the inaugural lectures for our new professors. But last week it was finally their turn to officially get to hold their lectures and we think it's a good time to celebrate their achievements once again.

Nataša Sladoje
Professor in Computerized Image Analysis

Elisabeth Larsson
Professor of Scientific Computing

Ginevra Castellano
Professor in Intelligent Interactive Systems

Big congratulations!

Updated  2019-01-29 09:07:38 by Kajsa Örjavik.