News and highlights in 2017

It has been a significant year of growth and achievement for The Alan Turing Institute. In this post we share some of our favourite news and stories from 2017.

Top news

The Enigma M4 machine, on loan from GCHQ, came to The Alan Turing Institute on 24 July 2017.

Enigma machine finds a new home
An original Enigma machine used by the German Navy during the Second World War came to the Institute on loan from GCHQ in July 2017.  The display, which can be viewed publicly outside the Institute headquarters in the British Library, celebrates the legacy of Alan Turing and his fellow code-breakers at Bletchley Park who famously broke the enigma cipher. Read more

Celebrating moving from start-up to full operations
In the spring we published our first major annual report. It provides an overview of all we achieved in our first year of full operations, including the launch of our academic year, the headway made in our research programmes, and the impact of our busy events and engagement activities.

Our beautiful Annual Report for 2016/17.

Four new universities to join the Institute
In the autumn Turing CEO Sir Alan Wilson announced the Institute’s intention to expand its university network. This is now a reality and Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and Queen Mary University London are set to join us in 2018.

Becoming the national research centre for AI
Of huge significance is the expansion of the Institute’s remit to become the national research centre for artificial intelligence. This was set out within the Government’s Industrial Strategy published in late November.  This news is welcome since AI is core to our research and Turing researchers have provided oral and written evidence to  House of Lords select committee hearings on AI. For more AI reading, check our our recent blog on ‘Why we should all be interested in AI’, which draws on the Turing response to the House of Lords AI committee.

Data science in action: impact and innovation

Partnerships and research impacts
In 2017 we forged new collaborations with Accenture, British Heart Foundation and Cystic Fibrosis Trust to find data science solutions to real-world and life-changing problems.  Turing researchers will develop tools to combat money laundering and fraud, will undertake joint research to tackle cardiovascular illnesses, and enable sufferers of cystic fibrosis to effectively manage their condition. We also appointed leaders in data-driven security and economic data science (Mark Briers and Jonathan Shaw) to drive our strategic partnerships with HSBC and GCHQ/MOD, and undertook research to detect cancer through machine learning techniques as part of our strategic partnership with Intel. In another significant hire, Christine Foster joined us as Managing Director of Innovation, responsible for matching our research with real-world needs, in December.

Click to watch Professor Mark Girolami’s interview with the Times online.

Alan Turing Institute to turn the world’s first 3D printed steel bridge into a ‘living laboratory’ for research
One of our favourite stories of the year came from the Turing-Lloyd’s Register Foundation data-centric engineering programme. Turing researchers have partnered with 3D printing company MX3D to measure, monitor and analyse the performance of the world’s largest 3D printed metal structure: a 12 metre stainless steel bridge due to be installed across an Amsterdam canal next year. If you missed it, here’s another chance to watch Mark Girolami’s interview in The Times. 

The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan celebrates the new collaboration with the Turing to improve air quality in the capital.

Mayor working with The Alan Turing Institute to improve understanding of air quality in London
As London’s air pollution crisis continued to make the headlines, a group of researchers from the data-centric engineering programme began a collaboration with the Mayor of London to improve understanding of air quality across the capital by developing machine learning techniques that will enable better forecasting and modelling.

Distributed ledger for engineered systems: hype or hope?
In September Gary Pogson, a researcher seconded to the Turing as part of the data-centric engineering programme, published a report  exploring whether distributed ledger/blockchain technology could be applied to the engineering sector. It identified significant potential for this technology to improve safety, among many other findings, and sought to separate the hype from the hope in this growing area of technology.

Turing Data Study Group researchers collaborate to find data science solutions to real-world problems.

Data science will change the world
Finally, our Data Study Groups are microcosms of our mission to find data-science solutions to critical problems we face today. This year we ran three week-long events, which enable the brightest minds in data science, analytics and mathematics to work on challenges brought by business, government and charities. This year researchers collaborated to tackle unsolved problems relating to acute pressures on A&E, urban pollution and to identify and predict vulnerabilities in source code – to name just a few. Keep an eye on our Data Study Group page for the next event.

Fairness and equality

Turing researchers Sandra Wachter and Chris Russell prepare to head off to the NIPS conference.

New research explores how to filter out unfairness from machine learning 

Data ethics, fairness and transparency is an important area of research for many in the Turing community. Earlier this year four Research Fellows at the Institute proposed new methods to analyse the fairness of machine learning techniques which make decisions that can significantly affect people’s lives. This novel approach called ‘counterfactual fairness’ was selected as a paper for oral presentation at this year’s NIPS (Neural Information Processing Systems) machine learning conference in Long Beach, California, and also featured in a Guardian article on fairness, transparency and accountability. Find out more about Turing researchers at the NIPS conference in our recent blog.

Turing Doctoral Student Corinne Cath.

Data science, gender and equality – interview with PhD student Corinne Cath
As an organisation we remain firmly committed to embedding gender equality and diversity within our culture and work. On International Women’s Day (March 8) we published an interview with Turing Doctoral student Corinne Cath, who shared her perspective on data science and equality.


Best Turing videos 2017

Turing Lectures are a regular feature of our events calendar throughout the year and in 2017 we were honoured to host a range of fantastic speakers who are highly acclaimed experts in their fields. Here we bring you our most viewed lectures from 2017, in case you missed them or would like to recap.

1. The role of multi-agent learning in artificial intelligence research at DeepMind (9 March 2017) Speaker: Thore Graepel (DeepMind)

2. Data science for medicine (9 May 2017) Speaker: Mihaela van der Schaar (Turing, University of Oxford)

3. Algorithmic accountability (31 May 2017) Speaker: Ben Shneidermann (University of Maryland)




You can browse the back catalogue of our 25+ Turing Lectures, plus many other talks and seminars, on our YouTube channel.

Looking ahead

2018 promises to be another exciting year of achievement at the Turing. We have a number of events and workshops already in the pipeline, including conferences and workshops on Women in Data Science, data science for climate and environment and AI and ethics, and are planning our next Data Study Group in April 2018. You can apply for a Turing internship place for next summer (deadline closes 31 Jan) and look out for recruitment onto our popular enrichment scheme early next year, which enables PhD students already undertaking their doctorate to spend a year at the Turing boosting their data science skills.

Many thanks for all your support in this important year in the Institute’s development, and please sign up to our e-newsletter for monthly updates on news and opportunities!