All posts by Paul Andrews

Paul is the founder and editor of More Yorkshire, the latest digital publication that he has launched.

Celebrations For Anne Lister’s Birthday Festival

Organisations across Calderdale and the wider West Yorkshire region are coming together to celebrate the life, loves and legacy of Shibden Hall’s most famous resident, Anne Lister.

The famous landowner, entrepreneur, mountaineer, scholar, traveller, and lesbian, Anne Lister was born in Halifax on 3 April 1791. To celebrate the anniversary of her birth, Calderdale Council is supporting a packed programme of events as part of the Anne Lister Birthday Festival.

The festival runs from Monday 27 March until Monday 3 April and includes over 70 events, ranging from walks, talks, lectures, painting workshops. The full programme and how to buy tickets is available here. Some events have already sold out, so fans are encouraged to book as soon as possible.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, Cllr Jenny Lynn, said: “The life and legacy of Anne Lister continues to inspire, and we’re delighted to be able to present a full programme of events to celebrate this extraordinary woman.”

“The incredible success of Sally Wainwright’s, Gentleman Jack brought Anne’s story to a wider audience and we’re expecting visitors from across the world to festival events and Calderdale’s cultural venues.”

“Some events have already sold out and we’ve had a lot of interest, particularly from the USA. In fact, we’re already expecting over 300 people to make the trip from the states to Calderdale for Anne’s birthday.”

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Strategy, Cllr Jane Scullion, said: “Screen tourism is increasingly important to Calderdale’s visitor economy and the ongoing popularity of the borough as a filming location is bringing further tourism benefits to the area.”

“Gentleman Jack has been a cultural phenomenon and has inspired many visitors to come and walk in Anne’s footsteps and experience our vibrant towns and villages for themselves.”

“The Anne Lister Birthday Festival is an opportunity to explore the places she knew, lived in and visited, and to learn more about her life with new and exclusive events.”

In addition to individual events, Shibden Hall, which was Anne’s home and is the focus of the BBC drama series ‘Gentleman Jack’, will be open daily throughout the festival. Tickets must be booked in advance here, where you can also confirm opening times.

Halifax Minster, where Anne worshipped and was baptised and buried, will also be open every day throughout the festival.

Special events are being held at Bankfield Museum, Halifax Central Library, The Piece Hall and Dean Clough. A special hop-on, hop-off shuttle bus is running throughout the festival, from Halifax town centre to Shibden Hall, Bankfield Museum and Dean Clough on a loop throughout the day.

More information about the festival and other attractions and events happening around the borough, as well as details of where to stay and what to do in Calderdale, is available here

How Technology Can Support The Customer Service Process

Offering top quality customer service is very important for both an organisation and their customer base. Over the years, customer service has evolved to allow automated systems to assist with traditional human interactions. Here, we discuss how the advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are being used to provide best-in-class service – with further insight into customers so staff can meet their needs.

A More Efficient Way of Working
The implementation and advances in AI have allowed customer services departments to operate in a more streamlined and efficient way which is beneficial to all parties. Using an automated online chat facility, rather than one staffed by an employee, helps remove unnecessary volume coming into the contact centre. This in turn allows staff to utilise their time more effectively, as they will be dealing with issues that do require human contact. The customer will see a benefit too as the reduction in volume to the contact centre can see shorter waiting times.

Blair Strachan of outsourcing experts Kura, said: “Having a blend of adviser and AI can really help improve the service on offer. If a customer can use a chatbot or navigate a self-serve option, it prevents calls coming into the contact centre which is a huge benefit.”

“Customers really value ease of use when thinking about renewing a contract. If they don’t need to wait in a queue and can resolve any issues using technology it may keep them with you even if you are more expensive. You want AI to deal with the easy tasks so the highly skilled adviser can handle the issues that require more time to resolve.”

“We ran a project that looked at 200,000 data points with a view of reducing handle time for voice and email interactions. As a result of that project, we implemented a solution that reduced average handle time by 3.5% as well as a 30% reduction in email handle time, which is a considerable saving”

Round the Clock Customer Service
The advancement of AI has enabled customer services to have a presence at times of day when staff are not physically working, and in the past would have seen customer services simply closed. Having an automated system in place provides an all-round better service for the customer, and it may be the case that their issue can be solved without the need to even speak to a member of staff.

Outsourcing customer service to a specialist organisation can allow businesses to provide help and guidance to customers at all hours, which they may not have the capacity to do in-house. This could be of particular benefit to start-ups and small to medium enterprises who do not have the resource to fulfil this important pillar of business in-house. Not only that, it also allows staff to spend time on other areas of the business that aren’t outsourced, improving productivity.

A bespoke outsourced solution can also mean a business’ customer services are in the best hands, using best practices and harnessing the latest technological advances to deliver the best service possible.

For the customer service process, if the issue cannot be resolved without human interaction, the initial contact will cut down on the time the employee needs to spend on the issue when they are available. In this situation, AI can enable automation of lower-level tasks that previously would have required a human interaction and would have not been available to customers outside of traditional hours.

Personalised User Experiences
Approximately 71% of customers would like the ability to solve the problem they are experiencing themselves. AI plays an important role in allowing this to happen, sometimes even before a customer need to contact customer services. Suggestions and recommendations can be sent to customers, based on their search and purchasing history, enabling content to be sent to the customer at the best possible time. By developing an understanding of a customer and creating a customer profile, a personal user experience can be provided.

In addition to this, AI in customer services has allowed the development of augmented messaging to realise when a human operator needs to step in. This is an important step as, while chatbots are useful for smaller queries, a customer can become frustrated if they feel they aren’t getting anywhere with the chat and this in turn leads to a poor customer experience. Allowing the employee to jump in and take over will allow the situation to be resolved more efficiently.

Improved Interactions with Customers and a Data-Driven Approach
Automated chat services allow customer services to be handled partly without the need for human interaction. AI can complete tasks ranging from replying to a simple message through to providing a customer with a refund. By utilising technology, businesses can provide quick responses to customers, and the use of automation allows employees to be utilised on tasks and areas of the business that require a human touch.

Interacting with customers is, of course, a huge part of customer services, particularly when there are issues to be resolved. AI does play another role though; in that it can work with service agents to recall customer data. How can this affect customer services? The system can learn the customer, and if a repeat customer hasn’t been contacted in a while, then this can be flagged, and the customer contacted. This keeps the customer in contact with the business and can help with retention. This feature is particularly effective with AI is paired with a CRM.

Overall, technology and the development of AI plays a huge role in helping customer services departments offer a best-in-class service. It combines well with existing in-house or outsourced customer service solutions to provide the best journey for a customer. Whether it be through chatbots, combined augmented and human live chat services, offering round the clock service, or helping businesses understand customers more through the data aspect – technology and AI allows for a better customer service experience.

UK Firms Need To Overhaul Thinking On Older Workers

UK firms need to overhaul their thinking on older workers, or risk facing the same skills challenges in the future

With skills shortages showing no sign of slowing – with the latest ONS data revealing employment levels are up once again – and pleas from the Government for retirees to re-enter the workforce to help solve this, specialist recruitment firm, Robert Half, has cautioned that without an overhaul of skills development, the UK could be in the same situation in the next few years.

While the Government has encouraged workers over 50 to end early retirement through its midlife ‘MOT initiative’, and the Chancellor having recently announced that he is exploring a ‘slightly shorter type’ of apprenticeship, the firm has argued that these will be a missed opportunity unless employers and Government work together to agree and implement significant changes to engage and train this demographic.

Kris Harris, Regional Director – Midlands, Home Counties & East of England – from Robert Half, explained: “While we support any initiative aimed at bolstering the UK’s workforce and which helps ease the skills shortages currently challenging employers, we feel that without real change, the actions of today will simply delay the retirement cliff further, rather than resolve it. The current hiring, training and talent management landscape isn’t geared towards older demographics. This is a historical trend that we’ve seen and while we applaud the efforts to encourage over 50’s back into employment, this needs to be underpinned by a thorough strategy.”

“The skills and training issue is particularly pertinent. Not only is there a need to support the transfer of knowledge from older workers to those earlier on in their career, but those in the 50+ age bracket also need to be upskilled to ensure they are both working and training to their best abilities. The challenge is that there needs to be purposeful, structured programmes to address such upskilling and knowledge transfer initiatives.”

“And there are some stereotypes that still need to be challenged, such as the perception of apprenticeship considered as more beneficial for those early in their career, rather than as a tool to upskill and reskill workers who require additional development or choose to explore a radically different professional field, such as technology, for example.”

“It is paramount that employers and Government bodies work closely together to ensure that older workers are not only enticed to cease early retirement, but also provided with the upskilling support that will help them navigate the new world of work and be able to pass on their invaluable expertise and practical knowledge to the younger workforce. Time is of the essence and action is needed now, before they once again reach a point when they plan to exit the workforce. It’s rare to get a second chance at engaging with retirees – wasting this chance now will be detrimental to the country’s profile as a skills powerhouse.”

Wakefield’s Rhubarb Festival Starts On Friday

Photo Credit: Andrew Benge

The countdown is underway for Wakefield Council’s famous Rhubarb Festival – beginning on Friday 17 February and running until Sunday 19 Feb 2023.

The highly anticipated weekend will be packed with so much to see and do, with the fabulous market – full of rhubarb treats returning this year with almost 60 chalets, that will be open from 10am to 5pm on Friday and Saturday and 10am – 4pm on Sunday.

The Rhubarb Festival isn’t just about delicious food. It’s also about great entertainment and visitors will be able to see some of the best in town lined up for you this February!

Free family activities include celebrity chef demos, family activities, live music, and street entertainment.

Cllr Michael Graham, Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure, and Sport said: “We can’t wait to welcome everyone to our celebration of our district’s most famous vegetable, with a weekend that is packed with so much to do for people of all ages. “The stage is set for some fabulous fun so make sure you don’t miss out, by coming down and taking part in this wonderful event.”

Entertainment will include Dame Ruby Rhubarb returning across the entire festival weekend. Morris dancers will perform on Saturday 18 February. The Roaming Flat Cap Brass Band will be performing throughout the day on Friday 17 February and Saturday 18 February.

Live music programmed by Wakefield Music Collective will be live every day from the Rhu-Bar.

Free family activities including face painting, craft activities, storytelling, cupcake decorating and more will be available in the precinct and at Treacy Hall (next to the Cathedral) throughout the weekend.

A bookable comedy night on Friday 17 February, will see MC Liam Pickford joined by Danny Deegan, Stephanie Laing and Stephen Bailey. On Saturday 18 February, don’t miss Rob Rouse, Pete Selwood and The Chase’s very own Paul Sinha.

Enjoy non-stop fringe activity including crafts at Wakefield Cathedral on Friday 17 February, free activities and talks with the gardener in residence at The Art House on Friday 17 February and Saturday 18 February, and free face painting at The Ridings on Sunday 19 February, plus much more.

Chef demos will take place every day from 11am – 3pm curated by Yorkshire Food Guide, with these demonstrations signed by a British Sign Language interpreter.

Friday 17 February
11am – Karen Wright (Great British Bake Off)
12 noon – Chef Rü (MasterChef finalist)
1pm – Bobby Geetha (Great British Menu)
2pm – Chef Rü (MasterChef finalist)

Saturday 18 February
11am – TÊT
12 noon- Crystelle Pereira (Great British Bake Off 2021 finalist)
1pm – Heather Copley (Farmer Copleys)
2pm – Crystelle Pereira (Great British Bake Off 2021 finalist)

Sunday 19 February
11am – Karen Wright (Great British Bake Off)
12 noon – Alexandra Vaughan (Crows Rest)
1pm – Chris Hale
2pm – Liam Duffy (IRIS)

The Rhubarb Food & Drink Trail will run alongside the festival to encourage visitors to explore venues across the city centre. As many as 25 venues will be taking part including cafes, bars and restaurants

Maps will be available at the festival showcasing all the participating venues and their mouth-watering rhubarb-themed offering.

Find out more information here

Maritime Community Grant Benefits For Hull

Photo Credit: Festival Of The Sea with Mambo Jambo by Paul J Cunningham.

Hull Maritime has handed out more than £20,000 in grants to support local community groups to deliver maritime themed projects to communities across the city.

The second round of Hull Maritime Community Grant Scheme launched in October and received a record number of applications from community groups and residents in Hull and surrounding areas.

Micro grants of up to £500 and small grants of up to £2,000 were available in three categories: Heritage, Environment, and Wellbeing, reflecting important and timely themes and drawing links between our maritime past, present and future.

The first round in 2022, awarded eight projects with funding and included a new sculpture by Art You Experienced, created from community litter picks along the river Hull; helping the Beverley Barge Preservation Society to bring the historic Syntan to Hull Marina and take part in the Queen’s Jubilee Flotilla; and funding to provide information boards to accompany the Lost Trawlermen’s Memorial which is being installed on St Andrew’s Quay.

The latest round has awarded thirteen grants and includes:

  • Tamar and Jo for a community dance project culminating in performances at Edinburgh Street Community Centre in July 2023.
  • Mambo Jambo to co-create a podcast with young people at Ron Dearing UTC and West Hull Community Radio, focused on maritime issues.
  • Twelve Tribes of Yorkshire for a community history project and exhibitions exploring the stories and experiences of local African and Caribbean seafarers.
  • Lauren Saunders for a creative wellbeing course focused on our relationships to water and the maritime environment, to be delivered in partnership with NHS Humber Recovery and Wellbeing College.
  • Three Ways East for a project exploring maritime identity and storytelling through tattoos, using photography, creative works, and exhibitions.
  • Rooted in Hull for a maritime-themed arts, music, and culture event (and associated workshops) in June 2023.
  • Hull Bullnose Heritage Group to support their research on fishermen and trawling histories, focused on the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
  • Fantastic Faces for a collaborative maritime mural to be created within Pearson Park.
  • The People Project for a photography exhibition of sixty portraits and stories relating to Hull’s fishing heritage communities.
  • St Giles Scout Group for a maritime-themed day trip to Hull city centre, taking place in April 2023.
  • The Headscarf Revolutionaries Statue Management Committee to hold four consultation workshops across the city in July and August 2023.
  • Friends of Garrowby Orchard to create interpretation panels for Setting Dyke Community Greenspace, exploring the site’s historic role in flood defences and the future of blue-green spaces.
  • Alex Hunt to work with young people to co-create a mural dedicated to women’s histories of maritime Hull, in partnership with Bankside Gallery.

Councillor Mike Ross, Leader of Hull City Council, said: “The latest round of the Hull Maritime Community Grant Scheme has had an exceptional response, with a range of creative projects led by our residents covering a vast range of themes including storytelling, dance and music, art, exhibitions, and exciting events.”

“The selected projects will connect our communities with our maritime past, present and future, support skill development and improve wellbeing, as well as helping people to learn more about our city.”

Lauren Saunders, one of the recipients of a community grant, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to have been awarded this community grant, to be part of the Hull Maritime story and to be working with Recovery College students.”

Future rounds of the Hull Maritime Community Grant Scheme will take place later in the year.

Hull Maritime is funded by Hull City Council and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, it encompasses the redevelopment of five historic sites in Hull city centre.

Former Apprentice Appears On Top Gear

From an Apprenticeship to the racetrack – former Engineering Apprentice Oliver Hall wows Top Gear viewers with his skills.

Oliver took part in Top Gear’s latest challenge which saw host Paddy McGuiness train a team of young amateur racers up to professional motorsport standard in two months.

Oliver said: “I saw on Facebook that Top Gear were looking for 17-20 year olds with a passion for motorsport to film a segment on the show. We had a number of meetings before I was invited along with 13 others for a test day to see what our driving capabilities were like. Luckily, I was chosen to take part in the episode, which was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m so appreciative to the team at Top Gear and everyone that made it possible and supported me.”

Oliver studied a Level 3 MOET Apprenticeship at Selby College, where he developed his skills in maintaining the safety, integrity and effective operation of plant and equipment in a range of industries.

“The skill I learnt from my Maintenance and Operations Engineering Technician Apprenticeship which I’m most appreciative of is Tungsten Inert Gas welding. I have always loved welding since my early days of welding race cards, jigs and trailers at home, and this meant I was able to further my skills. My Apprenticeship taught me a lot about the engineering industry, but I wanted to follow my passion for motorsport and to work in the racing car industry, so I decided to explore further Apprenticeship opportunities in this area,” added Oliver.

Securing a second Apprenticeship with RedBull Powertrains, Oliver now spends his working days building and developing engines for the RedBull Formula 1 race team.

A former Junior and Open Champion in national auto-grass racing, Oliver has always had a passion for car racing and motorsports.

He has recently purchased the Mazda which he drove on Top Gear and will compete in the Mazda MX-5 SuperCup Championship this year. He is currently looking for businesses to sponsor him.

Lorraine Cross, Executive Director of External Partnerships and Development at the Heart of Yorkshire Education Group, said: “Seeing Oliver on Top Gear has been incredibly inspiring for our Engineering students and apprentices and demonstrates what can be achieved when you work hard at something. Oliver has combined his passion and the skills he’s learnt through his Apprenticeship to create a lifechanging opportunity for himself of appearing on Top Gear and working in RedBull’s Formula 1 team.”

“This highlights the benefits of hands-on, work-based learning which Apprenticeships deliver and how they enable learners to develop highly technical, transferable skills which are sought by businesses. That is why Apprenticeships are a fantastic option for those who have a passion or skills in a particular area, providing them with the opportunity to get work-based training in their chosen role or industry,” added Lorraine.

This comes as Selby College celebrates the achievements of its Apprentices as part of National Apprenticeship Week 2023, which takes place from Monday 6th February to Sunday 12th February 2023.

Oliver appeared on Series 33, Episode 4 of Top Gear which aired on the BBC on November 20th, 2022.

Find out more about Selby College’s range of Apprenticeship programmes here

Players Recreate Founders First Meeting From A Century Ago

On Wednesday 11th January members of Grassington Players gathered to commemorate the original society’s inaugural meeting, a hundred years ago to the day.

The minutes of the first meeting were found safe in the archives and current Chairman, John Anderson had the inspirational idea to re-enact that first meeting at the exact date, time and venue.

Taking those precious historical minutes as a starting point, fellow player Mark Bamforth painstakingly researched from the 1921 census the ages and Christian names of the attendees who had taken part in the gathering at Yarkers Tearooms in Threshfield back in 1923. He put together a draft transcript which was read by the attendees with current committee members taking on the respective roles of those founding members.

President Mary Wilkinson read May Walker, Secretary Pam Watley-Homes (Hannah Garside), Treasurer Robert Fort (Ernest Pullen), Mark Bamforth read original chairman George Gardner, John Anderson, the Reverend Leighton, Paula Vickers (Hannah Grimshaw), Stephen Lodge (Abram Crabtree), Neil McCormac (John Lunham), Andrew Armstrong (William Walker), Katie Milner (Joyce Maufe), Paul Coultas (Henry Greenhough, Tom Powell (William Dennis) and Jonny Jowett (Arthur Blades).

Grassington Players is interested to hear of anyone with family connections to those original members and would welcome any relevant memorabilia for display at productions during this centenary year.

The small and quite moving celebration at the same tearoom (now The Hedgerow), was attended by several current and former members of the Grassington Players, including the oldest extant members Nan Jowett and Beryl Bamforth. A toast was raised with glasses of sherry to the founding members, to the next 100 years and to Hutchinson family of The Hedgerow for their hospitality.

The gathering heard how the original founders called themselves the Grassington & District Amateur Dramatic Society and agreed to pay an annual subscription of 5 shillings with the aim of raising funds for renovations at the Grassington Devonshire Institute.

Known colloquially as the Town Hall, The Devonshire Institute continues to receive support from Grassington Players today and is the venue for all the society’s productions. A centenary dinner celebration was held there on 28 January with the main hall and foyer theatrically dressed for the occasion with all the glamour of The Great Gatsby by Paula Vickers and her willing recruits.

Material from the archives was on display including old programmes. More than 200 productions have been staged since the society’s inception, with a recurring theme of a few favourites such as When We Are Married, which was revisited for the third time last year.

Over the years the society has performed in drama festivals and graced television screens with news coverage and the series The Dales documenting its staging of the amateur world premiere of Calendar Girls in 2012.

After the buffet centenary dinner prepared by Grassington House, members heard from Beryl Bamforth who’s tenure in Grassington Players dates back to 1966. Over the years she was involved in more than 40 productions, performing, backstage or directing, and recalls how, when she was Secretary, she sent out the 11-year old Mark Bamforth, now 62, on his bike to deliver membership subscription letters. She expressed her sadness that at 89 years old she is no longer able to take an active role.

The Bamforths are not the only generational family in Grassington Players; Joan Whitaker, her daughter Esme (sadly missed) and grandson Will Binns all played a part in the ongoing story of the society, and President Mary Wilkinson, her daughter Zarina and grandchildren Chris and Harriet Belk have been the backbone of the committee for several years.

Mary called for members to pull together to ensure the Players survive for a further 100 years, appealing for more people to learn the backstage craft that enables productions to be staged.

After the speeches, Robert Shield, a dance teacher from Swing Dance in Leeds gave a quick lesson in how to dance the Charleston and many Players took to the floor in fabulous 1920s outfits sourced from the Players own costume store, Ilkley Playhouse, Northern Costume Hire and Colne Hippodrome.

Back in 1923, the society’s first productions were a series of one act plays ‘The Monkeys Paw’, ‘No Servants’, ‘Mother ‘o Pearl’ and ‘If This Should Meet The Eye’. A century on, the Players propose to present three productions including the stage adaptation of ‘Brassed Off’ in collaboration with a local brass band in the autumn and a Ghost Walk around Grassington.

AI Could Speed Up Delivery Of New Medicines

Artificial intelligence that could reduce the cost and speed-up the discovery of new medicines has been developed as part of a collaboration between researchers at the University of Sheffield and AstraZeneca.

  • University of Sheffield researchers in collaboration with AstraZeneca have developed artificial intelligence (AI) that could reduce the cost and speed up the discovery of new drugs
  • Technology improves drug-target prediction – the measurement of whether a new candidate medicine can interact with important protein molecules in the human body to fight disease
  • AI has the potential to inform whether a drug will successfully engage an intended cancer-related protein, or whether a candidate drug will bind to unintended targets in the body and lead to undesirable side-effects for patients

The new technology, developed by Professor Haiping Lu and his PhD student Peizhen Bai from Sheffield’s Department of Computer Science, with Dr Filip Miljković and Dr Bino John from AstraZeneca, is described in a new study published in Nature Machine Intelligence.

The study demonstrates that the AI, called DrugBAN, can predict whether a candidate drug will interact with its intended target protein molecules inside the human body.

AI that can predict whether drugs will reach their intended targets already exists, but the technology developed by the researchers at Sheffield and AstraZeneca can do this with greater accuracy and also provide useful insights to help scientists understand how drugs engage with their protein partners at a molecular level, according to the paper published today (2 February 2023).

AI has the potential to inform whether a drug will successfully engage an intended cancer-related protein, or whether a candidate drug will bind to unintended targets in the body and lead to undesirable side-effects for patients.

The AI is trained to learn the substructures of proteins in the human body as well those of drug compounds. The technology then learns how these substructures can interact with each other, which it draws on to make predictions on how new medicines will likely behave.

Haiping Lu, Professor of Machine Learning at the University of Sheffield, said: “We designed the AI with two primary objectives. Firstly, we want the AI to capture how drugs interact with their targets at a finer scale, as this could provide useful biological insights to help researchers understand these interactions on a molecular level. Secondly, we want the tool to be able to predict what these interactions will be with new drugs or targets to help accelerate the overall prediction process. The study we’ve published today shows our AI model does both of these.”

Key to the AI’s design is how the model learns pairwise substructure interactions – the multiple interactions that can take place between substructures of drug compounds and proteins in the body. Whereas most existing drug prediction AI on the market learn from whole representations of drugs and proteins, which don’t capture their substructures and so provide less useful insights.

In the next stage of the AI’s development, the team plans to use more in-depth data on the structure of compounds and proteins to make the AI even more accurate.

Dr Bino John, Director of Data Science, Clinical Pharmacology and Safety Sciences (CPSS), at AstraZeneca, said: “A key novelty of DrugBAN is its reliance on a bilinear attention network that allows it to learn interactions from substructures of both drugs and their targets simultaneously. We have also made the source code freely available to the public, which hopefully will support more AI approaches that will continue to accelerate drug discovery.”

Drug discovery and development using traditional methods can be incredibly difficult, with lengthy development times and huge sums of money in expenditure. However, drug discovery processes have the potential to be significantly accelerated; with advances in AI and digital technology, researchers are finding new ways to pinpoint which proteins a drug may interact with in our body.

Nick Brown, Head of Imaging and Data Analytics, CPSS, AstraZeneca, said “I am really excited to see this paper, particularly because unlike other approaches, DrugBAN simultaneously learns from candidate drugs and their targets using a bilinear attention network, and is explicitly designed to generalise the problem.”

Professor Guy Brown, Head of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Computer Science, added: “Our research at Sheffield is strongly motivated by a desire to make a positive difference to people’s lives, and we see interaction with industry leaders such as AstraZeneca as crucial to that mission.”

“This is exciting research which will hopefully allow significant advances in the design of therapeutics. The approach is also distinctive for its focus on interpretability, enabling human experts to benefit from insights generated by the AI system.”

York PhD Student Wins Positive Social Impact Award

A University of York computer science PhD student has been recognised with the India UK Achievers award for her role in using science to create positive social impact.

Meghna Asthana is one of the 75 India UK Achievers award winners
Meghna Asthana, a PhD student in computer vision science, was selected as one of the 75 India UK Achievers award winners. The awards recognise and celebrate the work of 75 Indian students and alumni who have pursued a British programme of study, and marks the 75th anniversary of India’s independence.

The award is given to a current or former Indian student in the UK who has achieved excellence in their field, as well as inspired and encouraged others to achieve.

High Impact
Meghna said: “My experience at York has provided me with the opportunity to foster lasting relationships with experts in various domains of scientific research. This award is a special one for me as it signifies the strong bond between two countries I call home. I believe, winning this award has propelled me to continue collaborating on more high impact and high stakes projects, changing lives around the world for the better.”

Meghna is a researcher in the field of computer vision, an area of science that aims to further machine learning in the understanding or extraction of useful information from images. Her expertise ranges from satellite imagery for climate change and surveillance, to ocean floor videography for species detection.

Social Good
As a Data Science for Social Good Fellow at The Alan Turing Institute, Meghna has also provided her expertise to non-for-profit organisations and government bodies in areas such as clean energy, climate change and public safety, which is crucial to creating an infrastructural shift from non-renewable to renewable energy as part of the Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener by 2050.

Meghna’s portfolio consists of a myriad of government, non-profit and academic projects, with partners including the German Centre for Artificial Intelligence, UNICEF, NASA, LSE, Data Science Institute, and the Sports Innovation Challenge at Imperial College London for Disability Sports & Paralympics.

The award winners were celebrated at special event in London on Wednesday, 25 January, where the University of York was a sponsor.

York Part Of New Programme To Tackle Cyber Crime And Food Security

A new research programme is developing ways of extracting information from complex datasets to tackle a number of real-world issues, such as cyberattacks, greener power grids, and food security.

The programme will tackle real-world issues including ways to develop better crop yields

In 2022, cybercrime cost global businesses, consumers and governments an estimated £1 trillion. Through improved ways of pinpointing problems and making predictions, cyberattacks could be reduced, but in order to do this experts need to be able to extract useful information from network datasets that often evolve in real-time. 

The programme, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will harness the expertise of statisticians and probabilists across six universities to improve analysis of complex network data.

The programme will look to develop more secure, greener power grids, better detection of cyberattacks, improved mail services and better crop yields.

Similarly, there is a need for research which will quantify the complex gene interactions in plants, contributing to the urgent need to tackle global food shortages. 

By making it easier to identify problems and opportunities within datasets, government bodies and various types of industries can make more reliable plans that will put them in positions of strength in the future. 

The Network Stochastic Processes and Time Series (NeST) partnership involves six universities – York, Bath, Bristol, Imperial College London, Oxford, and the London School of Economics and Political Science – and a range of companies and government organisations.

Professor Marina Knight from the Department of Mathematics at University of York, one of the NeST Deputy Directors, said: “Everyone involved is tremendously excited to have the opportunity to undertake this timely research into such an important, growing area.

“We aim to build a national centre showcasing our work and harnessing the skills of a highly diverse team with backgrounds in statistics, probability and data science. Demonstrating that maths is directly relevant to real-world issues impacting everyone’s lives will be at the heart of NeST.”

Jane Nicholson, EPSRC Director for Research Base, said: “The NeST programme demonstrates the fundamental importance of the mathematical sciences to important sectors such as energy, transport and cybersecurity.

“The team’s work in establishing itself as a leader in the study and exploitation of dynamic networks, which will reflect the fact that the data which underpin these critical sectors is constantly changing, will deliver benefits for industry and key services which impact on our daily lives.”