NUI Galway Hosts the Irish Colloquium of the International Geographical Union

NUI Galway Hosts the Irish Colloquium of the International Geographical Union-image

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The School of Geography and Archaeology at NUI Galway will host the 19th Annual Colloquium of the Commission on the Sustainability of Rural Systems (CSRS) of the International Geographical Union. This is the first colloquium of this Commission to take place in Ireland and will run from 1 to 7 August in the IT Building, NUI Galway. The Colloquium entitled The Sustainability of Rural Systems: Local and Global Challenges and Opportunities will see delegates travelling from 16 countries to present over 40 papers on the themes of Agriculture; Tourism; Population; Local Governance and Rural Development; Innovative forms of Employment; Rural Society and Alternative Energy. Rural systems are defined as including environment, society, economy and culture and the inter-relations between them. These systems are increasingly subject to global influences which are characteristic of the contemporary age. The local remains important as a context for the working out of processes associated with globalisation. The colloquium will allow delegates to explore these changes with fieldtrips to Cois Fharraige, south Galway, the Burren, and south and west Mayo. Keynote speakers for the colloquium will include: Professor Guy Robinson, University of South Australia; Professor Ana Maria Bicalho, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Professor Lucette Laurens, University of Montpellier 3, France; Professor Michael Woods, University of Aberystwyth, Wales; and Professor Tony Sorenson, University of New England, New South Wales, Australia. Conference Chair and NUI Galway Lecturer, Dr Mary Cawley, said: “It is an honour to have been invited to host the 19th Annual Colloquium of the CSRS at NUI Galway. Our tradition of geographical research on rural issues and sustainability and our location in a rural environment make the University a particularly appropriate meeting place. We look forward to discussion and sharing research findings with our international colleagues during the paper sessions and the fieldtrips.” The International Geographical Union represents academic geographers internationally with their activities organised under the remit of commissions. The Commission on the Sustainability of Rural Systems was established in 1992 and meets annually in a different country. For further information on the colloquium contact Dr Mary Cawley at   ENDS 

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Research into Risks to Coastal Communities

Research into Risks to Coastal Communities-image

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

40km Stretch of Mayo Coastline Plays Vital Role in European Project A 40km stretch of the Mayo coastline is playing a vital role in a European research project investigating the threats posed to coastal regions by climate change. Initial findings regarding the area, from Carrowinskey to Newport, will be shared with European experts involved in the project in Westport on Thursday, 21 July. The event will be hosted by the Irish partners, NUI Galway, Mayo County Council and Údarás na Gaeltachta, and examine the extent to which development planning is addressing coastal risk. This particular stretch of Mayo coastline was chosen as it is a microcosm of the Irish western seaboard, with open and sheltered bays, tidal flats, estuaries, dunes and urban areas along the relatively small geographic area. The Atlantic Network for Coastal Risk Management (ANCORIM ) project is focusing on three key issues of erosion, water quality and planning. The €1.9 million initiative is funded by the EU and aims to bridge the gap between climate change scientists and coastal zone decision-makers. “There is concern over the extent to which natural risks are taken into consideration in planning decisions,” commented Dr Kevin Lynch of NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute, who is spearheading Irish participation in the project. “What we are finding is that the public are assuming there is safety from risk when granted planning permission by local authorities, but that is not necessarily the case.” Risks linked to climate change include flooding, strong winds, coastal erosion, water pollution and forest fires. The ANCORIM project hopes to support coastal managers and planners in methods for anticipating such risks and planning for unforeseen natural events. Commenting on this NUI Galway’s Professor Micheal Ó Cinnéide urged planning authorities to have due regard for risk in their decision-making and pointed out that ANCORIM was preparing an inventory of scientific resources and handbooks to facilitate this process.   Led by the region of Aquitaine in southwest France, the project is supported by the Europe Union in the framework of the INTERREG IVB programme - Atlantic Space: Investing in Our Common Future. Three years of research in Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal will culminate and the publication of full findings at a conference planned for Spring 2012.   -ENDS- 

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Ericsson Offers Scholarships to Information Technology Students at NUI Galway

Ericsson Offers Scholarships to Information Technology Students at NUI Galway-image

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Industry and academia work together to meet current and future skills requirements NUI Galway is delighted to announce an exciting initiative with the Ericsson R&D Centre in Athlone. The Discipline of Information Technology offers a one-year Higher Diploma and a two-year Masters in Software Design and Development to graduates from diverse disciplines. In conjunction with these programmes, Ericsson will offer a number of scholarships to second year MSc students. The scholarships will comprise of a contribution towards fees plus a paid internship during which students will work on a supervised research or development activity at the Ericsson R&D Centre in Athlone. A unique initiative within IT at NUI Galway, this will be of particular relevance to current or recent graduates from any discipline interested in pursuing a 4th level qualification in Software with well defined career prospects. Dr Hugh Melvin, of the Discipline of Information Technology at NUI Galway, commented that: “Both these conversion courses offer students from diverse disciplines, career opportunities in the broad, vibrant and evolving software sector. We are delighted with this Ericsson sponsorship and it shows how industry and academia can work together to meet current and future skills requirements. We are in discussions with other industry partners and hope to make further such announcements.” Mr Michael Gallagher, CEO of Ericsson in Ireland, described the initiative as: “Part of a multi-faceted commitment from Ericsson to help the growth of Ireland’s knowledge economy. Software Engineering is an area in which this country has the capacity to excel and in which the opportunities are growing exponentially.” The Ericsson R&D Centre in Athlone employs over 700 software and systems engineers providing OSS (Operations Support Systems) for Network Management to Telecom Network Operators using advanced mediation, data management and visualization techniques. The Ericsson site in Athlone has global responsibility for end-to-end design, development, release and support of these applications. For further details regarding this announcement or the above postgraduate courses in IT at NUI Galway, please contact Dr Hugh Melvin ( or Dr Michael Schukat (   ENDS 

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Student Volunteering in Ireland Featured at European Parliament Launch

Student Volunteering in Ireland Featured at European Parliament Launch-image

Monday, 18 July 2011

Irish MEP, Marian Harkin and French MEP, Cécile Levieil jointly hosted an exhibition featuring student volunteers from across Irish Higher Education title We Volunteer!.The week-long exhibition took place from 10 to 16 July, in celebration of the European Year of Volunteering 2011. The official launch took place on Tuesday, 12 July, in the European Parliament Brussels and was attended by dignitaries from across the EU Parliament and the EU Commission.  The We Volunteer! photographic exhibition of student volunteering recognises the extent and diversity of student commitment to communities with diverse organisations ranging from the Christina Noble Foundation in Vietnam, to Chrysalis Community Drug Project in Dublin, from the Galway Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to community enterprise in Belfast, from peer mentoring programmes in Limerick and Cork to Karate coaching in Newry. The exhibition showcases the work of student volunteers from 20 Higher Education Institutions across Ireland. We Volunteer! is sponsored by Campus Engage, the national network for the promotion of civic engagement in Irish higher education. The exhibition featured NUI Galway student Nicola Brassil from Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare and GMIT student Fiachra McInerney from Raheen, Limerick. Lorraine Tansey, Student Volunteer Coordinator at NUI Galway, said: “This collaborative exhibition is a great opportunity to visually demonstrate how student volunteers get involved and make a commitment to bring about change.  Bringing the exhibition and featured students to Brussels is an important step in the recognition and celebration of student volunteering in Galway and beyond.”  Dermot O’Donovan, Head of GMIT Letterfrack, says: “For the past three years, as part of the student work placement programme, students from GMIT Letterfrack have been responsible for the establishment of a woodwork training facility in Maamba in Zambia. This centre was established with the aim of providing training for young adults from the region in order to provide them with skills to develop sustainable enterprises and opportunities for work. The project has grown in strength and has been co-ordinated in GMIT Letterfrack by Dr Patrick Tobin, and supported by the Sisters of Charity based in Maamba. We were delighted to be part of this We Volunteer! exhibition.” NUI Galway and GMIT recently announced a new strategic partnership to serve the educational, social and economic needs of their students and the wider regional, national and international communities. The agreement provides for collaborative opportunities in teaching and learning, research, entrepreneurship, regional development, commercialisation, programme design, distance education, and work-based learning. To learn more about the exhibition, to upload your volunteer story or to host the touring exhibition throughout 2011, visit or email   ENDS

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Researchers Mimic Nature to Create a ‘Bio-Inspired Brain’ for Robots

Researchers Mimic Nature to Create a ‘Bio-Inspired Brain’ for Robots-image

Monday, 18 July 2011

A group of engineers at NUI Galway and the University of Ulster are developing bio-inspired integrated circuit technology which mimics the neuron structure and operation of the brain. One key goal of the research is the application of the electronic neural device, called a hardware spiking neural network, to the control of autonomous robots which can operate independently in remote, unsupervised environments, such as remote search and rescue applications, and in space exploration. According to Dr Fearghal Morgan, Director of the Bio-Inspired Electronics and Reconfigurable Computing (BIRC) research group, at NUI Galway: “Electronic neurons, implemented using silicon integrated circuit technology, cannot exactly replicate the complexity of neurons found in the human brain, or the massive number of connections between neurons. However, inspired by the operation and structure of the brain, we have successfully developed a hardware spiking neural network and have used this device for robotics control. The electronic device interprets the state of the robot’s environment through signals received from sensing devices such as cameras and ultrasonic sensors, which act as the eyes and ears of the robot. The neural network then modifies the behaviour of the robot accordingly, by sending signals to the robot’s limbs to enable activity such as walking, grasping and obstacle avoidance.” Dr Morgan explains: “Our research is focussed on mimicking evolution in nature. The latest hardware neural network currently in development will contain thousands of small electronic neuron-like devices which interoperate concurrently, in a similar way to neurons in the biological brain. The device can be trained to perform a particular function, and can be retrained many times for various applications. The training process resembles the training of the brain, by making, strengthening and weakening the links between neurons and defining the conditions which cause a neuron to fire, sending signals to all of the attached neurons. As in the brain, the collection of interconnected neurons makes decisions on incoming data to cause an action in the controlled system.” “Until now, the robotics arena has focused on electronic controllers which incorporate one or more microprocessors, which typically execute instructions in sequence and, while performing tasks quickly, are limited by the instruction processing speed. Power is also a consideration. While the human brain on average only requires 10 watts of power, a typical PC requires 300 watts. We believe that a small embedded hardware neural network device has the potential to perform effective robotics control, at low power, while also incorporating fault detection and self-repair behaviour. Our aim is to develop a robust, intelligent hardware neural network robotics controller which can autonomously maintain robot behaviour, even when its environment changes or a fault occurs within the robotics system.” Dr Jim Harkin, from the School of Computing and Intelligent Systems, University of Ulster (Magee Campus), comments: “The constant miniaturisation of silicon technology to increase performance introduces inherent reliability issues which must be overcome. Ultimately, the hardware neural network or robot ‘brain’ will be able to detect and overcome electronic faults that occur within itself, and continue to function effectively without human intervention.” The research project is supported by Science Foundation Ireland, the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology (IRCSET), the International Centre for Graduate Education in Micro- and Nano-Engineering (ICGEE), the Xilinx University Programme, the University of Ulster’s Vice Chancellor’s Research Scholarship, and the SFI National Access Programme.   ENDS

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Taoiseach Ushers in New Era for Engineering at NUI Galway

Taoiseach Ushers in New Era for Engineering at NUI Galway-image

Friday, 15 July 2011

An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, was in NUI Galway today to officially open NUI Galway’s new Engineering Building, the largest of its kind in Ireland. The world-class teaching and research facility ushers in a new era for Engineering at the University, which has an excellent reputation in Engineering education. The building has been designed to be a teaching tool in itself, with exposed construction techniques and an array of ecological building methods. From September, the four-storey architectural gem and its 400 rooms will accommodate some 1,100 students and 110 staff. The 14,250 sqm building will support an emerging generation of engineers, engaged in a new wave of technologies, embracing innovation and entrepreneurship. According to An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, who studied at the University in the mid-70s: “Engineering has a long and proud tradition at NUI Galway and this magnificent new building is a fine example of how the University is responding to the changing needs in today’s world. This new building begins a new era for engineering students here inGalwayand will have far reaching impacts at local, national and international level. The work going on here will further develop NUI Galway’s reputation as a major international research centre in the field of engineering. I want to wish all the students, researchers, lecturers and other staff who will work here in the years to come every success in all their endeavours.” The building was developed at a cost of approximately €40 million, funded through Government funds, University sources and the generous support of individual donors and companies by way of the Galway University Foundation. Situated on the banks of the River Corrib, the building was designed by award-winning architects RMJM from Scotland in partnership with Mayo-based Taylor Architects, to complement the curves ofGalway’s most famous river.  A Living LaboratoryDesigned as a ‘living laboratory’ theEngineeringBuildingwill serve as an interactive teaching tool for students. Live data from numerous sensors will measure the behaviour of the structure and its energy consumption, and will be used as a teaching tool for structural engineering and building performance concepts. Students will also be able to view sections of the foundation and structure which have been deliberately made visible, so that basic concepts can be taught in a real life setting. Also, services are exposed with pipes and ducting labelled in corridors and rooms as a ‘gross anatomy’ lesson of sorts for engineering students. Green CredentialsNUI Galway offers a degree in Energy Systems Engineering, and has a significant focus on research into environmental technologies. TheEngineeringBuildingitself contains a range of such ‘green’ technologies which will add to the hands-on learning experience for students. There is largescale rainwater harvesting, a biomass boiler, low-embodied energy materials such as zinc, grass roofs for water attenuation, heat exchangers and many other cutting-edge technologies. The structure is among the first inIrelandto employ the use of voided slab systems. The innovation introduces ‘plastic bubbles’ into the concrete, reducing the weight and quantity of concrete used. Areas of the building such as the plant room will be accessible to showcase to students the industrial biomass boiler and Combined Heat and Power Unit at work. A Landmark DaySpeaking at the opening ceremony today, NUI Galway President Dr James J. Browne said: “This is a landmark day in the University’s history.  The opening of theEngineeringBuildingbrings to fruition the efforts of many individuals to bring the highest quality facilities for Engineering education and research to NUI Galway.  This facility will be a national asset, providing the best resources forIreland’s engineers.  Our engineering graduates and researchers will shapeIreland’s future by building our national competitiveness, driving innovation and research and supporting indigenous and multinational industry.” Dean of theCollegeofEngineeringand Informatics at NUI Galway, Professor Gerry Lyons commented: “Completion of this world-class facility confirms NUI Galway’s position as one of the premier Engineering Schools in the country. This shows great confidence in the role of Engineering and Technology in the economic development of the West of Ireland and we look forward to contributing significantly to the future success of our region. We now have the physical environment to match our first-class range of degree programmes and leading-edge research.” Further information about the Engineering Building is also available at ENDS

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NUI Galway Centre for Disability Law and Policy Calls for Applications for New Scholarship

NUI Galway Centre for Disability Law and Policy Calls for Applications for New Scholarship-image

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The Centre for Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway will fund a new scholarship open to all applicants and students accepted to the LLM in International and Comparative Disability Law and Policy. The scholarship will be awarded on the basis of a competition, with the recipient of the scholarship awarded the tuition for one year of the programme.    The LLM in International and Comparative Disability Law and Policy at NUI Galway offers students an innovative and internationally focused programme, dealing with the process of law reform and policy in the field of disability.  This area of law is undergoing significant change as a result of the introduction of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.   The purpose of the Centre for Disability Law and Policy scholarship is to provide the opportunity to use the knowledge and skills gained through the programme to advance the rights and interests of persons with disabilities.  To be eligible to enter for the scholarship, candidates must first apply for the LLM in International and Comparative Disability Law and Policy. Only candidates who are offered a place on this programme will be considered for the scholarship. Candidates who have been offered a place, subject to degree results, are also eligible to apply. Applications for the LLM can be made online at Shivaun Quinlivan, Director of the LLM International and Comparative Disability Law and Policy, said “Our ethos is change. This new programme aims to equip students not just with knowledge and insights, but also with the skills and motivation to help transform the lives of the 650 million persons with disabilities in the world. It is one of the first of its kind in the world.” The deadline for receipt of applications is 5pm on Sunday, 31 July, 2011.  Full application and selections details are available at and applications should be sent to Applications will not be assessed if they are incomplete or have been received after the advertised closing date. ENDS

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Life in ‘Inner Space’

Life in ‘Inner Space’-image

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Joint Mission to Film Marine Life at Three Kilometres DepthUndiscovered ‘alien’ life forms that thrive without sunlight in temperatures approaching boiling point may soon come to light thanks to a groundbreaking Irish-led marine research mission aboard the national research vessel RV Celtic Explorer. In collaboration with scientists from the UK’s National Oceanography Centre, the researchers are due to sail from Galway for the mid-Atlantic Ridge today (Wednesday 13th July).  The voyage is being filmed for the National Geographic Channel for inclusion in an upcoming series about the ocean. The mission, led by Dr. Andy Wheeler of University College, Cork (UCC), will be investigating life at 3,000 metres below the surface of the sea on the ‘45o North MAR hydrothermal vent field’ using the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Holland 1. These vents, which spew mineral rich seawater heated to boiling point by volcanic material in the earth’s crust below, are home to a rich variety of marine life that thrives in complete darkness on bacteria fed by chemicals. Patrick Collins from NUI Galway’s Ryan Institute will lead Ireland's marine biological team investigating this unique ecosystem, which could tell us not only about how life might have evolved on other planets, but may also be a rich source of new biochemical processes with valuable medical and industrial applications. “This expedition offers us the first opportunity to investigate mineral deposits and vent animals in this unexplored and important part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge,” said Dr. Bramley Murton of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS), who first discovered the location of the vents on an expedition aboard the UK research vessel RRS James Cook in 2008, and who is now leading the mineralisation study on the expedition. “Nothing is known about the hydrothermal vents, their mineral deposits or the life they support on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge between the islands of the Azores to the south andIceland to the north. Because this part of the ridge is trapped between these islands, vent animals may have evolved in isolation and be quite unique from elsewhere.” Patrick Collins, in collaboration with Jon Copley of the NCOS, will catalogue and characterise the species found at the vents.  According to Patrick, “We hope to find a whole community of previously unknown species, increasing our understanding of deep sea biogeography. There is potential here to putIreland on the global map as a serious player in deep sea science. This is all the more timely with the exploitation of deep sea and hydrothermal vents for precious metals and rare earth minerals now a reality.” Another objective of the mission is to investigate the rich deposits of deepwater corals on the Porcupine Bank’s ‘Moira Mound’, which has already been designated as a Special Area of Conservation.  These corals, which are very delicate and grow extremely slowly, are highly susceptible to damage by deepwater trawling and mineral dredging operations. Dr. Andy Wheeler, Chief Scientist of the Expedition, is a veteran of four previous ROV surveys to coldwater coral mounds. This mission is supported by the Marine Institute under the 2011 Ship-Time Programme of the National Development Plan. “This project is a perfect example of how strategic funding can pump-prime world-class marine research led fromIrelandinto new and exciting areas with tremendous potential for future sustainable development,” said Dr. Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive of the Marine Institute. The research is also supported by the National Geographic Society. The mission carries geochemists, marine biologists, marine geologists, marine geneticists and technicians from Irelandand the UKas well as a three-person TV crew from National Geographic. They will spend 25 days at sea and will be posting a regular blog on ENDS

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NUI Galway and COPE Galway Celebrate Successful Partnership

NUI Galway and COPE Galway Celebrate Successful Partnership-image

Monday, 11 July 2011

NUI Galway and COPE Galway have been collaborating successfully for a number of years across a wide and varied range of projects. The partnership was formally ratified in December 2009 where a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Professor James J. Browne, President of NUI Galway, and John Concannon, Chairman of COPE Galway. Since then, the staff, students and service users across both organisations have been immersed in projects which have been hugely beneficial to the both partners and ultimately the community of Galway. A celebratory lunch was hosted recently by COPE Galway’s award winning Community Catering service, to celebrate this ongoing partnership. A snapshot of some of the projects gives an idea of the range and benefit involved: Occupational Therapy students became involved in COPE Galway’s Sonas Day centre for older people, in Mervue. One project undertaken was to set up a community website where the students worked with older people to identify interests and hobbies and custom built an easy to use website for the service. Links to regional newspapers, GAA and the CSO were set up to enable clients to have quick access to sites of interest. A second project focused on joint protection and had three elements; group work with older people demonstrating exercises, lifting techniques and information in relation to protecting the joints. The second part was a staff information session and third element saw the students organise a community Gizmo and Gadgets session where people could try out equipment and aids, learn a few simple exercises and talk to the students about the issue. Another occupational therapy student worked with two groups of older people over an eight week period to introduce them to the art of Tai Chi and to examine the effects of Tai Chi on the fear of falling. A group of NUI Galway final year psychology students conducted a survey on the volunteers of COPE Galway’s Community Catering service. Community Catering provides daily nutritious meals to over 180 older people in Galway, and the service could not be provided without the invaluable assistance of over 150 volunteers. The survey sought to provide feedback to COPE Galway in relation to the motives, experiences and outcomes for Community Catering volunteers. This was a very useful piece of work and one which will help in the future in relation to providing adequate supports to volunteers. Other projects included postgraduate students from the Management Information Systems course building a new Website for COPE Galway to improve ability to access and use a range of Social Media opportunities. This can be seen on; a joint conference with the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology (ICSG) took place and a PhD study is on-going with the ICSG and the discipline of Marketing in NUI Galway, examining the role of community meals into the future. It is clear, says Jacquie Horan, CEO of COPE Galway, that COPE Galway has benefitted in so many ways from this partnership. “Our clients, our staff, our systems have all progressed positively from our close association with NUI Galway and we look forward to continuing this productive partnership where new and exciting projects and opportunities are already being discussed and planned” she said.Speaking at the lunch, President of NUI Galway, Professor James J. Browne said, “I am delighted that our organisations are working so well together, in a range of ways, to deepen civic engagement in the community.  Through this partnership, COPE Galway and NUI Galway are deepening student understanding of issues relating to the marginalised in society including homelessness, domestic violence and the elderly and our students are contributing to COPE Galway’s work programme.  Our organisations have co-hosted a number of conferences, including one with the University’s Centre for Social Gerontology in 2010, and we are continuing to work on research and research opportunities appropriate to our common objectives through final year projects, PhD research and individual academic research. On behalf of NUI Galway I am proud of this collaboration, which enables us to put our stated commitment to civic engagement into practice with COPE Galway.”  ENDS

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Leading Web Science Experts Speak at Postgraduate Summer School

Leading Web Science Experts Speak at Postgraduate Summer School-image

Monday, 11 July 2011

A Web Science Doctoral Summer School, bringing together an international group of 50 postgraduate students, continues this week at NUI Galway. Organised by the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI), the Summer School attendees will learn analytical techniques to study the complex social and economic forces driving the evolution of the Web. Sixteen leading international authorities in Web Science such as Professor Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and Dr Marc Smith, a sociologist specialising in social media, will deliver lectures and seminars on state-of-the-art Web Science research. Also featuring at the event is Professor Stefan Decker, Director of DERI, who comments: “Research and study in the field of Web Science is made all the more challenging through the sheer complexity of social and economic forces driving its evolution. This Summer School provides a unique cross-disciplinary grounding in techniques for Web analysis. A mix of national and international contributors will delve into the dynamics and dimensions of the Web, providing an opportunity to explore ways and means of undertaking this research challenge.” A Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET), supported by Government through Science Foundation Ireland funding, DERI was established in 2003. It has become an internationally-renowned Web Science research centre, providing the technology which underpins intelligent services on the Internet. Current research results include semantic search engines, novel collaboration and social media as well as sensor network technologies. This, the second annual Web Science Doctoral Summer School organised by DERI, commenced on 6 July runs until 13July. A Reasoning Web Summer School is planned for 28-30 August. -ENDS- 

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