Latest newsletter Networks 57 now available Entry dated 20th June 2010
The latest issue of our in-house Newsletter, Networks 57, is now available via the web site.

Registration for Surrey meeting now open Entry updated 20th June 2010
The programme for the upcoming Surrey meeting (12-13 July 2010) on Making Sense of Data is now available and registration is open.

Swansea meeting: “Nurse, get the morphia!” Entry dated 15th June 2009
The Swansea meeting was held on the 20-21 May 2009. A full programme was backed up with some lively debate and thought-provoking brainstorming over the tricky issues facing the impact of information technology on healthcare challenges. The meeting was crowned by an inspired social event which will live long in the memory, not least because videos do exist! Salsa and Bollywood dancing from the sublime (experts) to the breathtaking (well respected academics devoid of inhibition). If we had laughed any harder we would have gone home in body bags. Thanks must go to the RCUK Digital Economy Programme for providing support and Swansea for hosting, and particularly Rajesh Ransing for organising an enjoyable and stimulating programme.
The Chairman

Swansea meeting invitation Entry dated 26th March 2009
The Swansea meeting will take place on the 20-21 May 2009 with the theme Grand Challenges in Information-Driven Healthcare. This is being held in conjunction with the RCUK Digital Economy programme, funded by the EPSRC and MRC. The invitation from Rajesh Ransing outlines the purpose of the meeting. Directions, hotel details and maps are also available.
Note: due to the sponsorship we have obtained, this meeting will be free to attend. Accommodation and social event charges will be dealt with separately.
The Chairman

Sunderland meeting: “Number Five is alive!” Entry dated 25th January 2009
The Sunderland meeting was held at the St. Peter’s Way Campus of the University of Sunderland on the 21-22 January 2009. Another excellent programme backed up with a very illuminating social event, wherein the long-established art of blowing glass was demonstrated to perfection. The talks, mainly centred around robotics, were very well illustrated with a plethora of videos, and the ample question times were filled with lively debate. Even the refreshment breaks were augmented with live demonstrations! Thanks must go to Sunderland for hosting, and particularly Stefan Wermter, Martin Page, Kimberley and Vanessa for organising everything so efficiently.
The Chairman

Sheffield meeting: “Life on the Edge” Entry dated 2nd December 2008
The Sheffield meeting was held at the Turner Museum of Glass, University of Sheffield, on the 9-10 September 2008. Another excellent programme embellished by the most stereotypical of social events (a p*ss-up in a brewery followed by a Balti). The Kelham Island brewery tour has to go down as the best value tour anywhere. Thanks must go to Sheffield for hosting, and particularly James Hensman for organising the event.
The Chairman

Oxford meeting: “For those about to punt – we salute you” Entry dated 10th August 2008
The Oxford meeting was held at the St. Anne’s College on the 18-19 June 2008. An excellent programme and another thoroughly enjoyable social event, in which the Chairman was tasked with powering two punts single-handedly back from the Victoria Arms before the expected deluge from the blackening skies arrived. A standard quiz was augmented with a rather novel music round, and was therefore won by the team with the largest proportion of aging rockers. Tee-shirts were again supplied. Thanks must go to Oxford for hosting, and particularly David Clifton and Mark Ebden for organising everything so efficiently.
The Chairman

Aston meeting: “Nerds R Us – beer, bus and quiz ” Entry dated 5th May 2008
The Aston meeting was held at the University on the 16-17 January 2008. A varied and interesting programme was enhanced by the 2008 Student Paper competition, this year open to PhD students. But the main draw (as always) was the ingenious social event organised by Vicky Bond. Being violently bussed around from pub to pub whilst trying to drink beer and solve fiendish quiz questions proved to be another winner, and it was with some regret (though not unexpected) that Vicky had to award the first prize to Fenella’s team. The “Certified NCAF Geek” tee-shirts will be worn with pride! Thanks must go to Aston for hosting, Ian Nabney for programme organisation, and Vicky for making it all so very enjoyable.
The Chairman

PhD Student Paper Competition at Aston meeting Entry updated 17th January 2008
The Aston meeting hosted the second NCAF Student Paper Competition. This was open to PhD students registered at a UK university. At very late notice, the competition was kindly sponsored by Springer who supplied prizes for the best paper and runner-up. From the 5 papers presented, the delegates voted Thomas Bermudez (Aston University) the winner, and James Hensman (Sheffield University) second place. Congratulations to both of you, and many thanks to the other students who also contributed very good talks.

SEIC Loughborough meeting: “chilli and chucking” Entry dated 10th December 2007
The Loughborough meeting was held at the Systems Engineering Innovation Centre next to Loughborough University on the 19-20 September 2007. As well as the usual blend of interesting talks and lively discussions, the SEIC also laid on some great demonstrations. The social event sported a deceptively hot chilli and the opportunity to hurl non-round blocks of wood at other non-round blocks of wood (aka real skittles). Thanks must go to the SEIC for hosting, BAE Systems for sponsoring the event, and Steve Whittle for organising the whole shooting match.
The Chairman

Industrial Mathematics Internships Launch Entry dated 15th August 2007
The launch of the Industrial Mathematics Internships Programme will be held at the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), Savoy Place, London, on the evening of 18 September 2007. For full details please see here. Details of the initiative can be found here.

BCS Basics of Artificial Intelligence Workshop Entry dated 11th June 2007
BCS SGAI is pleased to be able to announce that the very successful full-day workshop on ‘Basics of Artificial Intelligence’, held in Cambridge last December, will be repeated in London at the British Computer Society offices near Covent Garden on July 12th 2007. This workshop will provide an overview of principal topics in artificial intelligence. It will be of value to anyone who is new to the area, and of equal value to anyone who has experience of specific aspects of AI but wishes to have a broader-based understanding.
NCAF members are eligible for the BCS discounted rate. Full details and a booking form are available from their web site.

LJMU (Burton Manor) meeting: “We are (not) the Champions!” Entry dated 4th June 2007
I’ve eventually recovered from the trauma of the Champions League final and can put virtual pen to virtual paper. The Liverpool John Moores University meeting was held at Burton Manor Conference Centre on the 22-23 May 2007. The venue was extremely pleasant with good facilities and cracking weather, and the meeting was very much up to the usual NCAF standards. José D. Martín-Guerrero, a Visiting Research Fellow at LJMU, has provided the meeting review, in which he says, “this was the first time that I attended a NCAF meeting, and to be honest, I have to say that it was a fantastic experience”. He’s not wrong! The format has lasted the test of time and is still popular.

The social event was also an unqualified success. Four teams “competed” for the honour of being named NCAF Nerds of the Year, and, despite the outrageous bias of the Chairman, the winners by a country mile were the “Seven High” team (a weak poker pun). Congratulations to Worden, Clifton, Peel, Bovey and Granville, your nerdiness is enshrined forever.
Thanks must go to Paulo Lisboa for organising the event, and Jo Thomas for coordinating the arrangements.
The Chairman

DTI London meeting: “Wii are the Champions! ” Entry dated 17th April 2007
The London meeting was held at the DTI Conference Centre on the 23-24 January 2007. Attendees were treated to some superb talks and stimulating discussions. Lee and Ray conspired to concoct an innovative social event with food, drinks, mind-bending quizzes and video gaming sports on the Nintendo Wii. It was so exhilarating I’ve forgotten who won! 🙂 Thanks must go to the DTI for hosting and sponsoring the event, and Rajesh Ransing for organising the programme.
The Chairman

Changes to NCAF Memberships Entry dated 1st January 2007
Starting in 2007, NCAF has re-instated the link with Springer and is including subscription to the Neural Computing and Applications Journal in Corporate and Individual memberships. There has been a modest increase in membership prices, but this represents a very good discounted rate for a quarterly journal. Details of the new rates are available on the Membership Notes page.
The Chairman

Bristol meeting: “it’s a jungle out there!” Entry dated 19th December 2006
The Bristol meeting was held at Badock Hall on the 13-14 September 2006. Varied and interesting talks, excellent food, and a trip to the zoo! Thanks must go to BAE Systems for sponsoring the event, and Felicity “Flic” Dormon for organising the programme and social evening. I would also like to offer special thanks to Mark Cheeseman, our previous Secretary, who kindly allowed me to sleep on his floor when I inexplicably locked myself out of my room at 3am. Mark did genuinely seem non-plussed when I knocked on his door wearing only boxers and clutching my car keys. Mumbling incoherently and gesturing at the keys, Mark thought I was planning an early morning sojourn, somewhat inappropriately dressed. The truth of the matter was much more mundane, having mistaken my car keys for my room keys when answering a call of nature. That will teach me to book en-suite rooms next time!
The Chairman

NCAF Student Paper Competition Entry updated 1st October 2006
The Bristol meeting hosted the first ever NCAF Student Paper Competition. This was open to Masters students (MSc, MRes, MPhil and MEng) registered at a UK university. The competition was kindly sponsored by Springer who supplied a prize for the best paper. The two finalists, Michalis Smirnakis (Aston University) and Xu Yang (Queen Mary, University of London) gave very good presentations. The delegates in the audience scored the papers, and the winner was adjudged to be Xu Yang. Congratulations to Xu!
For full details see the follwing files: Poster, Competition Details, Marking Scheme, Panel Score Summary, and Tips for Writing Abstracts. We expect to run this competition annually, at the September meeting. Look out for advance publicity for the 2007 call.
The Chairman

Birmingham meeting: “a tale of two taxis” Entry dated 22nd June 2006
The Birmingham meeting was held in the very pleasant settings of Hornton Grange on the Conference Park at the University of Birmingham on the 14-15 June 2006. Good talks, excellent food, and a botanical gardens! Thanks must go to Andy Pryke for organising the programme and social events, and for coping so well with last minute changes (and incomprehensible taxi failures). I would also like to thank Delia Sexton for acting as local admin and coordinating the registration and handouts. The fact that England comfortably got through against T&T (eventually) rounded off the whole event perfectly.
The Chairman

Springer deals (2006) for NCAF members Entry dated 5th February 2006
To take subscriptions for Neural Computing and Applications, members need to apply directly to Springer. In addition to NC&A, Springer are also offering other related journals at specially discounted rates, and offering 20% discount on all Springer books to NCAf members. [For full details, follow this link]

Swansea meeting: “a salubrious affair” Entry dated 5th February 2006
The Swansea meeting was held in the Civil and Computational Engineering Centre at the University of Wales Swansea on the 17-18 January 2006. Delegates were immediately challenged to find the Premier Travel Inn on a dark, wet night, and even more challenged to find the entrance to the NCP Car Park. Having a trainee on reception added to the growing ambience (and queue). Nevertheless, a sizeable group set off for dinner and an enthralling two days of stimulating talks and entertaining events followed. Thanks must go to Rajesh Ransing for organising the programme and social events, and for coping so well with last minute changes. I would also like to thank David Lowe for stegging (sic) up at the very last minute to give such a professional and topical talk. [In fact, if you put together the first letters of all the words in this article you may find an interesting hidden message!]
The Chairman

Southampton meeting: “a flotilla of fun ” Entry dated 20th September 2005
The Southampton meeting was held in the Nuffield Theatre on the Highfield campus on the 7-8 September 2005 and was blessed by extremely good weather. An interesting programme on intelligent multi-agent systems which was made all the more memorable by an idiosyncratic projector, a reluctant air-conditioning, an over-zealous barbeque (leading to a fire alarm-interrupted lunch), a boat trip through hordes of expensive yachts, and a lycra-stealing wombat shot by an exasperated Fenella blindfolded with a fleece! Some excellent talks and a rampant England cricket team saving the final Test to win the Ashes – what more could you want! Thanks must go to Iead Rezek for organising the programme, and Chris Satchwell for orchestrating an enjoyable and edifying social event.
The Chairman

York meeting: “a runaway success” Entry dated 3rd August 2005
The York meeting was enthusiastically hosted by the York Neuroimaging Centre on the 18-19 May 2005 and marked a return to the cognitive origins of neurocomputing. A varied programme enhanced by a successful attempt to scan the Chairman’s brain (yes, they did find it – at the second attempt!) was perfectly complemented by a social event amongst the pioneering trains of the National Railway Museum. The meeting even had an error from Fenella – rare indeed! Thanks must go to Gary Green for organising the programme, Sue Richardson for handling all the local admin, and the sponsors of the event, Apple Computers and 4D Neuroimaging.
The Chairman

A Forward Strategy for UK Neuroinformatics Entry 5th May 2005
Under funding provided by the EPSRC, MRC and BBSRC, a UK Neuroinformatics Network has been established as a UK neuroinformatics forum ( Following several planning meetings, the purpose of this message is to announce the first open meeting, ‘A Forward Strategy for UK Neuroinformatics’. This will be held in Edinburgh, on June 27th and 28th 2005. The meeting will be spread over two half days and will be in a workshop format, with discussion sessions stimulated by talks from invited speakers.
The aim of the workshop will be to
1. Characterise the flavour of UK neuroinformatics and discuss how it relates to other newly emerging disciplines, such as systems biology and cognitive systems.
2. Out of these discussions, establish a set of questions about UK neuroinformatics that can be investigated by members of the Network, for which funding will be available. These projects will be reviewed in subsequent meetings. Examples of such questions might be: To what aspects of neuroinformatics could the UK community contribute? Would
neuroinformatics benefit through links with industry? What is the best way of funding neuroinformatics?
3. Explore how UK neuroinformatics can benefit from neuroinformatics activities on the international stage.
More details of the workshop will be available soon, together with the list of invited speakers.
The workshop is open to all UK-based people with an interest in neuroinformatics. If you are interested in attending please will you contact Fiona Jamieson, Network Coordinator ( It would be helpful to include a one-page account of your particular interest in neuroinformatics and what you can bring to the workshop.
More background information about neuroinformatics is given below.
David Willshaw
Professor David Willshaw
Institute for Adaptive and Neural Computation
School of Informatics
University of Edinburgh
5 Forrest Hill
Edinburgh EH1 2QL
Scotland, UK
Tel: (+44) 131 650 4404/5
Fax: (+44) 131 650 4406
Neuroinformatics – Background Information
Understanding the human nervous system is one of the greatest challenges for 21st century science. Its abilities dwarf any man-made system in respect of its powers of perception, decision-making, cognition and reasoning. Whilst much is known about the elements of the nervous system, we are still at the very start of understanding how it functions and responds to disease. Understanding such a complex system requires the joint efforts of many different types of scientist, including basic and clinical neuroscientists, psychologists, cognitive scientists, physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists and engineers.
The new research discipline of neuroinformatics integrates these endeavours through the application of computational methods and ideas in modelling and analysis to understanding the development and functioning of the nervous system. The UK is strong in many aspects of neuroinformatics, with several funding schemes supporting work in this general area.
Over the past years, in many countries there have been discussions about how neuroinformatics can be taken forward. The importance of neuroinformatics has been recognised internationally and has been the subject of much discussion within the Global Science Forum of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In early 2004, the Foreign Ministers of many Govts agreed to a declaration (,2340,en_2649_34487_25998799_1_1_1_1,00.html) providing for
(1) coordination of neuroinformatics at the international level,
(2) linking together national neuroinformatics activity as nodes of a neuroinformatics network,
(3) the establishment of an international secretariat,
(4) ultimately an international funding scheme for neuroinformatics.

Springer deals for NCAF members Entry updated 17th March 2005
To take subscriptions for Neural Computing and Applications, members need to apply directly to Springer. In addition to NC&A, Springer are also offering other related journals at specially discounted rates, and offering 20% discount on all Springer books to NCAf members. [For full details, follow this link]

Aston meeting: “small, but perfectly formed” Entry dated 15th January 2005
The Aston meeting was successfully held on the 13-14 Jan 2005. A modest attendance was more than compensated for by an eclectic mix of excellent talks, stimulating discussions and surprises (such as the social event being delayed by an armed robbery). Thanks must go to Ian Nabney for organising the programme, Vicky Bond for dealing superbly with all the local admin, and the Biopattern Network of Excellence for their sponsorship of the event.
The Chairman

Photos from Swansea meeting now available Entry 12th October 2004
Photos from the last NCAF meeting, 15-16 September 2004 at the University of Wales Swansea are now available. These were taken on the theme day at Technium 2.

Sunderland meeting presentations Entry dated 15th June 2004
Presentation material for the Sunderland meeting 9-10 June 2004 is being made available on the meeting archive. Many thanks to all the speakers and to the local organisers in the Centre for Adaptive Systems, and special thanks to John MacIntyre for providing the sponsorship which enabled us to revisit the wonderful Beamish Museum.

Bath meeting was “to die for” Entry dated 27th January 2004
The last NCAF meeting on 21-22 January 2004 (University of Bath) was again enlightening and entertaining. Excellent tutorials, popular demonstrations and a very well-attended social event (murder most foul in the Assembly Rooms, with a very nice meal) made it another memorable occasion. Many thanks to all the speakers, and particularly to BAE SYSTEMS for supporting NCAF with their sponsorship of the meeting.
A particular vote of thanks must go to ‘Bert “Squealer” Bullen for doing such a wonderful job of organising his first (but definitely not last) NCAF meeting.
The Chairman

Cambridge meeting abstracts and presentations Entry dated 7th November 2003
Abstracts and presentation material from the last NCAF meeting on 3-4 September 2003 (Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge) are now available from the meeting archive.

Cambridge meeting was a great success Entry dated 7th September 2003
The last NCAF meeting on 3-4 September 2003 (Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge) was both enlightening and entertaining. Excellent talks, riveting demonstrations and a well-attended social event made it a most memorable occasion. Many thanks to all the speakers, and particularly to Microsoft Research Cambridge for supporting NCAF with their sponsorship of the meeting.
The Chairman

Netlab book finally in print Entry dated 15th January 2002
Ian Nabney’s long-awaited book, Netlab: Algorithms for Pattern Recognition, is now available from Springer.
Quoting from the back cover of the book …
This book and the accompanying Netlab toolbox provide students, researchers and application developers with the knowledge and tools to get the most of neural networks and related data modelling techniques. Throughout, the emphasis is on methods that are relevant to the practical application of neural networks to pattern analysis problems. A fundamental principle of the book is that data modelling techniques should not be used in isolation: all parts of the toolbox interact in a coherent way, and implementations and descriptions of standard statistical techniques (such as linear regression and K-nearest neighbour) are provided so that they can be used as benchmarks against which more sophisticated algorithms can be evaluated. At the advanced end of the spectrum, there is particularly comprehensive coverage of visualisation methods and Bayesian techniques for neural networks and Gaussian Processes.
• Brings together relevant theory with details of how to implement models efficiently and flexibly.
• Makes some of the leading edge research in this area accessible for the first time in a highly useable form.
• Provides researchers with a toolbox as a basis for developing new ideas.
• Worked examples and demonstration programs illustrate the theory and help the reader understand the algorithms and how to apply them.
With over 100 graded exercises, this book can be used for undergraduate and postgraduate courses in neural networks and pattern recognition.
Ian Nabney is Director of the Cardionetics Institute of Bioinformatics at Aston University.

NCAF’s new deal Entry 18th November 2001
NCAF is undergoing some significant changes, affecting meetings, membership options, services and prices. These changes are detailed in the NCAF newsletter, Networks, which is available now on the web site (PDF version).

Links to UK MSc Courses Entry dated 21st March 2001
There is a new page on the website for UK MSc courses in Natural Computing related topics. There is a permanent link to it from the Links page.

EPSRC commends NCAF contribution to NCTKQ Entry dated 26th March 2000
In the March issue of IMPACT, the EPSRC newsletter for the IT&CS Programme Area, NCAF was cited as a key factor in the success of the ‘Neural Computing – The Key Questions’ (NCTKQ) Programme. The engagement of NCAF with monitoring and running the programme ensured commitment from industrial partners and provided advice to academic projects. A full evaluation report is available from the EPSRC web site by clicking here.

NCAF changes its name Entry dated 27th January 2000
At the NCAF AGM held at the Strathclyde meeting, the Chairman, Peter Cowley, announced that NCAF was changing its name from Neural to Natural. The reasons why we decided to do this were fully explained at the AGM, however a summary justification is now available on our About NCAF page.

Netlab Neural Network Software Entry dated ‘sometime before we started keeping track’
The Netlab simulation software is designed to provide the central tools necessary for the simulation of theoretically well founded neural network algorithms for use in teaching, research and applications development.
It consists of a library of Matlab® functions and scripts based on the approach and techniques described in Neural Networks for Pattern Recognition by Christopher M. Bishop, (Oxford University Press, 1995). The functions come with on-line help, and further explanation is available via HTML files. The software has been written by Ian Nabney and Christopher Bishop.
The Netlab library includes software implementations of a wide range of data analysis techniques, many of which are not yet available in standard neural network simulation packages. Netlab works with Matlab version 5.0 and higher. It is not compatible with earlier versions of Matlab. The library is available from the Aston NCRG web site.