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Informatics leaps to top ten in 'power' ranking

Posted on 18/12/2014

The quality and impact of research in the Department of Informatics at King’s has been endorsed by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, a process of expert review to assess the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. 92 per cent of its research output has been assessed as 4-3*, where 4* represents world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour. 

The Department submitted 46 faculty members, 11 of whom were early career researchers. The REF results rank the Department 8th in the country according to the ‘power’ metric, which takes into account both the quality and quantity of research activity.  

A new element of the REF was the requirement for higher education institutions to demonstrate the impact their research was having beyond academia on the economy, society, culture, public policy, services, health or the environment. 93 per cent of the Department’s research has been awarded 4-3* for its impact.

Professor Peter McBurney, Head of the Department of Informatics, said: ‘The REF results indicate the world-class quality of the research in computer science, robotics and telecommunications taking place at King’s and the great impact that our research has on the world we live in.  Our impact includes major contributions to global telecommunications and web standards which enable our connected age to thrive, as well as innovations in commercial software and improvements to eradicating insect pests in third-world agriculture.’

Informatics hosts a broad range of research from theoretical work in computer science to the engineering of advanced robots and provides a rich environment for cross-disciplinary work. The application of its research impacts business and tackles industrial problems, reaches healthcare, contributes to standards and is applied through consultancy and public engagement.

The Department has strong research collaborations with the King's health Faculties, with the Departments of War Studies and Geography and with external organisations, such as Oracle, Google and Facebook, and leading financial institutions in the City.

The Department submitted case studies to demonstrate the scope of its impact. One focussed on the work of Dr Thrishantha Nanayakkara. An estimated 10 per cent of the global palm production is damaged due to a pest called the red palm weevil. His research has directly enabled the development of a new sensing device in the discovery of red weevil palm infestations, allowing early treatment and significant financial savings for coconut producers. In Sri Lanka alone, contributing approximately 2% of the World’s coconut production, the annual cost of the damage is estimated to be around £15 million, causing both economic and social problems.

Dr Nanayakkara, in collaboration with the Sri Lanka agricultural council, has developed a portable electronic device that has been demonstrated to be 97 per cent accurate in field trials conducted by the Coconut Research Institute (CRI) of Sri Lanka. The CRI has recommended this device to more than 5, 000 coconut state owners in Sri Lanka as the best available red palm weevil detector.

Another area of research that was submitted for evaluation by the REF panel was the work carried out in the development of data provenance standards published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards body for web technologies. Dr Simon Miles investigated the provenance of records, the processes by which data was produced, by whom, from what other data and similar metadata. The standards developed through his work have been adopted by commercial, governmental and other bodies, such as Oracle, IBM and NASA, in handling computational records of the provenance of data.

Informatics has a strong history at King’s. Charles Babbage exhibited his computing machines at the Strand campus of the university in the 1840s and the precinct has been a centre for leading-edge research in computing and telecommunications ever since.  The telegraph was invented here by Wheatstone, Maxwell developed his model of electromagnetism here, the world’s first commercial radio broadcast took place across the street and Britain’s first major manufacturer of mainframe computers, the English Electric Company, was also headquartered nearby.   The REF results indicate that this tradition of research excellence and innovation on the Strand continues to this day.

Further information

Further information on the impact of King’s research can be found on the Research in Action pages.

Further information on research in the Department of Informatics can be found here.

Further information on King’s College London REF results can be found here.


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