Department of Computing Science
University of Aberdeen
ABERDEEN AB24 3UE
Room 237 in the Meston Building and
Room 906 in the MacRobert Building
Telephone +44 (0)1224 272293
Teaching and Administration
I used to teach Natural Language Processing and
Human Computer Interaction.
My main research is on
Natural Language Generation, both
theoretical and applied aspects. On the theoretical side, I am interested in
architectures, generation algorithms and input representation. On the applied
side, I am interested in the costs and benefits of NLG and how we can find
application niches where NLG is worthwhile. I am also interested in how generated text
can affect the emotions of the reader. One of my main interests is
facilitating the building of reusable software modules for NLG
(see the RAGS project).
My publications (with links to PDF copies of some of them)
(with John Levine and Ehud Reiter) was a system that produced online
documentation for electronic equipment. This project was a collaboration with
Racal Research, Racal Instruments and Inference Europe. Interesting
theoretical issues that arose included the advantages of combining NLG with
hypertext (and questions about how the coherence of hypertext can be assessed)
and the usefulness of classification as a mechanism for implementing many of
the parts of an NLG system.
(with John Levine)
was a system to help in the design of an electronic system in response to a
call for tenders from a customer. This project was in collaboration with Racal
Research, Racal Instruments, Intelligent Applications and the University of
Sussex. The role of my team was mainly to implement the
generation of documents for the different types of people involved in the
design process. An interesting theoretical issue that arises here is whether
(and how) it is possible to allow users to specify their own document
requirements (in terms of form and content).
(with John Levine and Brian Drabble)
My team worked with the Military Aircraft Division of
British Aerospace and Dassault Aviation to investigate the
application of artificial intelligence techniques to the production of
technical documentation. The main thread of this work concerned the natural
language generation of instructional text from knowledge-based models of
(with Jon Oberlander, Alistair Knott and Mick O'Donnell)
automatically generated labels for items in an electronic catalogue (or museum
gallery) in such a way as to reflect the interest of the user and also
opportunistically to further certain educational (or other) aims. This project
was in collaboration with the National Museums of Scotland, Interactive
Information and VIS Interactive Media.
DEFACTO (with Graeme
Ritchie and Paul Bailey) was
a feasibility study developing a NLG component for
an interactive story system. This project was coordinated by the National
Technical University of Athens.
SOLE (with Jon
Oberlander, Paul Taylor, Janet Hitzeman and Alan Black)
a concept-to-speech generation system based on ILEX and the Festival
text-to-speech system developed in the Centre for Speech Technology Research.
A key aim was to design an interface between the two systems that could be
encapsulated into a generally useful speech synthesis markup language.
HIPS was a large
European project, coordinated by the University of Siena, which
developed new intelligent interfaces for portable computing devices.
prototype was a system to guide a user around a museum and the
surrounding area. My team's role was to
develop the NLG capabilities of such
M-PIRO (with Marc Moens, Jon Oberlander,
Paul Taylor and Jo Calder) was an Edinburgh-based project on multilingual
ganeration that I had some involvement with.
Presenting Ontologies in Natural Language (with Tang
Sun) investigated issue in how to present parts of ontologies in natural language, to users who wish
to understand and make choices using the ontologies.
RAGS (with Mike
project to define a reference architecture
for a (hopefully large) class of applied NLG systems. This project was being
carried out jointly with reasearchers at the Open University and the
University of Brighton. We hoped that we could
stimulate research and applications of NLG by defining a simple architecture
which, though clearly incomplete as a theoretical model, reflected much current
practice and was useful enough to be used for real systems.
PolicyGrid (with Pete Edwards,
Alun Preece and John Farrington)
aimed to support policy-related research activities within social science by
developing appropriate Grid middleware tools which met the requirements
of social science practitioners. The vision of the Semantic Grid was
central to the PolicyGrid research agenda. My particular interest was in
using NLP technology in the interfaces between social scientists and the
Affecting People with Natural Language was a long-term
project supported by an EPSRC platform grant.
- I am one of the co-investigators of the
Rural Economy Digital Research Hub
at Aberdeen. I am particularly interested in how software interventions in
rural settings will engage with people, and in the role that NLG can play in
the interfaces of such systems. The projects I am involved in are:
- CURIOS looks at helping people create a digital record of their cultural heritage.
- Digital Conservation looks at encouraging people to submit observations of bumblebees and bringing red kites to life in automatically generated blogs.
- MIME looks at helping people
responding to medical emergencies.
- MinkApp looks at encouraging volunteers helping to control an invasive species.
- What If? looks at how to help ontology authors who want to anticipate the results of their actions.
I am also interested in robust natural language processing, logic-based
characterisations of NLP and unification-based grammars/ representations.
I am gradually putting various bits and pieces of software etc. for free
distribution into here.