Autumn 2023

In this issue

The 2023 AGM will take place on the evening of the Tutorial Day (21 November) at Search Solutions. There are a number of vacancies on the Committee going forward into 2024 and IRSG Chairman Udo Kruschwitz encourages candidates to contribute to the development of IRSG over the year ahead.

Search Solutions 2023 takes place in the BCS London HQ on 21 and 22 November. The Tutorial Day is 21 November and there are currently two tutorials. The Conference Day is 22 November and the programme has now been finalized. The overall theme is how to manage the convergence of information retrieval, search and AI technology.

The European Conference on Information Retrieval takes place in Glasgow on 24-28 March – do read about the exciting plans for the Conference. The most prestigious Award of the IRSG is the Karen Spärck Jones Award. Now is the time to nominate candidates for this Award. The winner is invited to give a presentation at ECIR 2024

There is an initial announcement of Search Insights 2024, a conference developed for IRSG by The Search Network. The programme will be announced at SS2023.

This is my final issue as Editor of Informer. My career in search dates back to the late 1970s.  I’ve taken the opportunity to consider what I feel was the first search revolution with the use of minicomputers for information retrieval inside organisations. 1978 was also the year in which the Information Retrieval Specialist Group was established. As always Andy MacFarlane has contributed a list of forthcoming conferences. This is also Andy’s final Events contribution and I thank him for the diligence of his work and for always meeting the issue deadline.

Martin White

2023 AGM and Committee nominations

The BCS Information Retrieval Specialist Group invites nominations for the following positions:

– Vice Chair
– Secretary
– Inclusion Officer
– Early Careers Advocate
– Events Coordinator
– 1 ordinary member of the committee

Those elected will serve a two-year term commencing from the 2023 AGM which will be held on 21 November 2023 at 1800 London time after the Search Solutions Tutorials.

Read more…

From the BCS IRSG Chair

Hard to believe, but there is more to life than ECIR.

Welcome back to a new issue of Informer! There is quite a lot happening in our community as you can see when browsing the contents. So let me try to be brief which gives you more time to study the other articles …

ECIR is over, ECIR is coming up … the usual cycle. The good news is that we received a fair number of strong bids to host ECIR 2025, and we will soon let you know who will host the conference, and I am sure there will be some great teaser in the closing session in Glasgow at ECIR 2024.

Speaking of ECIR, the big news is that we managed to maintain our A class label  in the CORE Conference Ranking. Just to give you the perspective: this puts us on par with CIKM, WSDM and EACL among other top conferences. At this point I would like to thank our committee member Sean, who managed the entire application process as we had been informed that a reclassification was due. Note that Sean only joined the committee less than a year ago and what an impact that has made for the community! Cheers again!

Well on that note, it’s time to point out that elections are coming up again. Want to put your hat in the ring? Well, details of what positions are up for election can be found in the announcement our Secretary has put out (Secretary? Up for election … just like many other vacancies!). I hope to see your name as the sender of an email (by the closing date) indicating that you are willing to serve for two years on the committee … and if all goes well, we can celebrate your election success at our AGM in November.

So much more to read in this issue, CIKM, Search Solutions etc. … so I better stop.




Search Solutions 2023 – Tutorials London 21 November 2023

Innovations in Search & Information Retrieval.

Search Solutions is the BCS Information Retrieval Specialist Group’s annual event focused on practitioner issues in the arena of search and information retrieval. It is a unique opportunity to bring together academic research and practitioner experience.

The Search Solutions event consists of a Tutorial day and a Conference day, each of which has a separate registration. Information on the Conference day can be found here.

Search Solutions 2023 Tutorials 21 November

This year there are two tutorials, a half-day tutorial on how Large Language Models can Improve Your Search Project and a full day tutorial on Uncertainty Quantification for Text Classification

Registration form on Eventbrite

Read more…

Search Solutions 2023 – Conference. London, 22 November 2023

Innovations in Search & Information Retrieval.

Search Solutions is the BCS Information Retrieval Specialist Group’s annual event focused on practitioner issues in the arena of search and information retrieval. It is a unique opportunity to bring together academic research and practitioner experience.

The Search Solutions event consists of a Tutorial day and a Conference day, each of which has a separate registration. Information on the Tutorial day can be found here.


Both the Tutorials and the Conference take place at the BCS London Headquarters, Ground Floor, 25 Copthall Avenue EC2R 7BP. This is a 10 minute walk from Liverpool Street Station (Elizabeth Line and London Underground) and a 20 minute walk from London Bridge Station.

Registration form on Eventbrite

Read more…

ECIR 2024 Glasgow – a status report

The 46th European Conference on Information Retrieval (ECIR 2024) will be held in Glasgow, Scotland, 24th-28th March 2024. ECIR is the annual premier European forum for the presentation of new research results in Information Retrieval.

ECIR will be held in central Glasgow at the excellent Radisson Blu hotel (actually, Radisson Blu was also the venue for the very successful ECIR 2023 in Dublin). The venue is surrounded by bistros, restaurants, pubs and other amenities and within 5 minutes walking distance to all the main Glasgow city landmarks.

Read more…

KSJ Awards 2023 nominations

A pioneer of information retrieval, the computer science sub-discipline that also underpins the technology of modern Web search engines, Karen Spärck Jones was a British professor of Computers and Information at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge. Her contributions to the fields of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Information Retrieval (IR), especially with regard to experimentation, have been outstanding, highly influential and lasting, and include the introduction of Inverse Document Frequency for relevance ranking. Her achievements resulted in her receiving a number of prestigious accolades such as the BCS Lovelace medal for her advancement in Information Systems, and the ACM Salton Award for her significant, sustained and continuing contributions to research in information retrieval. Karen was also an outspoken advocate for women in computing, and we encourage former advisors of talented scientists to provide the judges with a rich and diverse candidate pool to select from.

In order to honour Karen’s achievements, the BCS Information Retrieval Specialist Group (BCS IRSG) in conjunction with the BCS has established an annual award to encourage and promote talented researchers who have endeavoured to advance our understanding of Natural Language Processing or Information Retrieval with significant experimental contributions.

Read more…

Search Insights 2024 London 22 February 2024

The IRSG Committee has accepted a proposal from The Search Network to run a one-day event focused on providing advice for IT managers and search managers seeking to optimise the value of search in their organisations and for customers. The event will be held at the BCS London HQ on 22 February. The programme will be announced at Search Solutions 2023 on 22 November

1978 and the first search revolution

We are currently struggling to cope with the rapid deployment of new search technologies as though nothing like this has happened before. I get a sense of déjà vu because something quite similar started to take place in 1978 with the arrival of search software on mini-computers. To be sure it took some time for there to be significant adoption but it was a colossal shift in the opportunities that it created for software developers, IT managers and information scientists.

I’ve chosen 1978 as the starting point as this was the year that the Information Retrieval Specialist Group was established.

Read more…

Events listing

One Day Events 

Search Solutions 2023: The groups annual industry focused event, includes a tutorial day. 21-22 November 2023.

Read more…

FDIA 2023

The Future Directions in Information Access (FDIA) 2023 symposium
was held on Friday 1 September 2023 in Vienna, Austria in conjunction with ESSIR 2023
. The purpose of FDIA is to provide Master and PhD students as well as early-
career researchers a platform to discuss their research and project ideas with experts in the field.

35 people attended the event with 9 mentors and 26 students. Six students presented their work,
which was peer-reviewed by the FDIA program committee. The presentations were very well
received and attracted lots of discussions and questions for each paper, from the mentors and peer
students. From the feedback of the attendees, we have learnt that people enjoyed the talks and the
discussion very much. People also liked the panel discussion session on career development, where
all mentors shared their career path and advice, and on future research directions of information
access, where both mentors and mentees discussed their views of current and future research
challenges and opportunities. The talks and discussion complemented the ESSIR schedule, where
established research is presented, with novel and fresh ideas, particularly in times when rapid
developments in generative AI are providing new opportunities and challenges. The half day event
seems to be short to many students. They suggested in their feedback to have a longer sessions with
more group discussions and a poster session, which we hope to implement in the future FDIAs.

The FDIA proceedings will be published at CEUR.

We, the three organisers Haiming Liu, Ingo Frommholz and Yashar Moshfeghi, would like to thank all
the students and mentors for their participation and contribution and would like to thank the ESSIR
2023 organisers Florina Piroi and Allan Hanbury for hosting the successful FDIA.

And very finally….from the Editor

This is my final issue of Informer. I’ve been the curator since taking over from Udo in 2019 and have enjoyed creating and editing the issues, supported by Steve Zimmerman and Tony Russell-Rose who have uploaded the text into a readable format. I’ve already written a substantial article in this issue on what I regard as the first search revolution so I’ll keep this short.  As I gradually exit from 25 years of enterprise search consultancy and 45 years of working with computer-based retrieval applications I do so with some reluctance as I see that ‘search’ is now coming centre stage for both individuals and organisations. The rate of evolution is staggering – it is less than a year since ChatGPT was announced. The rate of adoption inside organisations is going to be slower as we cope with a combination of inconsistent information quality and the challenges of training employees how to get the best from the technical revolution in search. Never has it been so important for practitioners and academic researchers to work together to deliver excellent search solutions, and the opportunities and challenges of doing so are the primary focus of Search Solutions 2023 on 22 November. From now on I will be focusing on achieving excellence in a totally different area of activity, one that I have been involved with for over 60 years. Take a look at for further information.

May you always find what you are searching for.

Martin White