Information Retrieval between Disciplines: Computer Science and Information Science – The IR group at the University of Hildesheim

Information Retrieval Research in Germany is mainly done within the Computer Science Community represented by the Special Interest Group. But there is also a considerable amount of work done within the smaller Information Science Community in the German speaking countries. The University of Hildesheim forms a link between these otherwise largely distinct communities.

Information Science is traditionally interested in the observation and analysis of information processes which involve users and systems. Information science is built around a paradigm of user-orientation. Information and all processes concerning information are viewed from a pragmatic perspective introduced by Kuhlen (1989). His formula “information = knowledge in action” has ever since accompanied generations of students. It claims that information is created in an active problem-solving context. For knowledge to become information, a “refinement” is required which leads to a value-add.

Especially at the University of Hildesheim, Information Science is a discipline that does not only analyze, observe, and describe informational processes and systems but also pursues a constructive approach and designs information systems. Research aims at the entire information lifecycle and the usage context of information products and services. It also includes the development and optimization of retrieval systems. Nevertheless, the user-orientation is not given up in computer science oriented projects.

Other Information Science groups in Germany which are related to Information Retrieval are focusing on tagging (Düsseldorf), search engine evaluation (Hamburg), library systems (Konstanz), scientometrics (Cologne), cultural heritage (Berlin) and hypertext (Regensburg).

Information Retrieval Research at Hildesheim

The Information Retrieval group at the University of Hildesheim has one strong focus on patent retrieval which includes the participation at CLEF-IP, the main current evaluation initiative for intellectual property information. The PhD thesis of Daniela Becks in this area was just finished. It explores the role of phrases and how the consideration of phrases can enhance the retrieval quality. The work carried out by René Hackl-Sommer until 2009 dealt with the preference for Boolean retrieval still prevalent in professional patent retrieval. He developed a relevance feedback system which transparently integrates ranking functionality. One current thesis by Julia Jürgens focuses on visualization of the entire process of retrieving and collecting patents. A new project on user oriented trend mining within patents will start in 2013. Mining of textual data is an exciting topic which requires some more user oriented research. Julia Struss is currently developing a corpus for multilingual Opinion Mining on the level of features of products.

Information Behavior Research at Hildesheim

In the past 10 years, studies on information seeking and use behaviour in information science have gained in importance. At the University of Hildesheim, a focus on user aspects has been developed and specifically, emotions, satisfaction and expectations around search processes are investigated.The work by Katrin Werner investigates the relation between user satisfaction and prior expectations of the user. Methodological approaches to measure user satisfaction need to be tailored for Information Retrieval. In marketing science, customer satisfaction is discussed in terms of confirmation or disconfirmation of prior expectations. According to this so-called confirmation/disconfirmation paradigm, customer satisfaction is achieved through a comparison between consumers’ expectations and their perceptions of product and service quality. E.g. if a car is cheap and does not work well, that basically meet the customer expectation, whereas the breakdown of an expensive new car would result in a violation of the expectations.

Experimental designs were developed to manipulate system performance and user expectation.  A user satisfaction questionnaire as well as some effectiveness measures intended to quantify user performance. Although no statistical evidence for the confirmation/disconfirmation paradigm was found, the qualitative analysis of the results of the first study gave some indication that the predicted relationship may indeed exist. Results of a second study basically showed that unrealistic expectations tend to wear of over time.

Another human perspective on the information search process has been adopted by Gabriele Pätsch. She is interested in emotions and especially in negative emotions around search. In her methodological approach, she asks users: Who is to blame for your unsuccessful search? Who are you angry with? Again, new methods are necessary.

Stefanie Elbeshausen integrates the information seeking theories into research on collaborative IR. Her approach shows how a Computer Science dominated area can benefit from models from Information Science. The thesis of Matthias Görtz was handed in 2011 and analyzed the information behavior of the net generation. His empirical study concentrated on business analysts in their first years. He was especially interested whether this group transfers its private behaviour which includes the use of social networks into the professional information search. He showed that new practices may even collide with the current policies of companies.

International Information Management

Global cooperation between and within organizations has become essential for successful businesses. For the information management within such an international and necessarily multilingual environment new challenges arise due to the diversity of the stakeholders and participants as well as due to the heterogeneity of approaches and traditions of information handling. Key technologies like search technologies need to be adapted to support content in multiple languages and efficient access to it. Information processes need to be analyzed while bearing in mind that problems may arise due to cross-cultural misunderstandings. The diversity requires appropriate treatment and appropriate methods in information systems in order to improve international information flows.These challenges have been taken up by the University of Hildesheim in an international perspective in teaching as well as in research. The IR group has supported the evaluation initiative Cross Language Evaluation Forum (CLEF) from its roots before the first conference in 2000. The group has coordinated tracks for seven years (Robust CLEF, GeoCLEF, CLEF-IP und LogCLEF).In teaching, the international perspective is also adopted. Information Science courses are integrated in the program International Information Management (IIM). This degree program integrates IT as well as intercultural communication and cultural studies. It prepares students for positions which require information management and information handling over national borders. The alumni have excellent job opportunities currently both in industry and international organizations. The Master program IIM can be studied with a specialisation Information Engineering in a double degree program offered together with Paichai University in Daejeon (South Korea).

Further Information
Görtz, Matthias; Mandl, Thomas; Werner, Katrin; Womser-Hacker, Christa (2012): Challenges for Globalized Information Systems in a Multilingual and Multicultural Context. In: Spink, Amanda (ed.): Library and Information Science Trends and Research: Europe. Emerald Group Publishing. pp. 171-194.

About Christa Womser-Hacker and Thomas Mandl
Christa Womser-Hacker and Thomas Mandl

Christa Womser-Hacker is full professor of Information Science at the University of Hildesheim, Germany and director of the Department of Information Science and Natural Language Processing. Prior to her current position, she was an assistant professor at the University of Regensburg, were she got her Ph.D. and Venia Legendi from. Her Ph.D. thesis addressed evaluation aspects of patent information retrieval. The post-doctoral thesis (German “Habilitation”) was concerned with a model for meta information retrieval. Christa Womser-Hacker has published many articles, two books and conference proceedings related to the field of Information Science. She has been a reviewer for several scientific journals and a member of program boards of workshops and conferences. Currently, she is a member of several scientific advisory boards: of GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, and of the German Institute of Sports Sciences. Furthermore she participates in the management board of the German Association for Information Science, the Information Retrieval Specialist Group in the German Computer Society, and the German HCI group. Her main research focus is in cross-lingual information retrieval, user-friendly, intercultural human-computer interaction for information and learning systems and information seeking behaviour. Since the beginning she has been involved in the Cross Language Evaluation Forum (CLEF), the European IR evaluation initiative. Thomas Mandl is professor for Information Science at the University of Hildesheim in Germany where he is teaching within the programme International Information Management. He studied information and computer science at the University of Regensburg in Germany, the University of Koblenz and at the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana, USA. Thomas Mandl first worked as a research assistant at the Social Science Information Centre in Bonn, Germany. He received both a doctorate degree in 2000 and a post doctorate degree (Habilitation) in 2006 from the University of Hildesheim. His research interests include information retrieval, human-computer interaction and internationalization of information technology and he has published some 200 papers on these topics. He has been the speaker of the special interest group in information retrieval (FGIR) and is currently member of the management board of the special interest group on human-computer interaction of the German Computer Science Society (GI).