Happy Birthday, BIR!
Since BIR 2020 was the 10th Anniversary edition, renowned researchers from the Scientometrics, NLP and IR community were asked beforehand to provide their reflections about the workshop series. This resulted in a set of 15 greeting notes, as videos or in writing. A YouTube playlist was created where these researches gave their insights on how they perceive BIR/BIRNDL.
The online experience – what could possibly go wrong?
Due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, BIR 2020, together with ECIR 2020 and the other associated workshops, faced an exceptional situation as it had to be delivered as an online-only event. This led to some interesting experiences that might be considered for similar future events. On the very positive side, the online delivery with tools such as Zoom and Slack, together with the #bir2020 Twitter hashtag, provided channels for interaction between speakers and participants, who were connected from home from all over the world. The highly increased inclusiveness of this form of online delivery led to the record number of 97 participants at peak time. The author thinks that this aspect is something that future conferences and workshops should consider as not every interested researcher is able to afford travel, accommodation and conference fees. On the other hand, nothing replaces the traditional face-to-face discussion, in particular in the relaxed atmosphere of a social event. The ECIR organisers did their best to provide this, together with a very successful virtual ECIR main conference, for which they need to be applauded. Turning your home office into a conference location is interesting; coffee is free at home but there are no real other conference participants to share it with. The Slack platform allowed for some discussion at the main conference, but the experience is different and such a solution could, in theory, be provided along with physical delivery of an event.
A typical conference experience in pandemic times.
While BIR 2020, in the end, was received very positively, there was a dark spot on the experience. Have you ever witnessed a conference or workshop suddenly being flooded by a bunch of hooligans? Such an unpleasant incident happened toward the end of BIR 2020, when the workshop’s Zoom link was accidentally leaked on social media, with the effect that the virtual room was “Zoom-bombed”. While this was a tragic accident due to human error, this was also enabled by the fact that Zoom links have their password included, which makes it easy to distribute in a careless moment. Future advice if using Zoom is to enable the “waiting room” functionality, whenever feasible.
Conclusion and outlook
BIR 2020 had a very nice birthday and the organisers, current (Philipp Mayr, Guillaume Cabanac and Ingo Frommholz) and past (Andrea Scharnhorst, Birger Larsen, Philipp Schaer, Peter Mutschke and Howard D. White) can raise a glass of their favourite drink on 10 successful workshops. The topic of Bibliometric-enhanced IR is alive and kicking and, in the author’s opinion, very relevant to tackle future challenges in academic information seeking. The all-online version of BIR 2020 and ECIR 2020 provided some interesting experience and it is not unlikely that conferences, in general, will change when it comes to their delivery.
We are looking forward to the next BIR workshop as a continuation of the workshop series, hopefully at a nice physical workshop location.