I make no apology for making this an ECIR 2020 Conference Special Issue. It was a miracle that the conference took place at all given the short notice the organisers had that an in-Lisbon event was not going to be allowed to take place. The quality of the papers was uniformly high and the technology worked very well indeed. What is important about this issue is not just the comments about the content of the conference but also the additional insights into the management of virtual conferences.

This issue starts with the ECIR 2020 contributions from Joao Magalheis  and his colleagues providing an overview of the conference, a summary of the scientific sessions and an initial analysis of the participants. Then follows their reflections of the challenges and successes of the virtual event. Udo Kruschwitz reports on the Doctorial Symposium at ECIR 2020, I have contributed notes on two of the three keynotes (the third will appear in the next issue) and Andy MacFarlane reflects on the role of ontologies in information retrieval. Of course a benefit of a virtual conference is that it overcomes the costs and time or travel. I asked one of my MBA students, Stephanie Segura Rodas, to comment on the virtual conference experience from her home office in Lima, Peru. You can’t get much farther away than that! Ingo Fromholtz has contributed a report on the BIR conference that was running in parallel with ECIR 2020.

A detailed account of how the virtual workshops were managed has also been published.

And there is more. I asked Andy Macfarlane to write a note on the research he has led on the impact of dyslexia on how people with this cognitive condition manage with search applications. Around 1 in 8 people have some form of the condition and yet it is only over the last few years that it has been recognized as a major issue. Andy has also contributed his usual comprehensive list of events, though this is now inevitably out-of-date as on-site events are cancelled, moved or virtualized.  Hopefully the annual Strix Award lecture will take place in November. Frank Hopfgartner reviews a book on project management published by the British Computer Society. Finally in a conference special issue I thought it might be of interest to mark the first UK information retrieval conference which took place at the Royal Society in November 1979. In a new feature all the contributors are listed.

About Martin White
Martin White

Martin is an information scientist and the author of Making Search Work and Enterprise Search. He has been involved with optimising search applications since the mid-1970s and has worked on search projects in both Europe and North America. Since 2002 he has been a Visiting Professor at the Information School, University of Sheffield and is currently working on developing new approaches to search evaluation.

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