From Udo Kruschwitz – BCS/IRSG Chairman

In my role as new Chair of the BCS Information Retrieval Specialist Group it gives me great pleasure to wish you — our dear readership — a Happy New Year! This actually sends me back in time recalling those days/nights when I wrote the editorials for Informer, the pressure of writing something sensible, recruiting a few more contributors, getting it all out of the way in time, only to find that, sure enough, the next issue would be lurking around the corner … Therefore I want to first of all thank Martin White for having taken on that role nearly two years ago and doing such a great job.

The new IRSG committee was confirmed at the recent AGM, and I might well be the new Chair, but what would I be without the Committee?

Udo Kruschwitz

So let me briefly tell you who else gets involved this year (perhaps also as a teaser to make you think about putting yourself forward in this autumn’s elections …)

Martin White, is new Vice Chair and was co-opted into that role (side note: co-opting is done for one year whereas being elected will make you join the committee for two years). He will continue to be Editor of Informer

Then we have Ingo Frommholz who has been Treasurer for quite a few years now, which means he knows the ins and out of BCS’s finance system (another side note: this year we have seen a dramatic cut in funding for our activities which makes it even more important to know exactly how and what to apply for when requesting funding for any event we want to support, for example).

Who comes next? Step forward, Haiming Liu who has taken on the role of Membership Secretary — possibly your first point of contact if you have heard about the IRSG but never really know whether or how to get involved.

Our two longest-serving members are Andy Macfarlane and Stefan Rüger (who is the immediate past chair). We will keep tapping into their infinite wisdom this year once again. And the list goes on …

Frank Hopfgartner has been looking after our contacts with publishers (Springer in particular) to guarantee a continuous supply of recently published books for which we would appreciate reviews to appear in  Informer. Interested? Drop Frank an email and he will send a book straight over to you.

Our new Secretary, Steve Zimmerman, has served on the committee for several years as our student representative, and it just shows again how time flies (like an arrow) as Steve has just passed his PhD viva when it seems to me that he only just started doing his MSc a few weeks ago …

Yahsar Moshfeghi has also been serving the community for several years and he has been co-opted to work as Inclusion Officer, a newly created role drawn up by the BCS.

Jochen Leidner, co-opted as well, serves as chair of the Karen Spärck Jones Award panel. He is another name that most of you will have come across before.

Dyaa Albakour adds more of an industry perspective as all the names mentioned so far have some academic affiliation (even Martin is not only rooted in industry but also a Visiting Professor at Sheffield’s iSchool). Welcome back, Dyaa!

Last but not least we also have representatives of past and forthcoming ECIRs. A few years ago the long-serving committee member John Tait (who must have served in all possible roles) felt that we should more actively invole the general chairs of ECIR and this was adopted as a great a idea. Right now we have Joao Magalhaes (ECIR 2020), Fabrizio Sebastiani (ECIR 2021) and Krisztian Balog (ECIR 2022) on the committee.

I am sure you agree that this is a great bunch of people with a wide range of perspectives, skill sets and experiences. They dedicate their time to serve you and the rest of the community. What exactly do we do then? There is plenty, but our two flagship events are ECIR and Search Solutions. Watch out for two excellent events again this year despite the problems imposed on the organisers this year due to the ongoing pandemic.

Where does that leave you? If you want to get involved, then drop us a line! There are all sorts of things you could contribute, how about writing an article for Informer? Describing your research group? Talking about your PhD topic?  Telling the world about a recently started massive research grant in the area of Information Retrieval? Providing a provocative position paper? The list is endless …

Looking ahead, I guess last year panned out to be very different to what we might have expected last January, but let me try to see two positive things we have learned (despite all those difficulties, problems and even losses). First of all, we can now bring the world together from the comfort of a captain’s chair in our whisky room (or whatever circumstances apply to you). I have seen this numerous times that people who could never have afforded to attend a conference or a Meetup would be joining the community, isn’t that great? The second thing is that 2021 can only be better, what a great start into the year.

Stay safe and I am looking forward to hearing from you!

About Udo Kruschwitz
Udo Kruschwitz

Udo Kruschwitz is a Professor of Information Science at the University of Regensburg and a long-standing member of the IRSG committee (currently serving as Chair). His main interests are in information retrieval and natural language engineering. He enjoys being involved in organising events such as Search Solutions in London and ECIR Industry Day (e.g. at ECIR 2019 in Cologne) which aim at bringing together academia and industry.

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