ECIR 2021 Conference overview

Raffaele Perego and Fabrizio Sebastiani are in the process of writing a full report on the conference for SIGIR Forum, and have kindly provided a short reflection for Informer that illustrates the scale, breadth and success of the event, with some notes on the technology platforms.

ECIR 2021 had the traditional structure of previous ECIR conferences, i.e., its program consisted of five days, with the first day (March 28) devoted to tutorials and the Doctoral Consortium, the three days that followed (March 29 to 31) occupied by the main conference, and the last day (April 1) devoted to satellite workshops and the Industry Day.

Organizing ECIR 2021 was challenging, since, like for many other online conferences, it required making preparations and venue bookings for a regular, in-presence conference (which they believed would be the case until 6 months before the event), and eventually setting up things for the conference to be run completely online

Three online platforms, i.e., Whova, Zoom Webinars, and Gather Town, were used for the conference. As for many other conferences, Whova was used to generate an online, mobile-friendly conference schedule to be used by all attendees as the only entry point to the conference. The Whova schedule pointed to Zoom webinars, that were used as the platform for running all ECIR 2021 events other than the short paper presentations and the demos, and to Gather Town, which was used for the short paper presentations and the demos.

Going entirely online also meant entirely reconsidering the registration fee structure. They opted for asking a flat, nominal registration fee (150 EUR) to authors only, in a one-author-per-paper fashion. Given that the about 125 paying authors, together with the contributions from the sponsors (Bloomberg Engineering, SIGIR, Amazon Science, eBay, Google, Signal, TextKernel, Springer), allowed them to cover their costs, they decided to grant a free registration to all other attendees, with the goal of maximizing participation, especially from developing countries. This generated a high number of registrants (more than 1,100) from no less than 63 countries, with Germany, the US, the UK, the Netherlands, and Italy, ranking (in this order) as the top 5 countries in terms of registrants. Of the more than 1,100 registrants, 1,028 logged into the conference at least once; 40% of them used the mobile app at least once while 85% of them used the web app at least once.

The three days of the main conference featured 3 keynote talks, 50 full paper presentations (out of 211 submissions, for a 23.7% Acceptance Rate), 11 presentations from the Reproducibility Track (47.8% AR), 7 presentations of papers recently published on the Information Retrieval Journal, 12 short-paper presentations of the CLEF 2021 Labs, 39 poster presentations of short papers (28.5% AR), 15 demos (48.4% AR), and a panel. Submissions were received from 40 different countries, with China, India, Germany, the US, and the UK, ranking (in this order) as the top 5 countries in terms of number of submissions.

The 3 keynotes were by Ricardo Baeza-Yates (on “Ethics in AI” — the best-attended session in the entire conference, with 214 attendees), Ahmed H. Awadallah (winner of the Karen Sparck Jones Award — on “Learning with Limited Labeled Data: The Role of User Interactions”), and Ophir Frieder (on “Untraditional (Computer) Medicine”).

ECIR 2022 will be in beautiful Stavanger, Norway, organized by Krisztian Balog and Kjetil Nørvåg, and will be the northernmost ECIR ever! We are all looking forward to meeting there and enjoying all the pleasures associated with being all together in a real place, with real people.

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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