Happy New Year everybody! It is a pleasure for me to contribute a few words in my role as chair of the BCS Information Retrieval Specialist Group. This is my second year of term, and we are looking back at another turbulent year — who would have thought that in autumn 2021 we would have to revert back to online conferences, meetings and teaching (apart from the experts, that is)? As a result we also had to make our annual Search Solutions event fully virtual. This also applied to our annual general meeting (AGM) which was co-located with Search Solutions.
The AGM serves a number of purposes. One is to reflect on what we had been doing over the past year. The general impression was that we had achieved quite a bit despite the circumstances and the vastly reduced budget, including a revamped BCS IRSG Web presence, a project intiated and conducted under the supervision of our very own editor and immediate past Vice-Chair Martin White. We also looked back at highly successful conferences ECIR 2021 as well as Search Solutions 2020, both of which run in fully virtual mode.
The AGM also marks the election of a new committee. Our constitution defines two-year terms for committee members. As a result we always have some of the posts being up for election every year. I encourage you to read what our new (and old) Secretary is reporting on this in a piece elsewhere in this issue. You can of course, as always, find more details of the AGM in the (draft) minutes which can be found on our group’s homepage.
So what’s new? Well, we are pleased to welcome a number of new faces to the committee! And we are looking forward to some fresh ideas in the coming year and beyond. When I say new faces, then what this actually means is that we were lucky to recruit some well-established IR researchers and practitioners. This includes Graham McDonald, Annalina Caputo and Tony Russell-Rose who joins us again after a short break. While it is great to welcome new committee members of such calibre we also had to waive goodbye to a number colleagues, some of them having served the committee for decades. Here I am talking about Stefan Rüger and Andy MacFarlane (with 24 Years of continuous service on the committee!). But we equally value the lasting contributions made by Martin White, Dyaa Albakour and João Magalhaes. Thanks to all of them!
As we are starting 2022 we are again faced with plenty of uncertainty. While ACM CHIIR 2022 has already been announced as a virtual event, ECIR 2022 is still planned to take place in hybrid format. ECIR 2023 in Dublin will then be back with real people, real talks and real reception drinks (famous last words). Speaking of ECIR, one of the hotly debated topics last year was the question as to how to achieve open access for ECIR papers. This will be something we will explore in detail this year.
+++ And a final word +++ hot off the press +++ on another activity we are privileged to organise on an annual basis, the Karen Spärck Jones Award. +++ And the winner of the 2021 award is +++ Ivan Vulić of the University of Cambridge! Congratulations, very well deserved! +++ We are all excited about the keynote talk at ECIR in April … +++
On that note I get back to preparing my lectures and hope that you all stay healthy and have a great start into the new year. See you around in 2022!