The annual Tony Kent Strix Annual Memorial Lecture was held on December 9th. The lecture was given by the 2020 Strix Award winner Ian Ruthven (Professor, University of Strahtclyde). He delivered his journey of research over the past 20 years where attendees learned that many of his contributions were through collaborative efforts with many researchers in the IR community, to which he expressed much gratitude for their efforts. His talk was titled “Google’s what you use when Alexa doesn’t know the answer, Uncle Ian”.
Several learnings from his journey of research particularly stand out in my mind. First, the probability ranking principle has heavily influenced many of the systems we have in production now and the ranking of their results. Additionally, searchers generally don’t like reading as much as they do searching, for example they are much more likely to briefly skim a result than to read the page they visit. Ian also suggested that considerations be made for a new generation of systems that handle expression of problems as opposed to queries, as query expression is difficult.
There are many other great nuggets from his talk and I suggest you watch the entire talk here to learn more. At that same link, you can also watch the introductory presentation by Thomas D. Wilson (Professor Emeritus, University of Sheffield) and titled “Managing information to serve the information user”. Ian Ruthven rightly hinted that Tom Wilson was a big act to follow.