I’m looking forward with interest to three virtual search events in November.  The Search Solutions 2020 Tutorial Day take place on 24 November followed by the Search Solutions conference itself on 25 November. Then on the afternoon of 26 November comes the Strix Annual Lecture. The decision has now been taken to run ECIR 2021 as a virtual event, and the submission dates have now been revised. We all hope of course that by April next year on-site conferences will start to be scheduled but right now that is a risk that the ECIR 2021 team felt unable to take. In September CLEF2020 was also run virtually and I am delighted to be able to publish some short reports on the event from student attendees. I plan to make this a regular feature for conferences, especially ECIR.

Coping with change is now something that we are all becoming very accustomed to. The feature article in this issue is from Dr David Maxwell who has moved from being a PhD student in Glasgow to being a postdoc researcher in Delft.

In this issue we have one book review. Dr Frank Hopfgartner, Book Reviews Editor, considers an open-access book on the legacy of the research impact of NTCIR (NII Testbeds and Community for Information access Research).   This is probably a good time to remind publishers and authors that Informer has a very wide readership among the information science, information retrieval and data science communities. If you have a book that you would like to have considered for review than please contact Dr Frank Hopfgartner.

Finally there are some reflections from me on working with Dr. Tony Kent, in whose memory and honour the Strix Award Lecture is held. What you will not find in this issue is Part 2 of a report on the New Future of Work conference that Microsoft Research organised in August. In Part 1, published in the Summer edition, I commented on the management of the conference. Looking at the papers even just a few months after presentation I decided that events and research had both moved on so much that a synopsis of the papers would not be a good use of HTML code.

The copy date for the Winter edition of Informer is 4 January 2021. Submissions are always welcome.

Search Solutions 2020 24/25 November

The Search Solutions conference will take place virtually on Wednesday 25 November. The programme can be found on the conference website. The conference will be preceded by a day of workshops on Tuesday 24 November.

With the Strix Award event taking place on Thursday 26 November it will be quite a searching week.

Strix Lecture 26 November 2020

The UK electronic information Group (UKeiG) is pleased to announce that the 6th Tony Kent Strix Annual Memorial Lecture 2020 is to be delivered by the 2019 Strix award winner Professor Ingemar J. Cox, Department of Computer Science at University College London. It will take place online from 2 pm to 4.30 pm Thursday, 26th November 2020. The Tony Kent Strix Award was inaugurated in 1998 by the Institute of Information Scientists.  The Award is given in recognition of an outstanding practical innovation or achievement in the field of information retrieval. It is now presented by UKeiG in partnership with the International Society for Knowledge Organisation UK (ISKO UK), the Royal Society of Chemistry Chemical Information and Computer Applications Group (RSC CICAG) and the British Computer Society Information Retrieval Specialist Group (BCS IRSG).

This is a free event. Book here: https://www.cilip.org.uk/events/EventDetails.aspx?id=1428500&group=201314

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ECIR 2021 – planning for a virtual conference

The 43rd European Conference on Information Retrieval will be held in Lucca, Italy on March 28 to April 1, 2021 though the decision has been taken to run it as a virtual event. ECIR 2020 was run as a virtual event at short notice and was a great success. Lessons learned from ECIR 2020 will of course be taken into account with the 2021 event.

The submission deadlines are…

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CLEF 2020 – some student perspectives

Editor – I’m delighted to be able to publish reports on the CLEF2020 conference from some of the students who attended the conference, which took place in September 2020. I gave them a set of four headings and a word length. I feel it is important to capture the views of students on events as they see things with a different perspective to those of us who have spent much of our working lives inside a conference venue.

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My 2020: Lockdown and Stroopwafels

Editor – Since March 2020, David Maxwell has been a postdoctoral researcher at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands. He is looking at Interactive Information Retrieval (IIR) and Search as Learning (SAL). I asked him to write an account of his experience both living and working as a Post-Doc researcher.

Over to David

Let me start with three things that I have learnt over the past six to seven months.

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Book review: Evaluating Information Retrieval and Access Tasks: NTCIR’s Legacy of Research Impact

Already hinted at in one of my previous book reviews, this year finally saw the publication of the long-awaited book “Evaluating Information Retrieval and Access Tasks: NTCIR’s Legacy of Research Impact”. If this isn’t reason enough to stop everything you are doing right now and start searching for your reading glasses, there’s even more good news: Thanks to the financial contribution of the National Institute of Informatics (NII) of Japan, the book is an open access publication and can be downloaded directly from the publisher’s web portal.

But first things first… What is NTCIR and why should you take note of this book?

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And finally from the Editor

This year I will be taking part in the Strix Award event, an Award which recognises the contribution that Dr. Tony Kent made to information retrieval. There is some background material on the Award and on Tony Kent on the CILIP website. The Award was inaugurated in 1998 when I was still playing a reasonably active role in the Institute of Information Scientists and was on the committee that met to decide who would be the award winner.

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The Spring issue was mainly about conferences, specifically ECIR 2020. This issue is much more about people but first I must highlight the third of the three ECIR 2020 keynotes by Joana Gonçalves de Sá which did not make it into the Spring issue. I am delighted to be able to publish a tribute by Professors Val Gillett and Peter Bath to Professor Peter Willett, who retired from the Information School, University of Sheffield after a lifetime of dedicated service to the School and the University. I held this over from the Spring issue as I did not want to submerge it in ECIR 2020 reports. ECIR2021 is scheduled to be held in Lucca, Tuscany from 28 March to 1 April 2021. Ingo Frommholz has contributed an excellent account of BIRDS, an interdisciplinary workshop for students, practitioners and researchers in Data Science, Information Retrieval and Information Science held at SIGIR 2020.

The lead feature contribution in this issue sets out the outcomes of a benchmark study by IntraTeam of the state of enterprise search satisfaction in Scandinavian organisations. Because it comes from a benchmarking process the reliability of the data is much higher than would be the case with a survey.

The tribute to Peter Willett  started me thinking about others in the UK who have made a distinguished contribution to information retrieval and in And Finally you will find my selection. If you feel you should be included do please let me know. One of the people on the list is Tony Kent, whose contribution is honoured in the Strix Award, and you will find details of the call for nominations for 2020 and the Strix Annual Lecture in London on 26 November. One of the organisations involved in the Award process is ISKO UK and there is a profile of the organisation by its current Chair, David Haynes.

The IRSG Search Solutions Conference will be held digitally on 23 November and papers for this conference, and for the workshops on 24 November, are now being sought. There is also time to nominate a Taxonomy Practitioner and a Taxonomy Success of the Year in association with the London Taxonomy Boot Camp.

In his contribution on ISKO UK David mentions some of the technical issues with delivering virtual learning. I was invited to participate in the Microsoft Research New Future of Work virtual conference in early August. I have set out my experience with the conference technology so that readers can benefit from this as soon as possible. I will summarise the outcomes of the conference in the Autumn issue of Informer as I know that the conference team will be adding content to the web site. Andy Macfarlane has contributed his regular list of search conferences but of course has had to add a warning that these events are subject to change and cancellation.

One of the pleasures of being an Editor is that publishers send you books as gifts. You are of course supposed to read them and as a result there are two book reviews in this issue, both outstanding contributions in their particular fields of systematic searching and A/B testing.

The copy date for the Autumn issue is 25 September 2020.

The state of enterprise search in Scandinavia in 2019

IntraTeam was established in 2000 with a vision of creating and supporting a community of intranet managers in Denmark. There are 23 communities in Sweden and Denmark that meet quarterly to exchange experience and ideas. Every Spring members of these communities come together at the three-day IntraTeam Event in Copenhagen. From the very beginning IntraTeam has carried out surveys among community members to help them understand the opportunities and challenges of intranet management, including search applications. The benchmarking initiative started in 2005 and over recent years has been extended to become a much wider ‘digital workplace’ benchmark. There are 26 categories against which participants can be benchmarked.

At present over 270 organisations participate in the survey including:

  • 80 Danish companies
  • 51 municipalities (local administrations)
  • 23 Government departments
  • A handful of not-for-profit and educational institutions
  • 90 companies from other countries

Because this is a community exercise, we have confidence in the quality of the information that is given by each organisation. On request we can provide benchmarks for specific industries and sectors. In this summary the focus is on the outcomes of the search questions included in the survey. The percentages in the boxes may not add up to 100% as some very low response values have been excluded for clarity.

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Peter Willett – reflections on the occasion of his retirement

Peter Willett retired from the Information School at The University of Sheffield at the end of 2019 after a long and hugely successful career. Peter is well known throughout the world for his contributions to information retrieval, bibliometrics and chemoinformatics. As well as being a hugely influential researcher, Peter is also held in very high personal regard by the many colleagues, collaborators and students he has worked with and supported over his long career.

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BCS IRSG Search Solutions 2020 goes virtual and CfP

Search Solutions is the BCS Information Retrieval Specialist Group’s annual forum focused on practitioner issues and latest innovations in the area of Search and Information Retrieval.  Search Solutions 2020 will be an online event taking place on November 23, 2020.

Search Solutions will consist of invited talks, but we also invite proposals for 30-minute presentations  (20-minute talk plus 10-minute Q&A) from practitioners and industry leaders. Your talk should focus on any area of the practical application of search technologies to real-world problems or on novel and emerging applications and topics in Search and Information Retrieval.  If you want to discuss the challenges you tackle as well as their solutions or present your latest innovation, Search Solutions is the venue for you. Search Solutions is attended by students and practitioners from academia and industry alike. 

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Call for Online Tutorials: Search Solutions 2020

Search Solutions is the BCS Information Retrieval Specialist Group’s annual event focused on practitioner issues in the area of Search and Information Retrieval. We invite proposals which focus on any area of the practical application of search technologies to real world problems, for the tutorial day due to take place the day after Search Solutions 2020. Tutorials in previous years have included: Designing Usability for Search, Multimedia Information Retrieval, Pattern Search, City Search in SmartCities and Text Analysis. Examples of previous tutorials can be found here: https://irsg.bcs.org/SearchSolutions/2019/ss2019tutorials.php


Proposals for both full day (5-6 hours including breaks) and half day (2-3 hours including breaks) tutorials are invited.  Due to the COVID-19 situation, tutorials will take place online, preferably on Tuesday 24th November 2020. We welcome tutorials broadcast from anywhere on Earth but the schedule should be convenient for a UK or European audience (i.e., GMT time zone).

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Meeting in a time of lock-down – ISKO UK’s experience

Many of us have been adapting to life in lock-down, including groups such as ISKO UK, which I have the honour of chairing.  We are a small, specialist and very active group that promotes the science of knowledge organization.  As part of an international network of societies, the UK chapter is particularly interested in the interface between research and practice.  The opportunity to work with IRSG and others on the UKeiG Tony Kent Strix Award has been beneficial to members of both groups.

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Microsoft Research New Future of Work Conference 3-5 August 2020 – Part 1 The conference technology platform

Microsoft Research was able to set up its New Future of Work conference (August 3-5) as a virtual conference right from the start. This meant that it was probably one of the first to be designed at the outset to be virtual rather than adopting and adapting an existing one-site conference agenda.  The conference was excellent in terms of content, and all the papers (67 of them) and themes can be found on the conference web site. Given that Microsoft started with a clean slate I thought you might be interested in the approach that it took with the delivery platform. I’ll summarise the outcomes of the conference in Part 2 in the Autumn issue as it will take me some time to work through many pages of notes.

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