In the Spring issue

Pride of place in this overview of the Spring issue has to be the report on ECIR 2022, which so elegantly and effectively integrated the on-site and virtual conference experiences that I for one felt that I had been transported StarTrek-style from Horsham to Stavanger. Dennis and Satya have contributed a such a comprehensive and engaging account of the event that Krisztian Balog decided that there was nothing he could add to it. The event was also the occasion for the Karen Spark Jones award presentation  Work on ECIR 2023 in Dublin has already started so add the dates of 4-6 April 2023 to your diary. Udo Kruschwitz, Chair of IRSG comments on both ECIR 2022 and future events.

As usual Andy Macfarlane has contributed his list of forthcoming events, a valued feature of Informer for many years.

The ACM SIGIR CHIIR 2022 conference took place in March and Selina Meyer has contributed an excellent account of the event. There is also a report on a series of virtual lectures entitled Exploring Information Retrieval that took place in February and March. The lecture series was a joint venture between ISKO UK and the BCS IRSG.

I would encourage you to look at the December issue of SIGIR Forum, which appeared after the Winter Issue of Informer had been published. There are always interesting papers and conference reports of this very active community of the ACM.

Looking forward, Search Solutions 2022 will take place in London on 24 November and the Call for Proposals has now been published.

This issue also marks the start of what I hope will be a regular feature of Informer. Jochen Leidner came up with the idea of the Graduate Student Corner.  As an enterprise search practitioner, I am aware that I may inadvertently bias Informer towards practice and away from research, so I was very eager to build on Jochen’s suggestion. Feedback on the concept would be very much appreciated. Pedro Ruas is the initial contributor, providing a very good template for future contributions.

Two news items for you. The first is the launch of the NeurodiverseIT Specialist Group of the BCS and I have commented on the very welcome and timely launch of this SG, suggesting some resources should you like to understand more about why I feel that this initiative is so important. The second item is about a new Enterprise Search Management on-site one-day training course that I am offering through Intranet Focus Ltd.

The book review in this issue took me some time to write  as Information – A Historical Companion is 880 pages long and weighs 1.7Kg.

The Copy Date for the Summer issue is 18 July and 31 October for the Autumn issue.


ECIR 2022 Experience Report

Dennis Aumiller and Satya Almasian, Heidelberg University

After two years of (involuntary) abstinence from any in-person event, this year’s ECIR marked the start of a new era of hybrid conferences. Despite a late lifting of travel restrictions by the Norwegian government, which was announced only two months before the conference date, over 180 people decided to attend at least part of the conference in person.

Continue reading “ECIR 2022 Experience Report”

Karen Spärck Jones (KSJ) Award Presentation at ECIR 2022

A report from Haiming Liu and Jochen Leidner.

On Wednesday 14 April Professor Jochen L. Leidner gave the prestigious KSJ award for talented early career researchers in Information Retrieval (IR) or Natural Language Processing (NLP) to Dr Ivan Vulić at ECIR 2022. Continue reading “Karen Spärck Jones (KSJ) Award Presentation at ECIR 2022”

ECIR 2023 Dublin

ECIR2023 will take place in Dublin on 2-6 April 2023. The web site is now live and sets out the timetable for the submission of presentations and lists the organisers.

From the BCS IRSG Chair

ECIR 2022 — a real conference with a real banquet

Hello everybody and welcome back to a world of in-person meetings, conferences and banquets. Just as we had started to get used to living in a virtual world we will have to adapt again. Do you even remember what it was like to ask a question from the floor? Or how about shaking hands? What’s that? Continue reading “From the BCS IRSG Chair”

CHIIR 2022 report by Selina Meyer

Selina Meyer is a PhD student and research assistant at the Chair of Information Science, University of Regensburg. Her research focuses on empathetic conversational agents for behaviour change. Currently, she receives a scholarship from the German Academic Scholarship Foundation.

The seventh ACM SIGIR Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval (CHIIR) was supposed to happen in my hometown Regensburg, Germany.Unfortunately, it had to be moved to the virtual space due to the pandemic.To recreate the feel of the historic city, the local organisers took it upon themselves to model the city in gather town, complete with livestreams of popular places in town and Bavarian music. Continue reading “CHIIR 2022 report by Selina Meyer”

ISKO UK/BCS IRSG Exploring Information Retrieval lectures series – February/March 2022

There has always been close cooperation between the IRSG and the UK Chapter of the International Society for Knowledge Organisations (ISKO UK), including a common interest in findability issues, including support our Search Solutions conference. Over the course of the pandemic ISKO UK made a significant contribution to maintaining its programme of meetings and workshop and last year I was invited to give a virtual presentation on the subject of information foraging.

Towards the end of last year I was approached by Aida Slavic, Vice Chair of ISKO UK to explore whether IRSG would be interested in developing a series of lectures on information retrieval pitched at a relatively low-technology level for ISKO UK members in a wide range of knowledge organisation roles in the public, academic and corporate sectors.

Continue reading “ISKO UK/BCS IRSG Exploring Information Retrieval lectures series – February/March 2022”

SIGIR Forum December 2021 issue

The ACM SIGIR Forum is published twice a year, and is an essential read. The December 2021 issue came out after the Winter issue of Informer was published so this is my first opportunity to bring it to your attention. Each issue contains a few research papers and some abstracts of dissertations but the most valuable feature are the reports of ACM conferences.

Graduate Student Corner – a new feature for Informer

The Graduate Student Corner concept was suggested to me last year by Professor Jochen Liedner with the following scope note

“IRSG would like to offer doctoral students a forum to present their research in progress beyond the more formal workshop, conference and journal papers.  Many of you have plenty of good ideas, and often the Ph.D. degree time period is too small to follow up on all of them. Peer reviewed papers are also more rigid and formal, and often not easy to digest, so it may be pleasant to lay out some ideas or hypotheses for discussion in a more informal way and place, and for readers to pick up the intuitions and drivers behind your research.

Continue reading “Graduate Student Corner – a new feature for Informer”

Graduate Student Corner – Pedro Ruas, University of Lisbon

I am currently a PhD student in the PhD Programme in Informatics at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon. My main research interests are biomedical text mining and natural language processing. I have published several journal and workshop articles that focus on improving the named entity linking task and other text mining tasks, such as scientific recommendation and text classification. Continue reading “Graduate Student Corner – Pedro Ruas, University of Lisbon”

NeurodiverseIT Specialist Group

The Information Retrieval Specialist Group can trace its origins back to 1998, though the British Computer Society itself was founded in 1957. There are over 50 Specialist Groups, and in 2022 a NeurodiverseIT Specialist Group was formed as the result of the independent efforts of Richard Cornell and Matthew Bellringer. The Group is run for and by neurodivergentpeople and held its first meeting in April. It is growing fast and expanding its committee to make sure it is as effective and representative as possible. The Group welcomes those with diagnoses of neurodivergent conditions, those who identify with those conditions, and those with a personal or professional interest in neurodiversity.

Continue reading “NeurodiverseIT Specialist Group”

Enterprise Search Management training course from Intranet Focus Ltd

In 2012 I undertook a project for the European Commission which had as its objectives the identification of barriers to the development and use of enterprise search applications in the EU. The primary conclusion was that the lack of training for enterprise search software developers and for enterprise search managers was the major barrier. Continue reading “Enterprise Search Management training course from Intranet Focus Ltd”

Information – A Historical Companion (Review)

How do you review a book that runs to almost 900 pages? Answers on a pack of postcards please! Two books sparked my interest in the history of information. The first was A History of Online Information Services 1963-1976 by Bourne and Hahn which provides a vast amount of detail on the early development of IR applications as well as the remote access services that really took off in the late 1960s. Continue reading “Information – A Historical Companion (Review)”

And finally…..from the Editor

When I started work at Logica in 1989 one of the most talented of my consulting team (let me call him John) had a significant visual handicap resulting from macular degeneration. At the time John had to rely on a horizontally-scrolling LED display of text to write reports and create emails. Apart from being a superb technology analyst John also spoke absolutely fluent French and German as his hearing became a means of offsetting his visual handicaps. Continue reading “And finally…..from the Editor”

In the Winter issue

November 2021 was a very busy time for IRSG. The Search Solutions Conference took place virtually on 24 November. You can read reports on the conference and on the two tutorials in this issue. There is also a list of the BCS Search Industry Awards that were announced at the Conference.  Continuing the ‘awards’ theme the winner of the 2021 Karen Spärk Jones award is Dr Ivan Vulić (University of Cambridge). IRSG is a partner with UKeiG in the selection of the Strix award. The Strix Award Lecture this year was given by Professor Ian Ruthven.

The IRSG AGM took place immediately after the Conference, and there have been a number of changes to the list of Committee members. These changes are also mentioned by IRSG Chairman Udo Kruschwitz in his review of 2021 and IRSG plans for 2022. These include ECIR 2022 in Stavanger in April and a series of eight lectures in February and March which will offer a relatively low-technology introduction to information retrieval. The concept was developed by ISKO UK, which has invited IRSG to give some of the lectures. IRSG members can attend free of charge.

The opening paper at Search Solutions was given by Professor Katriina Bystrom (Metropolitan University of Oslo) who has been working on a project led by Professor Marianne Lykke (University of Aalborg) on an analysis of how a major biotech company makes use of enterprise search. As far as I am aware this is the first-ever paper that does a deep dive into an  organisation-wide use of enterprise search, and I have added a commentary on the outcomes based on my own experience over the last two decades. The other feature article is about the challenges of extracting text content from PDF files. This is much more challenging than most search managers appreciate, and I am very grateful to Tim Allison, a consultant at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for explaining why text extraction from PDFs is so difficult and how the process should be managed.

Also in this issue is a book review of a narrative account of the development of web search and the very useful list of events compiled by Andy MacFarlane, one of which is the ACS/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries in June.

And finally I offer some thoughts about the lack of recent text books on IR at either undergraduate or post-graduate level

From Udo Kruschwitz – BCS IRSG Chairman

Happy 2022!

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!


Search Solutions 2021 – conference report

Looking back at the ten papers and two panel discussions at the BCS IRSG Search Solutions 2021 conference in November there was a very strong theme that emerged with most of the papers providing a set of variations. The theme at its most basic was that ‘one size does not fit all’, especially when it comes to the user interface. The underlying issues were presented by Professor Katriina Byström (University of Oslo) who started by summarising the work she had undertaken with Sanna Kumpulainen (Tampere University) on vertical and horizontal relationships amongst task-based information needs. Katriina then moved on to summarise a research project in which she had been working with Professor Marianne Lykke (project leader) Ann Bygholm and Louise Søndergaard (Department of Communications and Psychology at Aalborg University) that had looked in great detail at the use made of enterprise search in a biotechnology company. This study has now published in Journal of Documentation and on the AAU web site.  One of the important outcomes was that searching for people was by far the dominant use of the SharePoint search application. In my opinion this is a very important piece of research, and I have commented further on some of the outcomes and implications in this issue of Informer.

Continue reading “Search Solutions 2021 – conference report”

Search Solutions 2021 – Tutorials report

As has been the custom, the main Search Solutions 2021 event has again been preceded by a day of tutorials. Two tutorials were successfully delivered on the day: an introduction to Natural Language Processing and a “Practitioners’ Evaluation Roundtable” (which was not a tutorial in the strict sense). Haiming Liu, Ingo Frommholz and Jochen Leidner reflect on the scope and outcomes of the tutorials.

Continue reading “Search Solutions 2021 – Tutorials report”

BCS Search Industry Awards 2021

At the BCS IRSG Search Solutions 2021 Conference on 24 November there was a session during which the BCS Search Industry Awards for 2021 were presented by Tony Russell-Rose on behalf of the IRSG Committee. The Conference was once again (and hopefully for the last time!) virtual so there was no opportunity to applaud the winners.

This year there were multiple nominations for all the categories. The nominations were reviewed by three judges with a wide range of experience

  • Paul Clough, Head of Data Science at Peak Indicators, and Professor of Search & Analytics at University of Sheffield
  • Agnes Molnar Founder & Managing Consultant Search Explained, based in Budapest, Hungary
  • Paul Cleverley Visiting Professor, Founder of Infoscience Technology Ltd and a Visiting Professor of Information Science and Technology, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen

Continue reading “BCS Search Industry Awards 2021”

Microsoft-BCS/BCS-IRSG Karen Spärck Jones Award 2021 for Dr Ivan Vulić

Dr Ivan Vulić from the University of Cambridge has been named as the winner of the Microsoft-BCS/BCS-IRSG Karen Spärck Jones Award 2021

The award, which is sponsored by Microsoft Research, was created in 2008 to remember Professor Karen Spärck Jones FBA, a leading researcher in information retrieval at what was at the time called the Cambridge “Mathematical Laboratory”. In a landmark 1972 paper, she discovered the utility of inverse document (collection) frequency (IDF), an important factor now standard in ranked document retrieval as used by most search systems.

Continue reading “Microsoft-BCS/BCS-IRSG Karen Spärck Jones Award 2021 for Dr Ivan Vulić”

Strix Lecture 2021 – 9 December 2021

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.

Continue reading “Strix Lecture 2021 – 9 December 2021”

IRSG 2021-2022 AGM Committee Elections

The IRSG Annual General Meeting (AGM) took place immediately after Search Solutions 2021, where the committee election results were announced.  The full list of current committee members is now available on the IRSG governance page.

Incoming committee members are Tony Russell-Rose (Vice-Chair), Graham McDonald (Ordinary Committee Member) and Annalina Caputo (ECIR 2023 Committee Member). Existing Committee members that have transition to new new positions are Steven Zimmerman (Secretary), Yashar Moshfeghi (Inclusion Officer) and Jochen Leidner (Events Coordinator). Full details of the BCS IRSG committee are provided on our governance page.

We wish to thank outgoing committee members Stefan Rueger (Past-Chair) Martin White (Vice-Chair), Andy MacFarlane (Committee Member), Dyaa Albakour (Committee Member) and Joao Magalhaes (ECIR 2021 Committee Member) for their service. In particularly, we wish send a particular thank you to Andy MacFarlane whom served various roles on the committee for 25 consecutive years.

As is the unfortunate trend with many BCS committee elections, all positions were uncontested. As a reminder our elections take place every Autumn, so please watch our governance page and the IR listserv to which you can subscribe to for future election announcements.  We are very keen to have new members on our committee.

Steve Zimmerman (Honorary Secretary)