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Summer 2019 Editorial

The centrepiece of this issue is a profile of the IR research and teaching activities of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Glasgow. This is the first of what I plan to be a series of profiles of university departments with a strong IR/search focus. Initially these will be UK departments but then I’ll start expanding the profiles to EU departments. That will provide quite enough profiles for the next few years. Next up will be the Information School at the University of Sheffield. If you would like to have a profile published of your own department please let me know. I’m also delighted to be able to publish an account of a web search engine developed in Syria. For a change of format it is presented as a near-verbatim transcript between Jochen Liedner and the founder Shadi Saleh. Fascinating! There is no reason for Informer just to be a record of what has happened; it should also highlight what is happening or is about to come over the horizon. Even so, reports on recent conferences do give a good sense of trends in the IR/search sector, and in this issue we are covering ECIR2019 and ISKOUK 2019.  I would also highlight a new one day conference that is being presented by the University of Bedford on 18 September.

Copy date for the Autumn issue is 23 September. The publication date is 5 October.

IRSG Forthcoming events

18 September TALMIRI – Talent meets IR Industry, Bedford

TALMIRI is a new initiative for IRSG to complement the annual Search Solutions conference. It will be one-day symposium with the purpose of bringing together young and senior researchers and practitioners from industry on topics related to search and information retrieval. The objective is to awareness of industry-relevant topics on one hand and the cutting-edge works of researchers on the other hand, to foster knowledge transfer and encourage discussion as well as networking in a relaxed and constructive atmosphere.

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Awards

Awards open for nominations

Microsoft BCS/BCS IRSG Karen Spärck Jones Award – nominations close on 12 September

The British Computer Society Information Retrieval Specialist Group (BCS IRSG) in conjunction with the BCS created an award in 2008 to commemorate the achievements of Karen Spärck Jones. The Award is sponsored by Microsoft Research. For more information on how to nominate please visit this page.

The timetable for the Award is:

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Conference reports

ISKO 2019 Meeting The Human Position in an Artificial World: creativity, ethics and AI in knowledge organization

ISKO UK’s sixth biennial conference was held at City, University of London on 15-16th July 2019 and was attended by 75 participants from 14 countries. David Haynes, Chairman of ISKOUK has kindly provided this summary of the meeting at very short notice.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) seems to be the topic of the moment and has emerged as a theme of many conferences and meetings in the information domain. ISKOUK2019 concentrated on the human role in knowledge organization and the potential for use of AI techniques to enhance the human role. It also considered some of the ethical issues as well as speculating about whether creativity is a uniquely human attribute. The UK chapter of ISKO has always had a good international reach for its biennial conference and had papers from Denmark, Brazil, France, the United States, Taiwan and Croatia to name a few.

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Profile: Glasgow Information Retrieval Group

The Glasgow Information Retrieval Group within the School of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow was founded 32 years ago in 1986 by Professor C. J. ‘Keith’ van Rijsbergen, often considered one of the founders of modern Information Retrieval (IR). From its outset, the Glasgow IR group has focused on improving the effectiveness of IR systems, inventing new logic & probabilistic retrieval models in the 90’s and early 2000’s, followed by the development of adaptive query expansion techniques, interactive multimedia models, the Divergence From Randomness framework, as well as leading research into quantum, expertise search and search result diversification models in the late 2000’s. The group has currently 5 academics and about 25 research assistants and PhD students, researching machine learning/deep learning techniques for effective search and recommender systems.

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Syria’s First Web Search Engine: An Interview with Shadi Saleh

This interview was conducted by on Saturday, July 13, 2019 (editing for brevity and language jointly by the interviewer and interviewee.)

Jochen Leidner: Today, I have on the line Shadi Saleh, co-founder of the first-ever Web search engine in Syria. I met Shadi at ECIR 2019 [the 41st European Conference on Information Retrieval] in Cologne, and when I heard his story, I asked him whether he would share his entrepreneurial journey with us. Good afternoon, Shadi, Are you ready? Welcome, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed; would you share some details about yourself to get started, please?

Shadi Saleh: Yes, I’m ready, thanks. I’m Shadi Saleh, 31 years old, from Latakia, Syria. I finished my software engineering degree in Syria at Tishreen University before I moved to the Czech Republic.

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And finally…

I was delighted to note that Donna Harman has contributed a paper entitled Information Retrieval: the early years to the Now Publishing Foundations and Trends in Information Retrieval https://www.nowpublishers.com/article/Details/INR-065. It is easy to focus on the future and not appreciate the long history of the development of information retrieval. Many of the core elements of any search engine go back several decades even if they have been subsequently tweaked. A few years ago Mark Sanderson and W Bruce Croft published a short paper on The History of Information Retrieval Research, a paper so short that they forgot to put a date on it!

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Editorial

It is an honour to have been appointed as Editor of Informer in succession to Udo Kruschwitz. The first time I saw a real-time computer-based search service was at 10am on 23 February 1976. If you are wondering how I can be that precise over forty years later the secret is that at the time I was Editor of Inform, the newsletter of the Institute of Information Scientists. I was attending the launch of the European Space Agency’s RECON service. This gave access to databases of scientific secondary journals (abstracts) such as those from Inspec (now the IET) and Chemical Abstracts. The RECON service was set up in 1969 but searches were carried out off-line for customers, who then received a print out of the results in the post 10 days later. That all changed in 1976 and I’ve been involved in search one way or another ever since.

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