KMWorld Enterprise Search and Discovery 2020 – conference report

The KMWorld conference, managed by Information Today Inc.  is probably the flagship event of the US library and information professional community and for the last few years has been held in Washington DC every November. It has always been a multiple track conference and has included an Enterprise Search and Discovery track. This dates back to the Enterprise Search Summit that was established by Online Inc. before its acquisition by Information Today Inc.

The ESD event started off with a series of workshops from Raytion, Agnes Molnar of Search Explained and me wearing my Intranet Focus hat. The conference itself was a three day event and the programme of presentations and panel sessions is still up on the KMWorld web site. There were a number of search-related presentations in the Taxonomy Bootcamp and Knowledge Management tracks.

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Search Solutions 2020 – Conference report

That Search Solutions 2020 took place at all is a tribute to superb teamwork from Ingo Frommholz, Udo Kruschwitz, Haiming Liu, Tony Russell-Rose, Steven Zimmerman and myself aided by Slack. By the end of the development phase almost 100 Slack messages had arrived in my in-box! Search Solutions is a very important source of revenue for IRSG but clearly that was not going to be the case with a virtual event. The benefit was that we could include speakers from the Netherlands, Hungary, the USA and Canada without incurring any travel costs, making the event probably the most international ever staged.

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Search Solutions 2020 – Tutorial Report

On 24th November 2020, a day before the Search Solutions main event, a Search Solutions tutorial on Reinforcement Learning for Information Retrieval was given by Alexander Kuhnle, Miguel Aroca-Ouellette, John Reid and Dell Zhang from Blue Prism AI Labs. Reinforcement Learning (RL), as a third machine learning paradigm besides supervised and unsupervised learning, is gaining more and more attraction in the Information Retrieval (IR) community, in research as well as industry. Continue reading “Search Solutions 2020 – Tutorial Report”

Strix Lecture 2020 event – 26 November 2020

The 6th Tony Kent Strix Annual Memorial Lecture 2020, hosted by the UK electronic information Group (UKeiG), took place on Thursday, 26th November 2020, and was regarded as a great success by the organisers. It was delivered by the 2019 Strix award winner Professor Ingemar J. Cox, Department of Computer Science at University College London.

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BIR2021 1 April 2021

The Bibliometric-enhanced Information Retrieval workshop series (BIR) at ECIR goes into its 11th iteration. This workshop held online in conjunction with the 43rd European Conference on Information Retrieval (ECIR 2021), and will tackle issues related to academic search, at the intersection between Information Retrieval and Bibliometrics. The organisers strive to get the ‘retrievalists’ and ‘citationists’ active in both academia and the industry together, who are developing search engines and recommender systems for scholarly search.

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ECIR 2022 and ECIR 2023 – locations confirmed

So that you can start to plan your travel arrangements in 2022 and 2023 ECIR 2022 will be held in Stavanger, Norway, under the direction of Kristian Balog. The web site is ECIR2022 but no content has yet been posted. The Twitter address is @ecir2022

The venue for ECIR 2023 will be Dublin.

Fairness and Bias in Information Retrieval 23 March 2021

A one-day online workshop on Fairness and Bias in Information Retrieval will take place on  23 March 2021.The workshop will bring together practitioners from academia and industry to discuss the challenges relating to fairness in information retrieval (IR) that are faced by industry, and the recent advances in fair IR research. The workshop should have taken place in March last year but just failed to beat the lock down. The benefit is that, in my view, the topics have become even more important to discuss.

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ECIR 2021 March 28 to April 1

ECIR 2021, the 43rd edition of the annual BCS-IRSG European Conference on Information Retrieval will be held in Lucca from March 28 to April 1, 2021. ECIR  is the premier European forum for the presentation of new research results in the broadly conceived area of Information Retrieval (IR), and has a strong focus on the active participation of early-career researchers.

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B C, Before Computers: On Information Technology from Writing to the Age of Digital Data – Stephen Robertson

From an information technology perspective my career has seen some remarkable developments. I started out using 80-column cards at university in 1967 and then 10,000 hole optical coincidence cards at the start of my career in 1970. But did you know that the size of an 80-column card was the same size as US bank notes at the time that Hollerith invented his tabulator? This was because he had access to high-quality paper of his chosen format. Just one of the many fascinating insights into the world ‘before computers’ in an immensely readable book by Stephen Robertson of Okapi/BM25 fame. Not only has Stephen written the book he also produced the typescript!

Entitled BC Before Computers the strap line is On Information Technology from Writing to the Digital Age and is published by Open Book Publishers. I always have a pile of books waiting to be read but having started to read the first paragraph I was totally hooked and spent the rest of the afternoon reading through 150 pages of history, insight and quite a lot of quiet humour.

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Announcement of the Karen Sparck Jones Award for 2020

The winner of the 2020 Microsoft-BCS/BCS IRSG Karen Spärck Jones Award (to be presented at ECIR 2021 next year) is Dr. Ahmed Hassan Awadallah, Principal Research Manager at Microsoft AI Research in Redmond, WA, USA. Dr Jochen Liedner is the IRSG representative on the Awards Committee if you have any recommendations for the 2021 Award.

Note from the Editor – This BCS/IRSG Award is not the same as the BCS Karen Sparck Jones Lecture which honours women in computing research. Confusing, at least to me!

Announcement of Strix Award for 2020

The UK electronic information Group (UKeiG) has announced that the winner of the 2020 Tony Kent Strix Memorial Award is Ian Ruthven, Professor of Information Seeking and Retrieval at the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde.

Professor Ruthven leads the Strathclyde Information School Research Group (SISRG). SISRG operates across the boundaries between information and computer sciences and has established an international reputation for research excellence.

Note from the Editor – The first time I came across Ian Ruthven was as the Editor, with Diane Kelly, of a collection of papers published in 2011 by Facet Publishing under the title of Interactive Information Seeking, Behaviour and Retrieval. It remains an excellent introduction to these topics.

And finally from the Editor….

The dramatic growth in scientific publishing during 2020 has lead to a number of discussions about open access publishing and open access to research services. A recent paper in Science provides a good introduction to the topic of open access if you are not entirely familiar with it. In my view there is a barrier to publication that is not discussed at all, and that is the requirement to submit a manuscript in a standard format for eventual publication in the proceedings of the conference or in a research journal.  The guidance provided by Springer (just as an example) runs to 10 pages and there is a strong (though not compulsory) requirement to use LaTeX2e, the handbook [download] for which is 30 pages long.

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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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