Spring 2020


I make no apology for making this an ECIR 2020 Conference Special Issue. It was a miracle that the conference took place at all given the short notice the organisers had that an in-Lisbon event was not going to be allowed to take place. The quality of the papers was uniformly high and the technology worked very well indeed. What is important about this issue is not just the comments about the content of the conference but also the additional insights into the management of virtual conferences.

This issue starts with the ECIR 2020 contributions from Joao Magalheis  and his colleagues providing an overview of the conference, a summary of the scientific sessions and an initial analysis of the participants. Then follows their reflections of the challenges and successes of the virtual event. Udo Kruschwitz reports on the Doctorial Symposium at ECIR 2020, I have contributed notes on two of the three keynotes (the third will appear in the next issue) and Andy MacFarlane reflects on the role of ontologies in information retrieval. Of course a benefit of a virtual conference is that it overcomes the costs and time or travel. I asked one of my MBA students, Stephanie Segura Rodas, to comment on the virtual conference experience from her home office in Lima, Peru. You can’t get much farther away than that! Ingo Fromholtz has contributed a report on the BIR conference that was running in parallel with ECIR 2020.

A detailed account of how the virtual workshops were managed has also been published.

And there is more. I asked Andy Macfarlane to write a note on the research he has led on the impact of dyslexia on how people with this cognitive condition manage with search applications. Around 1 in 8 people have some form of the condition and yet it is only over the last few years that it has been recognized as a major issue. Andy has also contributed his usual comprehensive list of events, though this is now inevitably out-of-date as on-site events are cancelled, moved or virtualized.  Hopefully the annual Strix Award lecture will take place in November. Frank Hopfgartner reviews a book on project management published by the British Computer Society. Finally in a conference special issue I thought it might be of interest to mark the first UK information retrieval conference which took place at the Royal Society in November 1979. In a new feature all the contributors are listed.

Bibliometric-enhanced Information Retrieval – BIR 2020 10th Anniversary Edition at Home

Searching for scientific data and literature is a long-lived user need as academic search defines a complex task for IR researchers. IR veterans like Salton were already trying to enhance the retrieval process by including clues inferred from bibliographic citations. The development of citation indexes pioneered by Garfield proved determinant for such a research endeavour at the crossroads of Bibliometrics and IR as two prominent fields of Information Science. The early pioneers were followed by scientists who often specialised in only one of these fields, with the effect that, over time, both communities drifted apart.

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Creating accessible search engines for users with dyslexia

Accessibility of systems has become a significant issue for professional who deliver software products and services, and this includes search technologies. Users are often reliant on these technologies in different contexts (think of Google), and therefore accessibility of information retrieval systems is a key issue for professionals. There are many disabilities, but one which stands out is dyslexia – it is estimated the condition is found in around 10% of the population. Some will not know they are dyslexic, and may live substantial parts of their lives without diagnosis – if indeed they are ever diagnosed). Others may not want to reveal this invisible cognitive difficultly either because they fear that it will be career limiting or because they feel stigmatised by society. Either way search professionals need to consider methods and strategies to build accessible systems and services for dyslexic users.

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Events: Spring

Note: Due to the COVID-19 crisis some events have been cancelled, postponed or will be run virtually. We have provided information on each of the events with the current status at the time of writing.

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Tony Kent Strix Award Lecture 2020

This is an advance notice of the 6th Tony Kent Strix Annual Memorial 2020 Lecture.  This is currently scheduled for 22 November. The speaker will be Professor Ingemar Cox, UCL (winner of the 2019 Award) and the venue will be the Library of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London.

Book review: Project management for IT-related projects

Frequent readers of the BCS IRSG Informer newsletter will be familiar with our series of reviews of books covering recent advances in information retrieval and related areas. Today, we are widening our focus slightly by providing a review of a book on a more general aspect of IT.

The first book of choice is the Third Edition of ‘Project Management for IT-Related Projects’, edited by Bob Hughes. The book has been published in August 2019 by the BCS and can be purchased online from the BCS Bookshop.

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And finally…from the Editor

All these contributions about ECIR 2020 have taken me back to what I am reasonably sure was the first UK conference on text retrieval. It was entitled Computer Packages for Information Storage and Retrieval and took place at the Royal Society in Carlton House Terrace on 12-13 November 1979.  It was organised by the Institute of Information Scientists. The Institute was amazed at the level of interest in the conference from both attendees and from prospective presenters and was quickly expanded from one day to two.  It attracted over 200 delegates and was the stimulus for the establishment in 1980 of the IIS Special Interest Group on Word Processors and Information Handling.

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Ingo Frommholz is a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Bedfordshire.  He received his PhD from the University of Duisburg-Essen in October 2008. Prior to joining the University of Bedfordshire in 2011 he worked at Fraunhofer IPSI in Darmstadt, Germany, at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany and at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Frank Hopfgartner is a Senior Lecturer in Data Science at the Information School, University of Sheffield and Head of the Information Retrieval Research Group. He is a member of the editorial board of the Information Processing & Management Journal.

Udo Kruschwitz is Professor of Information Science at University of Regensburg and a Visiting Professor Visiting Professor at the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering. He is the co-author of Searching the Enterprise with Charlie Hull and is an Advisor to Signal AI.

Andy Macfarlane is Reader in Information Retrieval in School of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering, Department of Computer Science at City University of London. His research interests currently focus on a number of areas including disabilities and information retrieval (dyslexia in particular).

Joao Magalheis is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Science and Technology, Universidade Nova de Lisboa. He acted as the Chair of the ECIR 2020 Conference Committee.

Stephanie Segura Rodas is an information security manager based in Lima, Peru. She studied for an MBA at the University of Sheffield in 2019, writing a dissertation on how multinational companies manage language diversity and the impacts on enterprise search implementation.

Martin White is Managing Director of Intranet Focus Ltd and a Visiting Professor at the Information School, University of Sheffield. He is the author of Enterprise Search (O’Reilly Media) and is a member of the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Information Management.