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Microsoft BCS/BCS IRSG Karen Spärck Jones Award
An Award to Commemorate Karen Spärck Jones

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.

KSJ Karen was a Professor Emerita of Computers and Information at the University of Cambridge and one of the most remarkable women in computer science. Her contributions to the fields of Information Retrieval (IR) and Natural Language Processing (NLP), especially with regard to experimentation, have been outstanding and highly influential. Karen's achievements resulted in her receiving a number of prestigious accolades such as the BCS Lovelace medal for her advancement in Information Systems, and the ACM Salton Award for her significant, sustained and continuing contributions to research in information retrieval.

The IRSG is grateful to Microsoft Research for their sponsorship of the Karen Spärck-Jones award.

Sponsered by:
Microsoft Research

Timeline for the 2019 Award (to be presented in ECIR 2020):

  • 12 September 2019 - closing date for nominations
  • 26 September 2019 - deadline for support letters
  • 16 December 2019 - notification of the prize recipient
  • 14-17 April 2020 - recipient presents keynote at ECIR
For more information on how to nominate please visit this page

Recipient of the Karen Spärck Jones award 2018

Krisztian Balog
Professor at the University of Stavanger, Norway

Krisztian's significant and influential contributions to the area of semantic search, specifically on expertise finding and entity retrieval, were highlighted by the panel of independent experts drawn from industry and academia, representing both the natural language processing and the information retrieval communities. His work is widely being used as a reference point, and his review article on expertise retrieval published in the 'Foundations and Trends in Information Retrieval' series is now considered the definitive guide on the topic. The panel also stressed Krisztian's significant work on evaluation methodology, in particular the introduction and development of a completely new evaluation paradigm based on living labs. His work was described as meticulous and rigorous which is particularly fitting for an award in Karen Spärck Jones's name. Finally, his promotion of open access and reproducibility, and his service to the community were identified as additional key strengths. Congratulations to Krisztian! We are looking forward to an exciting keynote talk at ECIR 2019 in Cologne.

Recipient of the Karen Spärck Jones award 2017

We are pleased to announce that the Microsoft BCS/BCS IRSG Karen Spärck Jones Award 2017 is to be awarded to:

Fernando Diaz
Director of Research at Spotify

The panel of independent experts in information retrieval (IR) and natural language processing (NLP) was particularly impressed by his great breadth and excellence of research, his raising of important issues, such as ethical issues, and his service to the community. In addition to that, the fact that Fernando has made major contributions in both IR and NLP is in the very spirit of the award. Congratulations and we are looking forward to an inspiring keynote talk at ECIR 2018 in Grenoble!

Recipient of the Karen Spärck Jones award 2016

In 2016, the award panel had the difficult task to decide between a range of candidates with outstanding research credentials, all of which lead an impressive research programme with a view to advance our understanding of IR and/or NLP through experimentation. In giving the award to

Jaime Teevan
Affiliate Associate Professor at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA
Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, Redmond, USA

the award panel recognises Jaime's technically strong and exceptionally creative contributions to the intersection of information retrieval, user experience and social media. In particular, Jaime has advanced our understanding of information retrieval through her contributions to design, implementation and careful evaluation of new retrieval algorithms and user experiences.
Jaime will give a keynote at ECIR 2017.

Recipients of the Karen Spärck Jones award 2015

In 2015, the award panel was highly impressed both by the quality and diversity of the field of candidates: it faced a hard time narrowing down the nominations to a short list. Even more so, it turned out the panel experienced a genuine difficulty of deciding between the two candidates who best matched the award criterion "To have endeavoured to advance our understanding of IR and/or NLP through experimentation." As a consequence, and unique to 2015, the panel decided to make two full awards. In alphabetical order:

Jordan Boyd-Graber
Assistant Professor, Computer Science Department
University of Colorado, USA

The panel recognised Jordan's technically strong and creative work on probabilistic topic models, in particular, how his work has shown that the semantic coherence of these topics can be systematically assessed, how linguistic knowledge such as word senses, syntactic relations and inter-language relationships can be incorporated - and crucially - how user feedback can easily and iteratively be integrated into learned topic models to improve the semantic coherence of the topics. The panel thought that Jordan has shaped our understanding of NLP in new and important ways through experimental machine learning research.

Jordan gave a keynote at ECIR 2016 on interactive machine learning for understanding large document collections.

Emine Yilmaz
Lecturer, Department of Computer Science
University College London, UK

The panel was impressed by the body of Emine's research on evaluation techniques to better match the realities of modern information systems, in particular her work on missing user judgments, her proposed new metrics that are more robust to missing data and her work on expected browsing utility as a new evaluation metric derived from interaction patterns of real web search sessions. Her recent work focused on devising and evaluating the quality of task based information retrieval systems, retrieval systems that can help the user complete the task that have led them issue a query to a search engine, as opposed to just retrieving a list of documents relevant to the query submitted. The panel recognized that Emine's research has pushed the field of IR forward in these important aspects and that her work has had a high impact on academia and practice.

Emine gave a keynote at ECIR 2016 on a task-based perspective to Information Retrieval.

Recipient of the Karen Spärck Jones award 2014

Ryen White
Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research
Redmond, USA

The award panel recognises that Ryen White has contributed in many layers to a better understanding of search interaction, eg, through novel and creative analyses of vital and as of yet unexplored aspects of searcher behavior closely coupled with the development of models and applications for improving the search experience. The panel was highly impressed by Ryen's academic output, many as leading or sole author, using experimental methods of large-scale log analyses, user studies and surveys. His sheer productivity, the take-up of his work in academia and a number of best paper awards at prestigious conferences including ACM SIGIR (3x), ACM CIKM, ACM SIGCHI and in JASIST speak for themselves. It is also a hallmark of Ryen's professional activity that he continued to serve the academic community though reviewing, track chairing and PC co-chairing at top conferences, editorial board memberships and guest editing while being a researcher in industry.

Ryen gave a keynote at ECIR 2015 on Mining and Modelling Online Health Search. The slides of his lecture are available here

Recipient of the 2013 award

Eugene Agichtein
Associate Professor
Mathematics and Computer Science Department
Emory University, Atlanta, USA

In making the BCS/ BCS IRSG Karen Spärck-Jones Award for 2013, the Panel strongly recognizes that Eugene Agichtein has made several important contributions in search and large scale web text data mining with a focus on user interaction data. Eugene's work has included demonstrating how models of human information interactions can be inferred by leveraging computational techniques on what are large-scale but also noisy behaviour records. His work has been very influential - the depth of which across several areas is impressive.

Eugene has focused on understanding and modelling user interaction in web search and collaborative question answering. For example, he has shown that click through and other forms of implicit feedback are useful for improving search results ranking when gathered across large numbers of users. This is one area of contribution where his work is seen as particularly influential. Eugene's work includes mouse movements and prediction of responses to advertising, and has reached out to other domains too. Overall, Eugene Agichtein's work is regarded as that of an excellent experimentalist that recognizes the critical linkages between information theory and experiment.

Eugene gave a keynote speech at ECIR 2014.

Recipient of the 2012 award

Diane Kelly
Associate Professor
University of North Carolina, NC, USA

In making the BCS/ BCS IRSG Karen Spärck-Jones Award for 2012, the Panel strongly recognizes that Diane has made important contributions to: the analysis of information seeking behaviors, and to the development of new experimental methods and systems to support information seeking and analysis.

Diane has made several other important contributions to user modeling using implicit indicators of relevance, the development and analysis of interfaces to elicit richer statements of interest, and new methodologies for designing and evaluating interactive retrieval systems. Her strong user-oriented work views users-as-people with cognitive tasks.

Diane gave a keynote speech at ECIR 2013. The slides of her talk are available for download

No award was made in 2011

Recipient of the 2010 award

Evgeniy Gabrilovich
Senior Research Scientist and Manager of the NLP & IR Group of Yahoo! Research, California, U.S.

Evgeniy gave a keynote speech at ECIR 2011. The abstract of his talk and his bio is available.

Recipient of the 2009 award

The first recipient of the KSJ award is

Mirella Lapata
Reader (Assoc Prof)
School of Informatics
University of Edinburgh

Mirella's research has focused on various problems in NLP mostly with an emphasis on statistical methods and text generation applications. She has worked on complex problems like: word sense disambiguation, ambiguity resolution, semantic vector space, story generation, and many others.

The abstract of her talk at ECIR 2009 and her bio is available for download.

Previous panel members

List of previous panel members in alphabetical order:

  • Nicholas Belkin, Rutgers University
  • Pia Borlund, University of Copenhagen
  • Ann Copestake, University of Cambridge
  • Nick Craswell Microsoft Research
  • Susan Dumais, Microsoft Research
  • Rob Gaizauskas, Sheffield University
  • Ayse Goker, Robert Gordon University (chair 2009-2013)
  • Donna Harman, NIST
  • Marti Hearst, University of California, Berkeley
  • Katja Hofmann, Microsoft Research Cambridge
  • Gareth Jones, Dublin City University
  • Joemon Jose, University of Glasgow
  • Udo Kruschwitz, University of Essex (chair since 2017)
  • Anna Korhonen, University of Cambridge
  • Jochen Leidner, Reuters Ltd (Refinitiv Labs) and University of Sheffield
  • Rada Mihalcea, University of Michigan
  • Marie-Francine Moens, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
  • Doug Oard, University of Maryland
  • Carol Peters, CNR Pisa
  • Stephen Robertson, City University and University College London
  • Stefan Rueger, The Open University, UK (chair 2014-2016)
  • Mark Sanderson, RMIT
  • Milad Shokouhi, Microsoft Research
  • Tomek Strzalkowski, SUNY Albany
  • Bonnie Webber, University of Edinburgh
  • Emine Yilmaz, University College London