Search industry titans converging in Portland for SIGIR Information Retrieval Research Conference

Although search is ubiquitous in this age of broadband Internet and mobile wireless devices, and search engine companies are among the most prominent icons of the Internet, there are still many challenges to overcome and new functionality to be developed for search systems. The field of information retrieval (IR) long predates the mainstreaming of search and developments such as the name of the leading search engine becoming a verb (i.e., “Googling”). This field has studied and evaluated the systems and algorithms that established the foundation for modern systems.

The leading research conference in IR, spanning three and a half decades, is the ACM Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval (SIGIR) Conference. The 35th Annual ACM SIGIR Conference will be held this year in Portland, Oregon from August 12-16 at the Portland Downtown Waterfront Marriott.

The SIGIR 2012 meeting begins on Sunday, August 12, 2012 with a day of Tutorials, some of which are half-day and two of which are full-day. Also taking place on that day is the Doctoral Consortium, an event that is limited to doctoral students who have been selected to participate. The day finishes up with a Welcome Reception at the conference hotel.

The first day of the regular conference is Monday, August 13. After a breakfast for newcomers to SIGIR, the Opening Ceremony will launch the conference. At this ceremony will be the presentation of the winner of the triennial Gerard Salton Award, who will give a plenary talk. This will be followed by Paper presentations in three simultaneous tracks through the rest of the day. Monday evening will cap off with Posters and Demos, along with a reception.

On Tuesday, August 14, the day will begin with a second Keynote Speaker. This will be followed by Paper presentations in three simultaneous tracks through the rest of the day. Tuesday evening will finish with the Conference Banquet just down the street from the hotel at the Portland World Trade Center.

The final regular day of the conference is Wednesday, August 15. This day will also Paper presentations in three simultaneous tracks through the day. In addition, a separate Industry Track will feature presentations from various researchers and leaders in the commercial sector. This day will also feature the annual SIGIR Business Meeting, with box lunches provided.

Although the entirely of the ACM SIGIR 2012 conference will likely be of interest to those concerned with search systems and algorithms, the Industry Track will likely be of most interest to the local tech industry. In the Industry Track, a series of speakers from all of the major search vendors, most of whom are also sponsors of the conference, will present on their latest works. For more information on this session and how to register for the conference, review the SIGIR 2012 industry track.

The opening speaker of the Industry Track will be Eric Brown of IBM Research, who will present an overview of IBM’s Watson and the DeepQA technology upon which it is built, and explore future applications of this technology. Another speaker will be Andrei Broder of Google, who will discuss the growing field of “computational advertising, i.e., how algorithms use the context of the user and his or her search terms to display the most appropriate “sponsored” pages. Also speaking will be Daniel Rose A9.com, a subsidiary of Amazon.com, who will discuss the democratization in their new CloudSearch service.

Among the other speakers will be search industry veteran, Sue Dumais of Microsoft, who famously said in 2009 that if search was still using user-entered text boxes in ten years that she should be fired from her job. She will describe the twin problems of putting user context into search as well as putting search into the user’s context.

Other Industry Track speakers will include John O’Neil of Attivio (Entity Sentiment Extraction Using Text Ranking), Ilya Segalovich of Yandex (Making Web Search More User-Centric: the State of Play and the Way Ahead), and Azarias Reda and colleagues at LinkedIn (Related Searches at LinkedIn).

The track will wrap up with the 2012 Industry Panel will consist of four distinguished panelists who will be asked to represent the likely viewpoint of a particular group or “vertical” while responding to a series of questions notified in advance. Trystan Upstill of the Search Quality Team at Google will represent “large scale web search”; Jerome Pesenti, Chief Scientist at Vivisimo / IBM, will represent “enterprise search”; Krishna Gade, Engineering Manager at Twitter will represent “real-time and social search.” Stephen Robertson, Emeritus Professor at City University, London and Microsoft Research will represent “academic research” and Diane Kelly, author of an influential monograph on user-involved evaluation will take the all-important perspective of “users.” The audience, too, will have their say!

The local host of the meeting is the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology. The General Conference Chair of the meeting is Dr. William Hersh of OHSU, whose career in IR applied in the health and biomedical domain spans more than two decades.

Although this event is not one of the massive trade shows one might find about search and related events, this event will bring about 600 researchers from academia and industry, along with students and others, to Portland. Industry sponsors for the event lined up so far include Microsoft Research, Baidu, Google, eBay, IBM Research, Cambridge University Press, Morgan & Claypool Publishers, and Springer. The conference will draw participants from 30-40 countries.

For more information about the conference and to register to attend it, visit SIGIR 2012.

William Hersh, M.D. is Professor and Chair of the Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology in the School of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Oregon, USA. He also has academic appointments in the Division of General Internal Medicine & Geriatrics of the Department of Medicine and in the Department of Public Health & Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Hersh obtained his B.S. in Biology from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1980 and his M.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1984. After finishing a residency in Internal Medicine at University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago in 1987, he completed a Fellowship in Medical Informatics at Harvard University in 1990.