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  • The Fourth Tony Kent Strix Annual Lecture

The Fourth Tony Kent Strix Annual Lecture

  • 23 Nov 2018
  • 1:30 PM - 5:00 PM
  • The Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly London W1J 0BG

The Tony Kent Strix Award recognizes an outstanding contribution to the field of information retrieval in its widest sense. The 2018 Annual Lecture will be given by Prof Maarten de Rijke, Winner of the Award in 2017 .

The Annual Lecture series is sponsored by Google.

Background on the Award

The Strix Award is presented in memory of Dr Tony Kent, a past Fellow of the Institute of Information Scientists, who died in 1997. Tony Kent made a major contribution to the development of information science and information services both in the UK and internationally, particularly in the field of chemistry. The Award is given in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the field of information retrieval in its widest sense.

The name 'Strix' was chosen to reflect Tony's interest in ornithology, and as the name of the last and most successful information retrieval packages that he created. The Award is managed by an Executive Committee including UKeiG and ISKO-UK in partnership with the Chemical Information and Computer Applications Group of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC CICAG) and the British Computer Society Information Retrieval Specialist Group (BCS IRSG). See more information here.


1.30 Registration

2.00 Douglas Veal - Chairman's welcome

2.10 -Stella Dextre Clarke, 2006 Winner of the Tony Kent Strix Award, reflects on 'Then and Now: Contrasts in the retrieval environment.'

2.45 - Questions & Discussion

3.00 - Tea & coffee

3.45 Maarten de Rijke - The Tony Kent Strix Annual Memorial Lecture: 'Retrieval as Interaction'

4.30 Questions & discussion

5.00 Meeting closes

Our Speaker

Professor de Rijke of Amsterdam University is a well-known and highly respected member of the international information retrieval community having made considerable and widely recognised contributions to the field. He has an impressive and formidable high impact publications record in a range of areas including semantic search, semi-structured retrieval and social media. He has produced influential research outputs on the large-scale semantic analysis of online content and on the analysis of subjective aspects of information (sentiment, credibility, memory, reputation and experiences). His contributions to information retrieval, in particular to the fast evolving areas of computational methods for analysing, understanding and enabling effective human interaction with information sources, have been profound.

Professor De Rijke leads the Information and Language Processing Systems Group at the Informatics Institute of the University of Amsterdam. It is one of the world’s leading academic research groups in information retrieval and intelligent information access, with projects on self-learning search engines, semantic search and the interface between information retrieval and artificial intelligence. Further details of his nomination and career can be found here.


An audience of over 100 registered to attend this event in honour of the pioneering information retrievalist, Tony Kent. For the sake of those who were not fortunate enough to have met this inspirational leader, an introductory talk was given by Stella Dextre Clarke, a past winner of the Tony Kent Strix Award. Tony's first degree had been in zoology, and a fascination with ornithology was to continue throughout his life. But in the late 1960s Tony had plunged into experiments on the use of a computer to derive useful information services from the magnetic tapes used in production of the printed Chemical Abstracts journal. While most researchers and information professionals in those days tended to dismiss the computer as ineffective, impractical and unaffordable, Tony's enthusiasm for this exciting opportunity had led to his appointment at the head of the UK Chemical Information Service. His early successes with an economically viable SDI (Selective Dissemination Information) service led on to the development of one IR software package after another, each named after a type of bird. Hence "Strix" as the name of the most sophisticated package he developed, living on still in the title of the Award that now commemorates his achievements. Reviewing the way our concept of IR has evolved since the early days, Stella led a brief tour through the achievements of the Winners of the Award since it was launched in 1998. She concluded that the scope for researching and applying IR is wider than ever before.

Before the meeting adjourned for tea and biscuits, the 2018 Winner of the Award was announced: Prof Pia Borlund of Oslo Metropolitan University, whose development of an Interactive IR evaluation model has provided an influential complement to the system-oriented evaluation approach of the Cranfield model. Due to prior commitments Prof Borlund was unable to attend the meeting, but the Award was received on her behalf by Andrew MacFarlane of the BCS IRSG. Prof Borlund will be invited to London again to deliver the next Annual Lecture, on 29 November 2019.

After our tea break the 2018 Annual Strix Award Lecture was given by Prof Maarten de Rijke, bringing us up to date with the research that continues to drive improvements in interactive search experiences. To retain user confidence, system responses need to be almost instantaneous as well as risk-free and self-explanatory. Maarten explained how slower off-line processes can be melded with online adaptations to deliver responsive results. This masterly presentation was streamed simultaneously to the Dutch-Belgian Information Retrieval workshop in Leiden.

Speakers and abstracts

Stella Dextre Clarke. Then and Now: contrasts in the scope of information retrieval Talk

This presentation provides some background on the achievements of Tony Kent, by comparing the scope, context and challenges for information retrieval (IR) in his pioneering days, with the IR opportunities today. Some definitions of "information retrieval" in the early days are compared with what we understand now. The achievements for which the Tony Kent Strix Award was granted in the past are reviewed, in an effort to spot any trends. It is concluded that the scope for researching and applying IR is immeasurably broader than in the times of Tony Kent.

A video recording of the presentation is available here 

Maarten de Rijke Retrieval as Interaction Talk

Information retrieval systems, such as search engines, recommender systems and conversational agents, may well be the prime example of interactive systems to which people are exposed. Their development is best thought of as a two-stage process: off-line development followed by continued online adaptation based on interactions with users. Off-line development, which involves evaluation and learning from annotated datasets or from logged interactions, is risk free in the sense that the system does not require the ability to make interactive interventions. In contrast, in online development retrieval systems use interactions and interventions for evaluation and for learning.

In the lecture Professor de Rijke compares the off-line and online development phases. How much can a retrieval system learn off-line from historical interaction data? How much can it gain by being able to make interventions and explore new actions? Can we give bounds on the risks a retrieval system takes when performing online interventions? He also discusses another set of questions that come up in this space and that have to do with how we should design systems that learn and adapt online and are respectful of their users.

A video recording of the presentation is available here.

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