AI Conference

SIGIR 2018 Reveals Best Papers; Struggles With Visa Issues

The 41st International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval is now in full swing at the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, US — although some leading researchers won't be attending. Yesterday the respected conference presented its Best Paper Awards.

The 41st International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval is now in full swing at the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, US — although some leading researchers won’t be attending. Yesterday the respected conference presented its Best Paper Awards.

SIGIR 2018’s Best Paper goes to researchers at the Autonomous University of Madrid for Should I Follow the Crowd? A Probabilistic Analysis of the Effectiveness of Popularity in Recommender Systems. The paper identifies and models popularity bias in recommender systems, based on dependencies between key random variables, involving item ratings, discovery, and relevance. The Madrid team also built a crowdsourced bias-free dataset to illustrate their findings.

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Microsoft AI & Research and University of Massachusetts Amherst researchers took the Best Short Paper Award for Cross-Domain Regularization for Neural Ranking Models Using Adversarial Learning, which studies adversarial learning as a cross-domain regularizer for ranking tasks, using an adversarial discriminator and training a neural ranking model on a small set of domains.

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2018 Stats

For the first time in SIGIR history, China led in both submitted and accepted papers. China has 34.42 percent of accepted SIGIR papers, ahead of the US at 29.55 percent. Australia (5.84 percent), Canada and Germany (4.22 percent each), the UK (3.57 percent) and Singapore (1.95 percent) rounded out the national contribution totals.

ACM SIGIR Student Liaison for North and South Americas Hamad Zamani is a PhD candidate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst under Professor Bruce Croft. Zamani generated various stats on SIGIR 2018’s accepted papers:

  • Institutes with the highest number of publications — including full paper, short paper, and demo — are Microsoft (15 papers), the Chinese Academy of Sciences (13), UMass Amherst (13), Tsinghua University (12), and RMIT University (8).
  • Authors with the highest number of accepted publications are Bruce W. Croft, Professor, UMass Amherst (10), Shaoping Ma, Professor, Tsinghua University (7), Xiangnan He, Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore (6), Maarten de Rijke, Professor, University of Amsterdam (6), and Jiafeng Guo, Professor, Chinese Academy of Sciences (6).

Professor Bruce W. Croft is a SIGIR contributor with a total of 93 publications and 13,132 citations. He won the 2013 Gerard Salton Award, which honors individuals who have made “significant, sustained and continuing contributions to research in information retrieval.” Readers can explore Microsoft’s SIGIR Conference Analytics for further information on key contributors over the years.

For Those Who Can’t Attend…

SIGIR 2018 was not however without a note of controversy. Last week Professor Maarten de Rijke wrote in a blog post, “this promises to be a fantastic edition of SIGIR. But I won’t be going.” A high-profile Dutch scientist, Professor of Information Retrieval at the University of Amsterdam and Director of the newly founded Innovation Center for Artificial Intelligence, De Rijke has six publications accepted by SIGIR 2018.

However, in November 2017 De Rijke visited Iran to speak on his experiences at University of Amsterdam. The visit disqualified Rijke from entering the US under the ESTA visa waiver program. Rijke’s subsequent visa applications were to no avail. He also missed the opportunity to attend WSDM 2018 and FAT 2018 earlier this year for the same reason.

“Access to information in a human right and information retrieval is the basis of a critical technology for providing that access,” wrote De Rijke, who called on other researchers to also protest visa bans.

ACM SIGIR stands for the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval. SIGIR 2017 in Tokyo showcased 326 accepted publications and 78 full papers and attracted over 900 attendees. SIGIR 2019 will be held in Paris, France.


Journalist: Meghan Han | Editor: Michael Sarazen

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