Sunday, May 6, 2012

Spring Renewal in Information Retrieval

Every spring I get a chance to renew my work in information retrieval (IR, also known as search), the area where I first started my research career over two decades ago. My other interests in informatics policy, workforce development, and education, along with my leadership and administrative work, now tend to crowd out the time I devote to IR research and related activity, but I always stay engaged.

The main reason for having my renewal each spring is the teaching of my course in our graduate program, BMI 514/614 - Information Retrieval. At a minimum, this leads me to refresh the updates on the Web site for my book on IR in health and biomedicine. I also often have an opportunity for students to work on projects of mine, especially since the course usually fits well within the annual challenge evaluations of the Text Retrieval Conference (TREC) or ImageCLEF.

This year has been even more of a renewal than most years. Part of the reason is my serving as General Conference Chair of the ACM Special Interest Group in Information Retrieval (SIGIR) 2012 conference, which will be held this August here in Portland. (More in the blog to follow!)

I have also re-engaged in TREC through helping to organize topic development and relevance judgments for the TREC Medical Records Track, which was launched last year to combine aiming to apply IR tools and techniques to retrieval-related problems in electronic health records.

I also recently happened across some fun IR things on the Web. One is ability to create a Wordle from one's scientific publications in the large SciVal collection (see image below). The words that show up largest should surprise no one! Another is the new ability in Google Scholar to set up a profile for one's scientific work, showing most cited works, one's h-index, and other information.


  1. Will you be publishing a new edition of your book on IR in healthcare and medicine? I have used it as a recommended text in my Pharmacy Informatics course that includes a section on IR for drug/disease information.

    Marvin C Pankaskie, Ph.D.
    Wegmans School of Pharmacy
    St. John Fisher College
    Rochester, NY 14618

    1. Thank you, Dr. Pankaskie. There are no immediate plans for a new edition of the book, which was published in 2009. Springer tends to let more time elapse between new editions of books, usually 4-6 years. The good news is that I try to keep the Updates section of the book Web site ( up to date, so you can use the updates there to augment your teaching with the book.