Living Labs for Information Retrieval Evaluation

Evaluation is a central aspect of information retrieval (IR) research. In the past few years, a new evaluation methodology known as living labs has been proposed as a way for researchers to be able to perform in-situ evaluation. This is not new, you might say; major web search engines have been doing it for serveral years already. While this is very true, it also means that this type of experimentation, with real users performing tasks using real-world applications, is only available to those selected few who are involved with the research labs of these organizations. There has been a lot of complaining about the “data divide” between industry and academia; living labs might be a way to bridge that.

The Living Labs for Information Retrieval Evaluation (LL’13) workshop at CIKM last year was a first attempt to bring people, both from academia and industry, together to discuss challenges and to formulate practical next steps. The workshop was successful in identifying and documenting possible further directions. See the preprint of the workshop summary.

The second edition of the iving Labs for IR workshop (LL’14), will run at CIKM this year. Our main goals are to continue our community building efforts around living labs for IR and to pursue the directions set out at LL’13. Having a community benchmarking platform with shared tasks would be a key catalyst in enabling people to make progress in this area. This is exactly what we are trying to set up for LL’14, in the form of a challenge (with the ultimate goal of turning it into a TREC, NTCIR or CLEF track in the future).

The challenge focuses on two specific use-cases: product search and local domain search. The basic idea is that participants receive a set of 100 frequent queries along with candidate results for these queries, and some general collection statistics. They are then expected to produce rankings for each query and to upload these rankings through an API. These rankings are evaluated online, on real users, and the results of these evaluations are made available to the participants, again, through an API.

In preparation for this challenge, we are organising a challenge workshop in Amsterdam on the 6th of June. The programme includes invited talks and a “hackathon.” We have a limited number of travel grants available (for those coming from outside The Netherlands and coming from academia) to cover travel and accommodation expenses. These are available on a “first come first served” basis (at most one per institute). If you would like to make use of this opportunity, please let us know as soon as possible.

More details may be found on our brand-new website:

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