Living Labs for IR workshop @CIKM

Together with Liadh Kelly, David Elsweiler, Evangelos Kanoulas, and Mark Smucker, I’m co-organising a workshop on Living Labs for IR Evaluation at CIKM this year.

The basic idea of living labs for IR is that rather than individual research groups independently developing experimental search infrastructures and gathering their own groups of test searchers for IR evaluations, a central and shared experimental environment is developed to facilitate the sharing of resources.

Living labs would offer huge benefits to the community, such as: availability of, potentially larger, cohorts of real users and their behaviours, e.g. querying behaviours, for experiment purposes; cross-comparability across research centres; and greater knowledge transfer between industry and academia, when industry partners are involved. The need for this methodology is further amplified by the increased reliance of IR approaches on proprietary data; living labs are a way to bridge the data divide between academia and industry.

There are many challenges to be overcome before the benefits associated with living labs for IR can be realised, including challenges associated with living labs architecture and design, hosting, maintenance, security, privacy, participant recruiting, and scenarios and tasks for use development.

This workshop aims to bring together for the first time people interested in progressing the living labs for IR evaluation methodology. An interactive forum for researchers to share ideas and initiate collaborations will be provided, with the explicit goal of determining means for progressing towards living labs for IR and formulating practical next steps for progression.

See the Call-for-Papers for more details.

As part of the workshop, we are considering organising a challenge in the e-commerce domain with the involvement of a medium-sized online retailer. The goal of this challenge would be to (i) allow academics to work with real users and data (esp. those who otherwise would have no access to such data) and (ii) to provide a starting point for the discussions at the workshop.

We will set up and run this challenge if there is sufficient interest in the community. We have made a poll to collect some initial feedback — please let us know what you think!

A Living Lab for Product Search

Earlier today I presented the work by Leif Azzopardi and myself at the CLEF 2011 conference, entitled Towards a Living Lab for Information Retrieval Research and Development. A proposal for a living lab for product search tasks. The abstract follows:

The notion of having a “living lab” to undertaken evaluations has been proposed by a number of proponents within the field of Information Retrieval (IR). However, what such a living lab might look like and how it might be setup has not been discussed in detail. Living labs have a number of appealing points such as realistic evaluation contexts where tasks are directly linked to user experience and the closer integration of research/academia and development/industry facilitating more efficient knowledge transfer. However, operationalizing a living lab opens up a number of concerns regarding security, privacy, etc. as well as challenges regarding the design, development and maintenance of the infrastructure required to support such evaluations. Here, we aim to further the discussion on living labs for IR evaluation and propose one possible architecture to create such an evaluation environment. To focus discussion, we put forward a proposal for a living lab on product search tasks within the context of an online shop.

Full paper | Presentation slides

We are keen to get feedback from the community to see if we should continue to develop this initiative further. If you’re at CLEF this week, come talk to me.