IRF Symposium 2007

I’m currently working for a company which is a startup in the information retrieval domain founded a year ago a open community platform called Information Retrieval Facility. An international symposium was organized last week this were my impressions:
My impression from overhearing some discussions is that basically, from my point of view, there are three overlapping problem fields: first there are the pure engineering based problems which are sometimes caused by not being aware of current technology and possibilities, in fact most of the solutions are 10 or more years behind the current State of the Art. With professional software engineering, EVERY company is able to solve them, the only thing matters if the technical solution itself supports the actual revenue generating product.
The second problem field is “The big ball of mud” of the patent information itself. The raw information itself is very inconsistent, has a lot of errors, comes in nearly any possible flavor and format, is not standardized in any way (and will never be in near future) and is, nowadays, more a legal document as a technical description. There is no other way as to handle each small bucket of mud carefully and with as much domain knowledge as possible. Because patents are human oriented, only actual domain experts will be capable to work through this. So demand here is to find a way to provide a supporting work flow as well as “Conversational Interfaces” (language oriented, not solemnly voice oriented) to help the mining of information out of the pile of mud. And simple things as flexible filter combinations can help a lot as well as to build up a working feedback loop (OK, not so simple). To drainage the mud, only Google will be able to do this…
The third field is the area of scientific problems in information- and knowledge retrieval. Either on the structural, semantically, language or domain specific area, there are a lot of not so simple problems which had to be solved and there is mostly no currently existing shortcut. The research here goes in two directions: make the information and the actual (meta)knowledge more computational, as well as provide humans tools to help them to cope with the knowledge itself, through navigation, presentation, abstraction or decision making.
Some other common themes were that it is clear that China will be the biggest challenge in the patent world, patent search is a challenging and very important factor at least for international companies and will become more important for smaller ones also, searching in special features as chemical structures or images, feature- and knowledge extraction from pure text are not well integrated into a flexible tool to support search strategies.

So I have to say the event was very well organized and the idea to build a community platform for different professions seems to work out nicely. Presentations and pictures can be found here.

UPDATE: The videos of all presentations now can also be found here.

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