Overview of Special Issue
by Donna Harman, Diane Kelly (Editors), James Allan, Nicholas J. Belkin, Paul Bennett, Jamie Callan, Charles Clarke, Fernando Diaz, Susan Dumais, Nicola Ferro, Donna Harman, Djoerd Hiemstra, Ian Ruthven, Tetsuya Sakai, Mark D. Smucker, Justin Zobel (Authors)
This special issue of SIGIR Forum marks the 40th anniversary of the ACM SIGIR Conference by showcasing papers selected for the ACM SIGIR Test of Time Award from the years 1978-2001. These papers document the history and evolution of IR research and practice, and illustrate the intellectual impact the SIGIR Conference has had over time.
The ACM SIGIR Test of Time Award recognizes conference papers that have had a long-lasting influence on information retrieval research. When the award guidelines were created, eligible papers were identified as those that were published in a window of time 10 to 12 years prior to the year of the award. This meant that the first year this award was given, 2014, eligible papers came from the years 2002-2004. To identify papers published during the period 1978-2001 that might also be recognized with the Test of Time Award, a committee was created, which was led by Keith van Rijsbergen. Members of the committee were: Nicholas Belkin, Charlie Clarke, Susan Dumais, Norbert Fuhr, Donna Harman, Diane Kelly, Stephen Robertson, Stefan Rueger, Ian Ruthven, Tetsuya Sakai, Mark Sanderson, Ryen White, and Chengxiang Zhai.
The committee used citation counts and other techniques to build a nomination pool. Nominations were also solicited from the community. In addition, a sub-committee was formed of people active in the 1980s to identify papers from the period 1978-1989 that should be recognized with the award. As a result of these processes, a nomination pool of papers was created and each paper in the pool was reviewed by a team of three committee members and assigned a grade. The 30 papers with the highest grades were selected to be recognized with an award.
To commemorate the 1978-2001 ACM SIGIR Test of Time awardees, we invited a number of people from the SIGIR community to contribute write-ups of each paper. Each write-up consists of a summary of the paper, a description of the main contributions of the paper and commentary on why the paper is still useful. This special issue contains reprints of all the papers, with the exception of a few whose copyrights are not held by ACM (members of ACM can access these papers at the ACM Digital Library as part of the original conference proceedings).
As members of the selection committee, we really enjoyed reading the older papers. The style was very different from todays SIGIR paper: the writing was simple and unpretentious, with an equal mix of creativity, rigor and openness. We encourage everyone to read at least a handful of these papers and to consider how things have changed, and if, and how, we might bring some of the positive qualities of these older papers back to the SIGIR program.
To be published in SIGIR Forum 51(2), Association for Computing Machinery, July 2017