Exciting ASISTance for the Lab

Exciting ASISTance for the Lab

It’s been quite a week thus far in the InfoSeeking lab, and it’s only Wednesday!

On Monday, acceptances were released for the ASIST (that’s Association for Information Science and Technology) 2017 conference, held from October 27-November 1 in Washington, D.C. A number papers completed by InfoSeekers were selected! Here’s a brief recap.

Image: http://connect.hsmai.org/washingtondc/home

Yiwei Wang, Jiqun Liu, Soumik Mandal, and Chirag Shah were accepted for their paper, “Search Successes and Failures in Query Segments and Search Tasks: A Field Study.”

Shawon Sarkar, Yiwei Wang, and Chirag Shah had a full paper, “Investigating the Relations of Information Seeking Outcomes to the Selection and Use of Information Sources,” accepted.

Manasa Rath, Chirag Shah, and Diana Floegel were accepted for their paper, “Identifying Reasons Contributing to Question Deletion in Educational Q&A.”

These papers represent a great deal of ongoing hard work carried out by lab members and their director. They are also a testament to how well InfoSeekers collaborate to complete successful projects. So congratulations, Seekers! Stay tuned for more information about ASIST 2017.

Going “Deep” into Learning

Going “Deep” into Learning

On Thursday, May 11th, the lab sponsored an exciting tutorial on Deep Learning, or a class of machine learning algorithms for feature extraction and transformation in the realm of artificial intelligence.

The tutorial covered how Brainly, a social Q&A service for students, uses deep learning for new product features including spam detection, question categorization, and finding similar content, to design personalized learning approaches for students. It presented introductory material for people without any previous experience in machine learning, so all in attendance–whether they were beginners or had preexisting knowledge of the topic–took away important information. Overall, we had twenty attendees, and they got a lot more out of the day than a free lunch!

We were honored to have Sashko Zakharchuk as our presenter. After some years in product development and management consulting, Sashko joined Google to work on personalized recommendation systems and text processing algorithms. He is now a machine learning consultant for startups including Brainly in Europe. He delivered a fascinating and informative talk.

The tutorial was a great way to end the semester on a high note for the lab. But don’t worry–we have plenty of tricks up our sleeve for the summer, and we’re continuing to plan for CHIIR 2018 in New Brunswick!

 

We Have a (New) Doctor in the House!

We Have a (New) Doctor in the House!

Long Le, a long time and much loved member of the InfoSeeking Lab, has successfully defended his dissertation, “Extracting Users in Community Question-Answering in Particular Contexts.” Congratulations, Long!

 

Long’s work holds particular import for Community Question-Answering (CQA) sites and their users. He was interested in studying the behavior of the users who participate in CQA. Specifically, he strove to understand how different types of users could be identified based on their behaviors concerning a CQA-specific problem. Rather than discuss users and their actions in a general context, Long extracted contextual situations to develop a more granular analysis of user behavior. Users are the main driving force in CQA and understanding them allows us to know the current state of their respective sites.

 

Obtaining a doctorate is no easy feat, and we’re all incredibly proud of Long and everything he has accomplished. Look out for him in the future–he’ll certainly move forward into big and bright places. Of course, he and his family will also be terribly missed by everyone in the InfoSeeking Lab, but we’re thrilled to count him among our distinguished alumni.

 

Journals: Not Just for Feelings

Journals: Not Just for Feelings

A big congratulations to InfoSeeking’s own Jiqun Liu, a first-year doctoral student whose paper, “Towards a Unified Model of Human Information Behavior: An Equilibrium Perspective,” was accepted by the prestigious Journal of Documentation!

So what is the Journal of Documentation, anyway? A collection of people’s diaries? Not quite. In InfoSeeking-land (and academia, more generally) we strive to have our work accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals, or those serial publications that’s submissions are reviewed by respected members of a certain field. And when it comes to information science, the Journal of Documentation is about as good as it gets. It’s one of the longest-running information science publications and boasts a particular focus on theories and concepts.

Out of the many submissions sent to this journal, Jiqun’s was selected. How? Well, first he had to do his research. With this paper, Jiqun aimed to build a unified model of human information behavior (HIB) for integrating classical constructs and reformulating the structure of HIB theory. Sounds simple, right? HA. Essentially, Jiqun used a complex theory, known as the “equilibrium perspective,” to construct a new framework for HIB. And with this new framework, other scholars–perhaps even some InfoSeekers and Jiqun himself!–will be able to explore HIB from new, exciting perspectives. This is an intriguing possibility in information science, and the Journal of Documentation‘s reviewers agreed, because they accepted Jiqun’s paper!

This is a tangible example of how InfoSeekers innovate and shape the wider information science field. Keep an eye out for Jiqun’s article, which will be formally published in August.

Armed Conflict – a project with the United Nations

Armed Conflict – a project with the United Nations

Conflict is not inevitable, but disarmament is” – Tony Blair

In 2001 Wallensteen, & Sollenberg defined an armed conflict as a contested incompatibility that concerned a government and/or territory where the use of armed force between two parties, of which at least one was the government of a state, resulted in at least 25 battle-related deaths. However, thanks to the rapid evolution of the nature of conflicts, the above definition and most of our conception and previous studies of armed conflicts are rapidly becoming outdated. For example, their root cause is gradually shifting from territorial gains to other, far more pressing agendas such as gaining control of valuable natural resources including water, energy supplies, sources of rare earth minerals, etc. In this post, I will tell you a bit about armed conflicts and related research, and what myself and some other lab members are doing to contribute to conflicts’ end.

In the early 1970s, environmental issues emerged on the international political agenda. Since then there has been mounting concern that environmental disruption is likely to increase the number of disputes originating from competition for scarce resources (Gleditsch, 1998). Former Norwegian Defense Minister Johan Jørgen Holt (1989) echoed this idea when he cautioned the world that environmental stress was likely to become an increasingly potent contributing factor to major conflicts between nations.

However, that doesn’t mean that territorial claim has entirely lost its potency in terms of its contribution to the conflicts. Recently, economic zones have escalated the territorial conflicts. Disputes occur between countries in close proximity to the sea where tiny islands can sometimes assume monumental national interest because of their consequences for controlling maritime shipping lanes. For example, there are no less than six claimants to all or part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea (Denoon & Brams, 1997), where the use of force anytime cannot be ruled out.

Beyond motivations behind armed conflicts, the nature of war is also changing. For example, the last decade saw a major increase in the number of prolonged civil wars as opposed to short-term border skirmishes. Iraq and Syria provide prime examples. According to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Syria, facing probably the worst civil war crisis in centuries, has already witnessed at least 321,358 casualties since the war began in March 2011.

(Picture: Free Syrian Army fighters exchange fire with regime forces in the Salah Al Din neighborhood of Aleppo, Aug. 22. Credit: James Lawler Duggan)

In 2003, Richard Smalley identified war as the sixth (of ten) biggest problem facing humanity for the next fifty years. War usually results in significant deterioration of infrastructure and the ecosystem, a decrease in social spending, famine, large-scale emigration from the war zone and often the mistreatment of prisoners of war or civilians.

(Picture: A man sits amid debris after an apparently random air attack by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo. Credit: Hosam Katan/Reuters)

Still more disturbing is the fact that those who suffer most in wars are often children, who comprise our next generation. Taking note of the continuously degrading lives of children in war-torn countries, the then UN chief Ban Ki Moon opened the Security Council’s debate on children and armed conflict in August 2016 with, “In places such as Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, children suffer through a living hell.”

(Picture: France is mobilized on the issue of protection of children in armed conflicts. Credit: AFP/Simon Maina)

This is our effort to mitigate the chances of future conflicts by analyzing the characteristics of current world conflicts and studying their evolution from the historical data of previous violence, with the aim to predict what might cause future warfare. For example, we would like to gather information concerning how long conflicts last, casualties and factors contributing to conflicts’ initiation and end. We would like to draw correlations between types of countries, religion, types of parties in conflict, casualties, etc. A preliminary version of the analysis is already available at this link.

Cheers for CHIIR!

Cheers for CHIIR!

Once again, the InfoSeekers experienced great success at an international conference! Last week, many lab members traveled to Oslo, Norway for CHIIR 2017. Mortals may call it the annual Conference on Human Information Interaction & Retrieval.

It was a chilly week, but that didn’t stop anyone from doing what they do best: having fun with their research! Manasa Rath, Yiwei Wang, Shawan Sarkar and Jiqun Liu presented posters, while Long Lee presented a paper on Community Question & Answering services.

But it wasn’t all work and no play! Participants were able to enjoy a wonderful banquet with a rather scenic backdrop and even visit the Nobel Peace Center.

All in all, it was a conference well-spent! And guess what? Seekers won’t have to travel far for CHIIR 2018…it’s happening right in New Brunswick!

Announcing…. Social Information Seeking, the Book!

Announcing…. Social Information Seeking, the Book!

Are you a researcher or graduate student looking for an introduction to a new field in information science, or a developer or system designer interested in building interactive information retrieval systems or social/community-driven interfaces? Do you simply have a passion for hot topics in information science? Then have we got a surprise for you!

 

InfoSeeking’s fearless leader, Dr. Chirag Shah, has authored Social Information Seeking: Leveraging the Wisdom of the Crowd, a new book that summarizes his work on social information seeking (SIS), and at the same time serves as an introduction to the topic.

What is “social information seeking,” you may ask? It is a relatively new area of study concerned with the seeking and acquiring of information from social spaces on the Internet. It involves studying situations, motivations, and methods involved in seeking and sharing of information in participatory online social sites, such as Yahoo! Answers, WikiAnswers, and Twitter, as well as building systems for supporting such activities.

Want to find out more or preorder your copy? Visit Amazon or the Springer site!

 

Happy infoseeking!

 

Annnnnnd We’re Back! Happy 2017.

Annnnnnd We’re Back! Happy 2017.

Hello hello hello!

Happy New Year from the InfoSeeking Lab, and apologies for the gap in posts–we spent some time basking in winter break.

What do lab members do over break, you may wonder? To no one’s surprise, we manage to have some fun and do some work over the four-week gap. Here’s an idea of what lab members have been up to:

On the fun side, we visited with family and friends. Members traveled to North Carolina, Tennessee…even Disney World! And of course we spent time together, as well. Here’s a shot from the end-of-semester luncheon courtesy of our resident photographer, Souvick:

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Once we reigned in 2017, we resumed some work. Students submitting to the 2017 CHIIR conference and various journals have been busy finalizing their papers, while others traveled to conferences happening this month. We’re all particularly jealous of Matt, who went out to Hawaii!

If you want to see just how spectacular 2016 was for Team InfoSeeking, check out our Facebook page! We’re in the middle of a #17for17 countdown, which will lead us right into our spring semester. Break certainly flew by, but we’re all excited to get back to work and answer some more burning questions about information seeking behavior.

(Big) Chill(ing) Out

(Big) Chill(ing) Out

Think the InfoSeekers are all work and no play? Think again!

 

This morning, a team of lab members ran the Rutgers Big Chill 5k Charity Race, a campus tradition that combines fun, exercise, and a good cause. Take a look at Dr. Shah’s view of the crowd:

 

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InfoSeekers past and present came together to run this race…and engage in some quality carbo-loading before they began!

 

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But…would it be a true lab event if some work wasn’t completed? Nope. Matt finished up his race on the computer.

 

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What a start to the fall semester’s home stretch!

Uniting at the UN

Uniting at the UN

Information science research does not only exist within collegiate and conference walls. Recently, a group of talented InfoSeekers partnered with the United Nations to develop projects that will have a global impact.

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Seekers are working on three data science projects in conjunction with UN. One uses the CLEWS (Climate Land Energy Water Strategies) Model to uncover the human factors involved with energy usage. Understanding these factors could facilitate the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Another group of students will investigate how researchers can make informed predictions in voting behavior for the UN General Assembly (GA). The third project analyzes armed conflict data since WWI to hopefully predict the duration of ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and identify regions that are prone to future wars. Impressive, no?

If you’d like to read more about these projects and the students who are hard at work with the UN, check out our website.

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