History of the Centre
Formation and development of CISR
The Centre for Interactive Systems Research was formed in 1987, with the aim of bringing together a group working on various aspects of information retrieval. Initial work was on theoretical approaches (particularly the probabilistic model) and on user-interface aspects. A major area of work at the time was OPACs for library catalogues.
A major step forward in 1989 was the arrival of the Okapi project from the University of Westminster, with considerable support and funding from the British Library thereafter. Okapi was designed as an OPAC, but incorporated certain general text retrieval algorithms, including some based on work carried out at City. It was used as the basis for a series of end-user experiments in relevance feedback, with two kinds of databases: library catalogues and scientific abstracts.
The second major step forward was in 1991-92, with the start of the TREC competition. Okapi was further developed as a flexible experimental engine, allowing both live-user experiments and laboratory-style batch tests. At the same time, further work was being done on the theory and algorithms to make them more effective and robust with more heterogeneous data.
The most prominent result of this work was the ranking algorithm now known throughout the international information retrieval community as Okapi BM25. The City team's success in TREC competitions from TREC-3 onwards resulted in the widespread adoption of BM25 by many research groups.
Subsequent projects included TIPS, funded by the EU, and the Collocation Linguistics/XML indexer for Okapi, both funded by Microsoft Research Cambridge.
Since then, CISR's members have received funding from EU-IST, EPSRC (UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), TSB (UK Technology Strategy Board), AHRC (UK Arts & Humanities Research Council), Microsoft, Mitre, Nuffield, and the Vodafone Foundation.