UKeiG, in association with the Chemical Information and Computer Applications Group of the Royal Society of Chemistry; the International Society for Knowledge Organisation UK and the British Computer Society Information Retrieval Specialist Group, is delighted to announce that this year’s winner of the Tony Kent Strix Award is Maristella Agosti, Professor in Computer Science at the University of Padua where she has worked since completing her MsC in Statistical Sciences in 1975. Since then, she has built a world-wide reputation for her work in many aspects of information retrieval and digital libraries.
She was one of the first people to work in information retrieval in Italy and she acted as a catalyst for creating an Italian IR research community, which is now vibrant and internationally recognised. In 1987, she established the Information Management Systems (IMS) research group, the first academic research group on information retrieval and digital libraries in Italy. She has supervised many students, several of which are now leading researchers in the field as, for example, Fabio Crestani at the University of Lugano and Massimo Melucci at the University of Padua. In the mid 70s, she was among the first researchers to recognize the need to go beyond the Boolean model, merging probabilistic approaches with fuzzy-sets to dynamically rank documents in the development of an interactive system for end-users at the Historical Archive of Contemporary Arts of the Venice Biennale. She then worked on hypertext information retrieval, well before the advent of the Web. In particular, she proposed the EXPLICIT model, which distinguished between the level of documents (hyper-document) and the level of semantically related terms (hyper-concept), offering both semantic association and an associative reading function, and this was adopted by the European Space Agency in the HYPERLINE system. The work on EXPLICIT provided the basis for exploring the issue of the automatic construction of hypertexts, which is still crucial nowadays in the context of the Semantic Web and Linked Open Data.
Professor Agosti could have won the award for any of the Tony Kent Strix Award criteria, but her nomination cited them all! Her original contributions to hypertext information retrieval and automatic hypertext construction, to foundational aspects of digital libraries (the DELOS Reference Model), to the formalisation of digital annotations, and to framing evaluation in digital libraries as well as to shaping experimental evaluation in the CLEF information retrieval evaluation initiative are all major and contributions to the theoretical or experimental understanding of the information retrieval process.
The transfer of her search outcomes to products and services has been a constant aim, and Professor Agosti was responsible for building DUO, an online public access catalog that has served more than 65,000 users at University of Padua over many years; more recently SIAR, a digital archive system accessible on the Web offers access to the historical archives of the Italian Veneto Region; and the DIRECT system manages, curates, and makes accessible all the research data produced during CLEF large-scale evaluation campaigns and is used by more than 1,500 users from 70 countries worldwide.
Maristella Agosti has always played a leading role in the IR community, devoting particular attention to the transfer of knowledge and expertise to new generations of researchers. At the international level, she launched the highly successful and continuing ESSIR summer school series in information retrieval in 1990 and has contributed to the evolution of CLEF. At the national level, in 2005, she has designed and launched the Italian Research Conference on Digital Library Systems (IRCDL), which is an annual event for Italian researchers in the digital library and information retrieval fields.
As her nomination suggests, it is impossible to overstate the respect for and influence of Professor Agosti in the fields of information retrieval and digital libraries in Europe and beyond.