Tuesday, May 26, 2009

NSF Workshop report: Information Seeking Support Systems Workshop

The final report for the NSF Information Seeking Support Systems Workshop has been released.
"The general goal of the workshop will be to coalesce a research agenda that stimulates progress toward better systems that support information seeking."
From the executive summary:
Our nation and our world depend on citizens who are able to seek, assess, understand, and use diverse kinds of information. Much of the information we need is complex with different components held in disparate electronic sources and many of our efforts to gather, assess, and use this information are done in collaboration with others. Additionally, much of the information we need is not discretely anticipated, but rather emerges as seeking and reflection continues over time. Information seeking in the digital age is a kind of problem solving activity that demands agile and symbiotic coordination of human and cyber resources; in short, a fundamental kind of computationally-augmented thinking. Computation has expanded our ability to do scalable what if thinking that leverages the best capabilities of humans and machines to abstract, synthesize, and iterate intellectual actions, and today’s search engines are the primitives on the technical side of information seeking. We must rise to the challenge to move information seeking from search engine support that provides discrete items in response to simple queries to tools and services that support reflective and interactive search over time and in collaboration....[emphasis added]

...Three kinds of challenges are defined and preliminary steps toward meeting the challenges are presented in this report: robust models of human‐information interaction; new tools, techniques, and services to support the full range of information seeking activities; and techniques and methods to evaluate information seeking across communities, platforms, sources, and time. Special attention is given to collaborative information seeking and the need for industry‐academic collaboration. Much broader and intensive efforts on the part of the academy, government, and industry are required if we are to meet the grand challenges of usable and ubiquitous information seeking support systems that empower people to solve problems, create new knowledge, and increase participation in efforts to improve the global human condition [emphasis added]. Preliminary efforts as illustrated in this report provide promising directions, however, sustained efforts are urgently needed to support research that leads to understanding information seeking as computationally augmented learning and problem solving, better seamless and ubiquitous systems for supporting information seeking, methods for training people to practice effective and efficient information seeking, and techniques and measures for assessing the tools and practices.

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