NSF Task-Based Information Search Systems Workshop

Workshop Overview

When people seek information, they typically do so in order to resolve some underlying need or task, such as finding a bus schedule to plan travel, finding a recipe to make a dish for a potluck dinner, or finding the homepage of an author of a recently read book to see what other books she has published. While contemporary search engines are good at helping people resolve these types of look-up tasks, they are not as useful in helping people engaged in more complex tasks whose resolution might require multiple search sessions and multiple search strategies. Instead, search engines are optimized for particular types of tasks (e.g., look-up tasks and commerce tasks such as travel and shopping), for particular types of search behaviors (i.e., enter a query, review snippets, make a transaction) and for particular types of searchers (i.e., those who want to quickly find a single piece of information). Search engines are not optimized for tasks that require sustained interaction and engagement with information, the use of multiple, diverse search approaches to finding information or for searchers who want to cultivate a deeper, internalized understanding of a problem or topic. Contemporary search environments are tailored to support a small set of basic search tasks and provide searchers with few options to search and interact with information, and little to help them synthesize and integrate information across sessions.

The NSF-sponsored Workshop on Task-based Search Systems was held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in March 2013 and gathered leading international researchers in information retrieval, human-computer interaction and information behavior to discuss research and challenges in incorporating models of tasks, task-types, and users' needs into systems/tools to support complex, multi-search and multi-session tasks.

There are many challenges in creating such task-based search systems and the goal of the Workshop was to enumerate, discuss, and document these issues into a research agenda that could help guide work in this field. Specifically, the Workshop focused on the following topics:

  1. Identification, elicitation, modeling and tracking of tasks, processes and states, including the identification of frameworks for conceptualizing task and relevance models;
  2. Creation of task-specific and task-aware search environments, including the development of interfaces, tools, features, indexing techniques and search algorithms;
  3. Development of methods and measures for studying user behavior and evaluating task-based search systems.

Major themes of the workshop included the development of domain-neutral modeling techniques to represent tasks, task properties and task-related search behaviors, interface support tools to assist with a variety of task-related information behaviors and the identification of techniques and tools to evaluate task-based search systems. The most critical need identified was the development of task models; this was viewed as essential for addressing the challenges of tools and evaluation measures.

NSF Award Duration: January 1, 2013 - December 31, 2013

Workshop Dates: March 14-15, 2013

Workshop Location: Chapel Hill, NC, USA


Organizers:Diane Kelly (PI), Jaime Arguello (Co-PI), Robert Capra (Co-PI)
Student Assistant: Anita Crescenzi
School of Information & Library Science
University of North Carolina
100 Manning Hall, CB#3360
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3360