Annual General Meeting

December 12th 2002

Peterhouse College, Cambridge

Chairman's Report to AGM

This has been another successful year for the Group.

Our twenty-second annual conference, ES2002, was again held at Peterhouse College, Cambridge in December. Frans Coenen who was conference chairman for ES99 and ES2000 agreed to take on the role again this year. I am most grateful to him for this. Rob Milne and Nirmalie Wiratunga were Deputy Chairs for Finance and Publicity and for Poster Sessions, respectively. Adrian Hopgood once again acted as Tutorial Organiser. The technical stream was organized by myself and Alun Preece, and the application stream was organized by Ann Macintosh and Richard Ellis. Our conference administrator was Helen Forster, with help from Linsay Turbert (Intelligent Applications). I should like to thank all those involved for their committed efforts on our behalf.

The final programme includes papers by authors from approximately 20 countries in five continents as well as all parts of the UK. All papers submitted were reviewed by an international panel of expert referees. The conference included the seventh UK Case-Based Reasoning Workshop, again organised by Brian Lees (University of Paisley), which ran during the first day of the conference, alongside the tutorials. A special delegate rate was made available for tutorial or workshop delegates attending the conference on the following two days. The Group also subsidised a reduced rate for non-presenting students. As last year, bursaries were offered comprising free registration together with assistance towards travel expenses for a limited number of full-time research students attending the tutorial/workshop day.

Two innovations this year are the Poster Sessions and a half-day workshop on 'AI for Intelligent Business', which was organised jointly by Alun Preece and Dan O’Leary (University of Southern California). A further important change was the introduction of fully electronic submission of papers. I would like to thank Alun Preece for creating this system for the Group, which undoubtedly made the refereeing process considerably simpler to administer and may have contributed to the increase in good quality submissions this year.

Following last year's successful launch event the conference included the first competition for 'The British Computer Society Prize for Progress Towards Machine Intelligence'. The prizewinner was chosen by a secret ballot of conference delegates. The prize was awarded at the conference dinner by the President of the British Computer Society. I would like to thank Electrolux plc for their generous sponsorship of this prize.

The conference proceedings were again published in two volumes by Springer-Verlag in its BCS Conference Series: the technical proceedings as Research and Development in Intelligent Systems XIX and the proceedings of the applications stream as Applications and Innovations in Intelligent Systems X. A Special Issue of the international journal Knowledge Based Systems appeared during the year, reprinting the best papers from each stream of ES2001. A further special issue containing the best refereed papers from each stream of ES2002 is now in production.

At the end of May a change which has been discussed at fairly regular intervals for several years was finally made, when the group officially changed its name from SGES to SGAI, the British Computer Society Specialist Group on Artificial Intelligence. The previous name, SGES, was an abbreviation for Specialist Group on Expert Systems, the name adopted when the Group was founded in 1980. However the group's scope expanded rapidly after its foundation and it now covers all areas of Artificial Intelligence. Although there are always risks involved in a change of name, as the organisers of the major world AI conference IJCAI-2005 it seems desirable that we adopt a name which accurately describes what we do. A second website www.bcs-sgai.org has been created in addition to www.bcs-sges.org. It is likely that most of the contents of the older site will be migrated to the new website during the first half of 2003. From next year onwards our annual conferences will be renamed in line with the Group's own change of name. It is expected that AI-2003 will be held in Cambridge in December.

Three issues of our journal Expert Update appeared during the year under the editorship of Frans Coenen. This is an excellent publication, which is a valuable benefit of membership.

During the year Nirmalie Wiratunga (Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen) and Rosemary Gilligan (University of Hertfordshire) joined the Group's committee. The former also became our membership officer. It is a matter of regret that the British Computer Society seem unable to meet the commitment to introducing membership subscription payments by direct debit which they made more than a year ago.

The Group's relationship with NCAF, the Natural Computing Applications Forum, has continued. Richard Ellis is the SGAI representative on the NCAF committee. The two Societies have offered reduced registration fees to each other's members at their conferences.

Our long-running series of London evening lectures continued during the year, organised by Dr. Chris Christodoulou at Birkbeck College, University of London.

The use of the Groupís website and list server, AI-SGES, has continued to develop. The latter service is open to all (whether or not they are members of the Group) and is free of charge. Full information is available on the Group's website. There are no current plans to change the name of this list server.

Our planning for the hosting of the 2005 IJCAI Conference continued during the year. The biennial IJCAI (International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence) conferences are the premier world forum for presenting advances in Artificial Intelligence. The IJCAI-2005 conference will be held in Edinburgh in August. It will be timed to finish just before the Edinburgh Festival and is likely to attract a large number of delegates from all parts of the world. SGAI are organising the conference jointly with the University of Edinburgh. A joint Steering Group has been formed and professional conference organisers have been selected. Further information will be circulated to Group members as it becomes available.

Max Bramer
Chairman, SGAI
http://www.bcs-sgai.org