Annual General Meeting

December 17th 2003

Peterhouse College, Cambridge

Chairman's Report to AGM

Once again this has been a successful year for the Group.

In December we held our twenty-third annual conference, AI-2003, again at Peterhouse College, Cambridge. This is now one the longest running series of AI conferences in the world. This year saw a change in the name of the series from the previous ES2002 etc. to AI-2003. This reflects the group's change of name during 2002, which itself reflects the considerable expansion in the technical scope of our activities in recent years.

This year Ann Macintosh was Conference Chair, with Rob Milne and Nirmalie Wiratunga as Deputy Chairs for Finance and Publicity and for Poster Sessions, respectively. Adrian Hopgood again acted as Tutorial Organiser. The technical stream was organized by Frans Coenen and Alun Preece. I acted as Application Stream Chair, with Richard Ellis as Deputy Chair. Rosemary Gilligan and Bob Howlett were responsible for Research Student Liaison and the Conference Exhibition respectively. Our conference administrator was Fiona Hartree at Napier University, with help from Linsay Turbert (Intelligent Applications). I should like to thank all those involved for their committed efforts on our behalf to make this series such a success.

The final programme includes papers by authors from countries spread across Western and Eastern Europe, as well as China, Australia and all parts of the UK. All papers submitted were reviewed by an international panel of expert referees. The conference included the eighth 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 and workshops. The Group once again subsidised a reduced rate for non-presenting students and offered bursaries comprising free registration together with assistance towards travel expenses for a limited number of full-time research students attending the tutorial/workshop day. The poster sessions continued for a second year.

The Machine Intelligence competition is gaining momentum as a showcase for new developments 'towards machine intelligence'. Our greatest difficulty in organising the competition remains last minute withdrawals, in some cases by very well-established scientists. We are again grateful to Electrolux plc for their sponsorship of this event.

Our system for fully electronic submission of papers, which was introduced last year thanks to the efforts of Alun Preece, continued and was supplemented by a new system for online registration. We will move over to full online registration including credit card payments as soon as our parent body the British Computer Society is able to accept them. Our proceedings were produced in CD-ROM as well as book form for the first time at ES2002 and this experiment was continued for AI-2003. Another step forward for the Group was the provision of wireless Internet access for delegates at the conference site, which was organised by Richard Ellis.

The conference proceedings were again published in two volumes by Springer-Verlag: the technical proceedings as Research and Development in Intelligent Systems XX and the proceedings of the applications stream as Applications and Innovations in Intelligent Systems XI. A Special Issue of the international journal Knowledge Based Systems appeared during the year, reprinting the best papers from each stream of ES2002. A further special issue containing the best refereed papers from each stream of AI-2003 is now in production. It is expected that AI-2004 will be held in Cambridge in December next year.

During the year Tony Allen (Nottingham Trent University) and Andrew Tuson (City University) joined the SGAI committee with responsibility for relaunching the SGAI Workshop/Colloquium series and for schools liaison, respectively, and Bob Howlett (University of Brighton) joined the conference organising committee. A successful workshop on 'State of the Art Natural Language Processing Systems' was held at Nottingham Trent University in September and other events are currently being planned. A programme of schools liaison activities is also under active discussion.

I represented the group at meetings of the British Computer Society's Specialist Groups Executive Committee and its Specialist Groups Assembly during 2003. I also represented SGAI at a meeting of national and international Artificial Intelligence societies in Acapulco in August, during IJCAI-03. SGAI remains one of the most successful of the BCS's specialist groups, as it has been for the last twenty years. It is regrettable that our relationship has been somewhat strained in the last year by disagreements about what in our view are excessive over-deductions of VAT by our parent body. We have no wish to lose the money concerned simply because of book-keeping errors and it is to be hoped that this matter will be resolved between us soon.

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.

The Group's good 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.

The use of the Groupís website and list server, AI-SGES, has continued to develop. For practical reasons, we have decided not to change the name of this service, as the name AI-SGES is well established. The 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.

We continued our planning for the 2005 IJCAI Conference 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 hosted by SGAI with considerable input from the University of Edinburgh. The conference 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. Our professional conference organisers are Meeting Makers from Glasgow. The venue will be the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Further information will be circulated to Group members as it becomes available.

The Group's involvement in international bodies grew still further during the year. Our Treasurer, Rob Milne, has been President of ECCAI, the European Co-ordinating Committee on Artificial Intelligence for several years. I was already the UK representative on the Artificial Intelligence technical committee of IFIP, the International Federation for Information Processing, as was elected as its chair for the next three years at this year's meeting, which was held during IJCAI-03 in Acapulco. I regard it as a considerable honour to be asked to lead this important international body and am actively seeking ways of linking this role with my work for SGAI. As a small initial step, IFIP co-sponsored the eighth UK Case Based Reasoning workshop during AI-2003. More substantial collaboration in 2004 is currently under consideration.

Max Bramer
Chairman, SGAI