Annual General Meeting

December 15th 2004

Queens' College, Cambridge

Chairman's Report to AGM

I am pleased to be able to report another successful year for the Group.

This year's annual conference, AI-2004, was again held in Cambridge but because of the unavailability of our usual venue was moved to Queens' College. This long running series has now reached its twenty-fourth consecutive year thanks to the efforts of a very strong and experienced organising team.

This year's Conference Chair was Tony Allen, with Rob Milne and Nirmalie Wiratunga as Deputy Chairs for Finance and Publicity and for Poster Sessions, respectively. Alun Preece took on the new role of Deputy Conference Chair for Electronic Services. Adrian Hopgood acted as Tutorial Organiser. The Application Stream Chair was Ann Macintosh, with Richard Ellis as Deputy Chair. I acted as Technical Stream Chair, with Frans Coenen as Deputy Chair. The poster sessions were organised by Nirmalie Wiratunga for the third time and have now become an established feature of these annual conferences. Rosemary Gilligan and Bob Howlett were responsible for Research Student Liaison and the Conference Exhibition respectively. Our conference administrator was Collette Jackson at Nottingham Trent University, with help from Linsay Turbert (Intelligent Applications). Richard Ellis was responsible for local arrangements and the conference registration desk, with the support of Alice Kerly. I should like to thank all those involved for their continued work on our behalf to make this series such a success.

The final programme includes papers by authors from countries spread across five continents. All papers submitted were reviewed by an international panel of expert referees. Prizes for the best paper in the technical and application streams were sponsored by Hewlett-Packard and the Department of Trade and Industry, respectively. There was also a prize awarded for the best poster. The conference included the ninth UK Case-Based Reasoning Workshop, organised by Brian Lees (University of Paisley), which ran during the first day of the conference, alongside the tutorials. The Group once again subsidised a reduced rate for non-presenting students and offered bursaries comprising free registration for Days 2-3 of the conference for a limited number of full-time research students. The Machine Intelligence competition ran for the third year as a showcase for new developments 'towards machine intelligence', co-organised by John Gordon (Applied Knowledge Research Institute) and myself. We are again grateful to Electrolux plc for their sponsorship of this event. A highlight of the conference was the presentation of a lifetime achievement award to the Group's founder, Professor Donald Michie, at the conference dinner.

Our system for electronic submission and reviewing of papers and our online registration system continued to develop thanks to the efforts of Alun Preece. 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.

The conference proceedings were again published in two volumes with an accompanying CD-ROM version by Springer: the technical proceedings as Research and Development in Intelligent Systems XXI and the proceedings of the applications stream as Applications and Innovations in Intelligent Systems XII. A Special Issue of the international journal Knowledge Based Systems appeared during the year, reprinting the best papers from each stream of AI-2003. A further special issue containing the best refereed papers from each stream of AI-2004 is now in production. It is expected that AI-2005 will be held in Cambridge in December next year.

During the year our new programme of low-cost one-day symposia continued under the leadership of Tony Allen, with a very successful symposium on Mobile and Complex Agent Systems at Napier University in September. A symposium on Knowledge Discovery has been arranged for Liverpool in April 2005, with Frans Coenen as the main organiser. Andrew Tuson launched the Group's new programme of schools liaison activities with an information event for careers advisors, organised jointly with the AI society AISB, at City University in May, which was well received. Rob Milne (and others) argued persuasively for the value of a career in AI and this event can only have lifted the profile of the field in the minds of those who attended.

I represented the group at meetings of the British Computer Society's Specialist Groups Executive Committee. I am pleased to report that the problem of over-deduction of VAT by our parent body that were mentioned in my last report have now been resolved.

Another volume 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. Frans has indicated that he wishes to step down after seven years as editor at the end of 2004 and it is expected that a new editor will be appointed soon.

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, known for historical reasons as AI-SGES, has continued to develop. 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.

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Group's formation falls in June 2005 and it is a happy coincidence that a few weeks later we will be hosting the major Artificial Intelligence conference IJCAI-2005 in Edinburgh. The biennial IJCAI (International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence) conferences are the premier world forum for presenting advances in Artificial Intelligence. It is a considerable honour to be selected to host this event in Britain for the first time in over 30 years. IJCAI-2005 will be held in Edinburgh in August. It is timed to finish just before the Edinburgh Festival and is likely to attract a large number of delegates from all parts of the world. The venue will be the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Further information will be circulated to Group members as it becomes available. I am very pleased to be able to report that the British Computer Society has agreed to take on a major sponsorship role for this event.

The Group's officers continue to have a significant involvement in international bodies. Our Treasurer, Rob Milne, has just stepped down as President of ECCAI, the European Co-ordinating Committee on Artificial Intelligence, after a four-year term and is the Local Arrangements Chair for IJCAI-2005. I am the Chair of the Technical Committee on Artificial Intelligence of IFIP, the International Federation for Information Processing and was programme chair for the Artificial Intelligence 'co-located conference' at the IFIP World Congress in Toulouse in August. I hope that it will be possible to foster closer collaboration between SGAI and these international societies in the future.

Max Bramer
Chairman, SGAI