Annual General Meeting

December 14th 2005

Peterhouse College, Cambridge

Chairman's Report to AGM

SGAI was formed in June 1980 and so this is our twenty-fifth anniversary year. It has been a very busy and successful year for us which sadly was overshadowed by the shocking death of our Treasurer, Dr. Rob Milne, on Everest in June. Rob was well known to many members, and many others in the AI and mountaineering worlds. As well as being an Artificial Intelligence expert, he was a highly skilled climber whose ambition was to climb the 'seven summits': the highest mountain on each of the seven continents. Everest was the last one and he was within 1200 feet of the summit when he suffered a heart attack. Rob was a committee member of SGAI for over 15 years and played a major role in the development of the group and of AI in the UK. He was a leading organiser for many of our annual conferences, a past President of ECCAI, and the founder and Managing Director of Sermatech Intelligent Applications, a leading AI software company. We have lost a good friend as well as a highly skilled and valued colleague. He is greatly missed.

In memory of Rob, and to reflect his contribution to the practical application of AI, we have established the Rob Milne Memorial Prize. This trophy, which has been generously donated by Dr Alan Montgomery, will be awarded each year to the authors of the best refereed paper in the application stream. There will also be a permanent trophy on which the winners’ names will be engraved each year.

One of Rob Milne's many services to the group was as the driving force behind our successful bid to bring IJCAI-2005 to Britain. The biennial IJCAI (International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence) conferences are the premier world forum for presenting advances in Artificial Intelligence. It was a considerable honour to be selected to host this event in Britain for the first time in over 30 years. IJCAI-2005 was held in August at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Ann Macintosh and I acted as joint Local Arrangements Chairs, with Alun Preece as webmaster and Andrew Tuson in charge of publicity. Other members of the Local Arrangements Committee came from Edinburgh and elsewhere. Organising such a large event is a major team effort and I am very pleased to report that IJCAI-05 was a considerable success with over 1300 delegates from more than 50 countries and very favourable delegate feedback. It also appears to have been a financial success.

As well as organising IJCAI we have continued to organise our own annual conference, AI-2005, which was once again held in Cambridge but returned to its previous venue at Peterhouse College. This long running series has now reached its twenty-fifth consecutive year thanks to the efforts of a very strong and experienced organising team.

This year's Conference Chair was again Tony Allen, with Alun Preece and Frans Coenen as Deputy Conference Chairs for Electronic Services and Local Arrangements respectively. Adrian Hopgood acted as Workshop 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. Rosemary Gilligan was responsible for Research Student Liaison. Our conference administrator was Collette Jackson at Nottingham Trent University. Richard Ellis was responsible for 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 four 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 BCS Specialist Groups Executive Committee, respectively. There was also a prize awarded for the best poster. The conference included the tenth UK Case-Based Reasoning Workshop, organised by Miltos Petridis (University of Greenwich), which ran during the first day of the conference, alongside the workshops. 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 fourth year as a showcase for new developments 'towards machine intelligence', co-organised by John Gordon (Applied Knowledge Research Institute) and myself with strong support from Richard Ellis and others. We are again grateful to Electrolux plc for their sponsorship of this event.

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 XXII and the proceedings of the applications stream as Applications and Innovations in Intelligent Systems XIII. A Special Issue of the international journal Knowledge Based Systems appeared during the year, reprinting the best papers from each stream of AI-2004. A further special issue containing the best refereed papers from each stream of AI-2005 is now in production. It is expected that AI-2006 will be held in Cambridge in December next year.

Our programme of low-cost one-day symposia co-ordinated by Tony Allen continued during 2005. The 'First UK Symposium on Knowledge Discovery in Data' (UK KDD '05) was held at the University of Liverpool In March 2005, organised by Frans Coenen. This proved very successful and a second event is planned for April 2006 at the University of East Anglia. Other events planned for 2006 include a workshop on 'Intelligent Methods in Security and Forensic Computing' organised by Bill Buchanan at Napier University around Easter.

I presented a public lecture on the History of Artificial Intelligence at the Science Museum in London in November 2005. This was organised by the Computer Conservation Society in association with SGAI and attracted a large and very knowledgeable audience.

Another volume of our journal Expert Update appeared during the year, this time under the new editorship of Nirmalie Wiratunga. 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.

During the year Andrew Tuson produced AI Careers Guides for the BCS Careers Series and ISCO CareersScope in conjunction with the BCS Careers Working Group.

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.

During the year I was re-elected to the British Computer Society's Specialist Groups Executive Committee, which oversees the operation of all its Specialist Groups. I would like to thank the SGEC for its sponsorship of a prize to commemorate Rob Milne and the support of its officers and officials at a difficult time. I should also like to thank Colin Chivers at BCS Headquarters for supporting our new treasurer Rosemary Gilligan during a difficult transitional period and for handling the accounts for IJCAI-05.

The Group's committee members continue to have a significant involvement in international bodies. As well as our major role in organising IJCAI-05, we are members of ECCAI, the European Co-ordinating Committee on Artificial Intelligence, and I am currently Chair of the Technical Committee on Artificial Intelligence of IFIP, the International Federation for Information Processing. I represented SGAI at a meeting of the Chairs of international AI societies in Edinburgh in August at which possibilities for international collaboration through IFIP or otherwise were discussed.

During the year SGAI has continued to develop its links with SSAISB, the other British-based AI society. We have formed a joint steering committee to consider the practicalities of a joint bid to bring ECAI, the largest European AI conference, to Britain in the Olympic year 2012.

I am also pleased to be able to announce that our programme of free evening lectures in London, which has been dormant in recent years, will resume in 2006 at City University. This will be led by Andrew Tuson, and will be a further collaboration with SSAISB.

Max Bramer
Chairman, SGAI