Annual General Meeting

December 11th 2008

Peterhouse College, Cambridge

Chairman's Report to AGM

This has been another successful year for SGAI.

During the course of the year Kirsty Bradbrook joined the committee; Maria Fasli and Richard Ellis left it.

Our long-running annual series of conferences has now reached its 28th year and once again was held at Peterhouse College in Cambridge. This is the seventeenth conference we have organised since it moved to Cambridge in December 1992. This year's Conference Chair was again Miltos Petridis from the University of Greenwich, with Frans Coenen as Deputy Conference Chair for Local Arrangements. Adrian Hopgood acted as Workshop Organiser. The Application Stream Chair was Tony Allen, 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. Alice Kerly and Kirsty Bradbrook were responsible for Research Student Liaison. The thirteenth UK Case-Based Reasoning Workshop, which ran during the first day of the conference, was organised by Miltos Petridis. Rosemary Gilligan acted as Treasurer. Our conference administrator was Rachel Browning from our parent body the British Computer Society, with paper administration by Bryony Bramer. Richard Ellis, Alice Kerly, Rosemary Gilligan and Rachel Browning were responsible for the conference registration desk. I should like to thank all those involved for their continued efforts on our behalf.

The final programme included papers by authors from 21 countries spread across four continents. All papers submitted were reviewed by an international panel of expert referees. The prize for the best paper in the technical stream was once again sponsored by Hewlett-Packard. There were also prizes awarded for the best paper in the application stream and the best poster. An innovation this year was the prize for the best paper of which the principal author was a student. As well as the thirteenth UK Case-Based Reasoning Workshop, and other workshops, the conference included the fourth in a series of UK Workshops on AI in Education, which was organised by Maria Fasli under the auspices of the Information and Computer Sciences Subject Centre of the Higher Education Academy (HEA-ICS). The applications stream included additional invited industry presentations, organised by Richard Ellis. Papers accepted for poster presentation were again published as short papers in the proceedings volumes. The Group once again subsidised a reduced rate for non-presenting students.

The Machine Intelligence competition ran for the seventh year as a showcase for new developments 'towards machine intelligence' and was co-organised by John Gordon (AKRI Ltd.), Richard Ellis and myself, with Chris Needham (University of Leeds) as webmaster. Our former sponsor Electrolux plc was unable to continue this year and we are looking for a new principal sponsor.

Our online registration system continued to develop. We will move over to full online registration including debit/credit card payments as soon as our parent body the British Computer Society is able to accept them. An innovation this year was the use of the ConferenceExpert system for electronic submission and reviewing of papers, which proved very successful.

The conference proceedings were again published in two volumes by Springer: the technical proceedings as Research and Development in Intelligent Systems XXV and the proceedings of the applications stream as Applications and Innovations in Intelligent Systems XVI. A Special Issue of the international journal Knowledge Based Systems appeared during the year, reprinting the best papers from each stream of AI-2007. A further special issue containing the best refereed papers from each stream of AI-2008 is now in production. It is expected that AI-2009 will be held in Cambridge in December next year.

Our Research Student Forum, FAIRS'08, continued for a second year. This is a free event for PhD and MRes/MPhil research students in the AI field organised by Alice Kerly and Kirsty Bradbrook, which ran on a preliminary day before the workshop day of the conference. The Forum offered students the opportunity to meet other research students and to discuss their work with senior researchers and practitioners, with sessions covering guidance on conducting research and writing a thesis, feedback on research and research plans, and advice on undergoing a viva. It is hoped that this free forum will become a regular feature of the annual SGAI conferences. We will be seeking external funding to enable us to offer bursaries to cover travel and accommodation as well as free places in future years.

Our programme of low-cost one-day symposia continued during 2008 with the fourth UK KDD workshop, which was held at the University of Bristol in April. Further events are planned for 2009.

It is regrettable that our journal Expert Update did not appear during the year. This is because of difficulties in obtaining edited copies of the papers in the 2007 UK CBR workshop from authors. I hope that these will soon be rectified. The Members' Area on the Group's website provides downloading access to the full text of Expert Update back to Volume 8, No.1 as well as access to the full text of the ECCAI journal AI Communications, a state-of-the art review of AI and the SGAI 'AI Information Portal'. Further facilities and services for members will be added as time goes by. A password needed to access the Members' Area has been circulated to all members.

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 discussions continued with SSAISB, the other British-based AI society, with a view to making a joint bid to bring ECAI, the largest European AI conference, to Britain. It was decided not to bid for the Olympic year 2012 but to prepare a bid for ECAI-2014. This needs to be submitted during 2010. Both societies have agreed that if the bid is successful the conference will be held in Cardiff with Alun Preece as Local Arrangements Chair.

On a personal note, I was re-elected to the British Computer Society's Specialist Groups Executive Committee, which oversees the operation of all its Specialist Groups. In my role as Chair of the IFIP (International Federation for Information Processing) Technical Committee on Artificial Intelligence I was elected to the Federation's Board which is its main policy making body.

The role, membership and financing of Specialist Groups have continued to be significant topics of discussion in our parent body, the British Computer Society, during the year. Following a change in membership policy, the Group's membership has risen to over 550.

A new development is the adoption of a greatly expanded constitution for the Group, due to be adopted at the 2008 Annual General Meeting and to be followed by elections for a new committee. The constitution reaffirms that the objective of the Group is: "to promote the study and practice of Artificial Intelligence and to advance knowledge and education therein for the benefit of the public". We look forward to many more years continuing to do so.

Max Bramer
Chairman, SGAI