CHAIRMAN'S REPORT TO AGM: DECEMBER 1996

The major event which has taken place since my report to the last AGM was Expert Systems '95, the Group's fifteenth annual conference, which was held in December 1995 at Queens' College, Cambridge. The conference was clearly judged a success by delegates, continuing the run of successful events which has followed our return to Cambridge in 1992.

Expert Systems '96 is being held at St. John's College, Cambridge from December 16th to 18th 1996. Ian Watson is overall conference chairman, with John Nealon as chairman of the technical stream and Ann Macintosh as chairman of the applications stream. The conference has again been organised by The Conference Team.

As well as a strong technical programme, this was another applications success for the Expert Systems series of conferences, with over 20 papers chosen from some 60 submitted to the Applications stream. Over 50% of the papers were authored or co authored by industrial organisations, and some 20% are from organisations outside the UK. These annual conferences are now the major European forum for the presentation of Expert Systems applications papers.

The conference proceedings are once again published in book form, the technical proceedings as the thirteenth volume in the 'Research and Development in Expert Systems' series and the proceedings of the applications stream as the fourth volume in the 'Applications and Innovations in Expert Systems' series. Sponsorship for two assisted places at the conference for students was provided by SGES.

The Group has continued to maintain a close liaison with the Technology Transfer Clubs (TTCs) supporting the DTI Intelligent Systems Integration Programme (ISIP). This support has included the co-option of a DTI representative (Allan Smith) on to the SGES Committee, and the appointment of an SGES/ISIP Liaison Officer (Richard Ellis). ISIP is approaching the end of its third and final year, with the ISIP Projects due to complete at the end of 1996. All the projects are represented at Expert Systems 96, in the form of presented papers and/or demonstrations, and a separately bound volume of the Expert Systems 96 Proceedings is dedicated to ISIP papers.

It has long been recognised that the TTCs and the SGES have a number of common aims in promoting the practical use of Artificial Intelligence techniques. As ISIP comes to an end, discussions have been held within the Committee and with the TTC organisers with a view to establishing the basis for a continuing relationship with the clubs. To this end a new class of membership (Affiliated Member) has been introduced. This class of membership offers the opportunity for close liaison between Club Organisers and the SGES Committee, co organisation and co sponsorship of events, cross publicity for events, and partnership in the development of a national World-Wide Web directory relating to AI matters. It is hoped that a number of the TTCs will take advantage of this opportunity. Richard Ellis will continue to lead the liaison with the ISIP TTCs.

Our long-established programme of free evening lectures has been relaunched with a new venue (the Institution of Electrical Engineers in central London) and is now organised on our behalf by Ilesh Dattani (University of Bristol) and David Dutton (BRE). It is expected that the series will now return to being a regular monthly event for most of the year.

Rob Milne and I attended the General Assembly of ECCAI, the European Co ordinating Committee on Artificial Intelligence, in Budapest in August. A consolidated membership directory for all the constituent AI societies across both Western and Eastern Europe has recently been published.

There was a gradual decline in the Group's membership throughout the early nineties, as the recession took its toll on AI companies and research groups, but this trend has now been reversed and membership of the group has started to increase with a 17% increase in paid up members of the Group in the period December 1995 to November 1996. As an experiment, non-members attending Expert Systems 96 will be given free membership of the Group from the date of the conference up to the end of 1997, thus qualifying them for the members' discount for Expert Systems 97 as well as the Group's other services.

There was a decline in the number of paid insertions for the Group's monthly mailings to members, probably caused by the service not being actively marketed. A further factor may be that conference announcements and calls for papers are now disseminated by electronic mail, with less material being mailed.

The Group has continued to distribute the ECCAI publication AI Communications free of charge to its members but has now arranged for the journal to be mailed direct by ECCAI from Amsterdam. This service is a benefit of membership which is paid for by SGES.

During the course of the year Chris Price (University College of Wales, Aberystwyth) left the committee to be replaced as a co-opted member by his colleague, Dr. John Hunt. Alan Montgomery stood down as Membership Officer and Joanne Drewett, the Group's former membership administrator, is currently on maternity leave from ISL. Ann Macintosh has taken over as Membership Officer and membership administration is now being handled by The Conference Team. A 'joining pack' for new members is being put together by John Hunt, Richard Ellis and Alan Montgomery.

It is hoped to resume our programme of workshops soon. An 'invitation to tender' for a workshop sponsored by SGES is currently at an advanced stage of preparation.

We have continued to extend the use of our list server, AI SGES, on the Mailbase system at the University of Newcastle, which has been established with the aim of facilitating communication by electronic mail on all aspects of Expert Systems and Applied Artificial Intelligence. The service is open to all (whether or not they are members of SGES) and is free of charge. Members of other member organisations of ECCAI have been invited to join and a number have already done so.

The SGES pages on the World Wide Web, hosted by the University of Portsmouth, have been significantly extended by the Group's 'webmaster', Simon Thompson. They now also include pointers to details of the substantial number of conferences, colloquia etc. organised or co-sponsored by SGES, for all of which Group members receive a discount, and to a bibliography of recommended reading on all aspects of Intelligent Systems prepared for the Group by John Hunt. We should be interested to receive suggestions for further extensions to the web site. The SGES home page is

http://www.sis.port.ac.uk/sges.html

Max Bramer Chairman SGES