This was another very active year for the Group during which the major event was ES99, our nineteenth annual conference, which was held at Peterhouse College, Cambridge in December 1999. These conferences continue to be a major European forum for the presentation of papers in the area of Knowledge-Based Systems and Applied Artificial Intelligence, particularly for application papers.
This year Frans Coenen acted as conference chairman, with Rob Milne as Deputy Conference Chairman and Ian Watson once again as tutorial organiser. The technical stream was organized by myself and Ann Macintosh, and the application stream was organized by Richard Ellis and Mike Moulton. Our conference administrators were Thelma Williams and Lesley McGarrity from the University of Liverpool, with assistance from Linsay Turbert (Intelligent Applications) and Deirdre Burke (University of Edinburgh). I am most grateful to all those involved for their work on our behalf.
The conference attracted submitted papers from 10 countries (in four continents) as well as all parts of the UK. Submissions were reviewed by an international panel of expert referees.
A major new feature of this year's conference was a full-day event organised by Richard Ellis on behalf of the DTI Smart Software for Decision Makers programme (SSDM). The programme has been running since March 1998, with the aim of encouraging the take-up of AI technology in UK industry and commerce. Its event at ES99, which was free of charge to conference delegates, aimed at showcasing some of the practical demonstrators developed by the technology clubs formed under the programme. The demonstrators, jointly implemented by club members and technology providers, were drawn from a wide range of business domains and showed how AI techniques can be used to solve difficult real-world problems and gain tangible business benefits. The day also included a presentation by the DTI on their aims and aspirations for the encouragement of AI in the UK. A discussion session allowed delegates to explore the practical and business issues related to getting AI based systems into action, drawing on the knowledge of a panel of experienced professionals. The event was chaired by Richard Ellis, who chairs the Steering Committee of the Smart Software Technology Club, one of the two clubs established under the SSDM programme.
The Group has produced a number of publications during the last year. As in 1998 the conference proceedings have been published in two volumes by Springer-Verlag in its BCS Conference Series: the technical proceedings as 'Research and Development in Intelligent Systems XVI' and the proceedings of the applications stream as 'Applications and Innovations in Intelligent Systems VII'.
A Special Issue of the international journal Knowledge Based Systems appeared during the year reprinting the best seven papers from each stream of ES98 and a further special issue containing the best six referred papers from each stream of ES99 is now in production.
Production of our new journal Expert Update continued during the year and has now reached Volume 2, No.3. This is an excellent new publication which is only available to SGES members. I should like to express my thanks on behalf of SGES to the editor Frans Coenen for all the hard work he has put into this new venture.
Another important development during the year was the relaunch of our long-standing programme of free evening lectures in London, with a new organiser, Dr. Hui Liu from Birkbeck College. The first series of lectures was successful and generally well-attended and a further series is planned for next year.
The ECCAI publication AI Communications has recently been relaunched in electronic form and the last
three years' issues are now available on-line. Passwords enabling members of SGES to access this valuable source
of information have been allocated to us by ECCAI and will be distributed soon.
During the course of the year the Groupís website has continued to develop, as has the use of our list server, AI-SGES, which is hosted by the University of Newcastle Mailbase system. The latter service is open to all (whether or not they are members of SGES) and is free of charge. Full information about this service is available on our website. We see these two electronic media increasingly as our principal means of communicating with our members and further developments are likely in the future.
Some members may not be aware of the Group's aim to host the biennial IJCAI conference in Edinburgh in 2005. Organising such events needs a great deal of advance planning and our preparations, led by Rob Milne, have already been underway for several years, even though the formal bidding period has not yet opened. This is likely to become a growing focus of our attention in the next few years.
Finally, we currently have two vacancies on our committee. If you are interested in taking an active role in the Group's future activities we would be pleased to hear from you.