BCS SGES Evening Lectures

Department of Computer Science
Birkbeck College
University of London
Malet Street
London WC1E

Further details of location

Wednesday 17th March 1999 (6 pm)

Prof. Yorick Wilks (University of Sheffield)

Information Retrieval, Extraction and Summarisation


The talk distinguishes information detection or retrieval (IR) from information extraction (IE) and describes recent advances in using IE technology for fast access to very large amounts of textual information in, for example, the world wide web and its extraction to a browsable database. This technology is now becoming available commercially and I describe a number of Language Engineering projects incorporating IE technology.

It is argued that multilingual applications in IE/IR make the distinction between these information processing technologies and machine translation and automatic question answering and summarisation less clear than before, and they can now be combined in original ways to optimise information access via electronic text.

Promising applications are mentioned in security, publishing, communications, finance, science, patents etc. The problems in advancing the field rapidly are described, particularly an appropriate interface, the modelling of the users needs and automatic adaptation of such systems to new domains.

Summarisation used to be a traditional linguistic task, tackled by a range of techniques, but is now seen almost exclusively as a by-product of IR or IE technology, creating a text from the set of sentences containing the most improbable terms or by generating text from the content of IE templates.

YORICK WILKS is Professor of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield and Director of ILASH, the Institute of Language, Speech and Hearing. For the eight years 1985-93 he was Director of the Computing Research Laboratory at New Mexico State University, a centre for research in artificial intelligence and its applications. He received his doctorate from Cambridge University in 1968 for work in computer programs that understand written English in terms of a theory later called "preference semantics": the claim that language is to be understood by means of a search for semantic "gists", combined with a coherence function over such structures that minimises effort in the analyser.

This has continued as the focus of his work, and has had applications in the areas of machine translation, the use of English as a "front end" for users of data bases, and the computation of belief structures. He was a researcher at Stanford AI Laboratory, and then Professor of Computer Science and Linguistics at the University of Essex before going to New Mexico. He has published numerous articles and five books in that area of artificial intelligence, of which the most recent are Artificial Believers (with Afzal Ballim) from Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (1991) and Electric Words: dictionaries, computers and meanings (with Brian Slator and Louise Guthrie) MIT Press, (1995).

He is also a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence, on advisory committees for the National Science Foundation, and on the boards of some fifteen AI-related journals. He currently works in the areas of information extraction from text sources, computational pragmatics, and the automatic of linguistic resources such as lexicons and grammars.

The Evening Lectures are free to both members and non-members of SGES.

For further information contact:
Dr. Hui Liu, Department of Computer Science, Birkbeck College

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Last modified September 7th 1998