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Allan, CICS Alum Named ACM SIGIR Academy Inaugural Inductees

James Allan, Jamie Callan
James Allan, Jamie Callan

James Allan, chair of the faculty at the UMass Amherst College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS), and CICS alum Jamie Callan '93PhD, now a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, have been selected to join the inaugural class of inductees into the ACM Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval (SIGIR) Academy. They join CICS Distinguished Professor Emeritus Bruce Croft, who was selected to the ACM SIGIR Academy inaugural class in the fall of 2020.

The ACM SIGIR Academy was created to honor and recognize individuals who have made significant, cumulative contributions to the development of the field of information retrieval. According to the ACM, the five inductees they selected this year represent the principal leaders in information retrieval, whose efforts have “shaped the discipline and industry through significant research, innovation, and service.”

Allan has explored information retrieval and event-based information organization in over 30 years of research, with a focus on how novelty can be incorporated into retrieval algorithms to increase relevance and reduce redundancy in results, techniques for querying across languages, and methods for recognizing controversial or misleading information in text on the internet. Recently, Allan and CICS postdoctoral researcher Razieh Rahimi received an Amazon Research Award for their proposal, “Explanation of Product Facets for Conversational Search.” Motivated by the recent success of voice-based intelligent personal assistants, their work aims to develop search models that can provide users with personalized and session-based answers and play an active role in eliciting users’ needs. 

Allan was elected and served as chair of the SIGIR executive committee from 2010–2013. He has served on the organizing and program committees for the SIGIR conference, along with other major conferences. Allan received best paper awards from the ACM SIGIR conference in 2001 and 2006, and a SIGIR Test of Time award for a 1998 paper on event detection and tracking. He had six papers published at the most recent SIGIR conference in 2020, focusing on language processing and query expansion.

Allan joined the UMass Amherst computer science department as a faculty member in 1996. In addition to his role as chair of the CICS faculty, Allan directs the Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval (CIIR) and serves on the leadership team of the NSF ADVANCE grant program to support women faculty and those from other populations underrepresented in computing. He received his master’s and doctorate degrees in computer science from Cornell University in 1991 and 1995. 

Callan is currently a professor and interim director of the Language Technologies Institute at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science. His research and teaching focus on text-based information retrieval and analysis. He is a co-founding editor-in-chief of Foundations and Trends in Information Retrieval, and a past editor-in-chief of ACM's Transactions on Information Systems. He previously served as the assistant director of CIIR, and received his doctorate from UMass Amherst in 1993. He is the recipient of a CICS Outstanding Achievement and Advocacy Award in 2017.