Advanced Information Systems for sharing information and Knowledge about the Environment
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Talks title and abstract

Talk topic: Exploring Semantic Technologies in Search
Speaker: Jordi Atserias and Michael Matthews, Yahoo

Talk abstract (Slides)

The web is rapidly evolving, not only with new applications (Wikipedia, blogs, delicious, youtube) but also in the perception and definition of what the web should be (web 2.0, semantic web). This evolution leads to a new generation search and navigation tools (e.g., search engines) that goes beyond the string search paradigm, and therefore will produce more insightful, better organized, easier-to-understand output.

In this talk I will address the work carried out on the NLR group at Yahoo! Research Barcelona to explore the use of shallow NLP processing to build these new generation tools: Correlator (producing list of related entities, maps and timelines using the textual information of wikipedia), Quest (helping the user to find the right answer though the use of dynamic key phrases generation) and TimeExplorer (automatically classify and organizing the information in different dimensions, opinions, time, and bias).

The speakers

Jordi Atserias is a research engineer working on Natural Language and Information Retrieval at Yahoo! Research Barcelona.

He graduated with a Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from Basque Country University in 2006. His current research focus on the improving web search and information access using shallow Natural Languages Processing. He has developed the Yahoo! Sandbox demos Correlator and Quest.

Reference Web site: http://research.yahoo.com/Jordi_Atserias



Michael Matthews is a research engineer working on Natural Language and Information Retrieval at Yahoo! Research Barcelona.

He graduated with an MSc degree in Informatics from The University of Edinburgh in 2002. He is currently researching effective methods of using text and image analysis to improve the user search experience. He has developed the LivingKnowledge Time Explorer.

Reference Web site: http://research.yahoo.com/Michael_Matthews




Talk topic: Search and You Shall Find - and Teach Us All
Speaker: Marius Pasca, Google

Talk abstract (Slides)

If we agreed to unconditionally contribute to the Sisyphean task of compiling an imaginary "Compendium of Questions about Everything", most of our fact-seeking Web search queries would not exactly qualify as ready-to-publish entries. Our queries are often little more than short, keyword-based approximations of underspecified information needs.

But as noisy and unreliable as they may be, queries still convey knowledge in themselves, just as they specify constraints (keywords and phrases) that loosely describe what knowledge is being requested. After all, asking "how many calories are burned during skiing" implies that skiing may be an activity during which the body consumes calories, whereas the more condensed "amg latest album" still suggests that amg may be a musician or band, even to someone unfamiliar with the respective topics.

As such, search queries are cursory reflections of the "Compendium of Everything", as encoded deeply within unstructured and structured content available in documents on the Web and elsewhere. Anonymized Web search queries lend themselves as a data source in the acquisition of knowledge from text, as an intriguing alternative to using Web documents as a more traditional data source.

The speaker

Marius Pasca is a researcher at Google in Mountain View, California. He graduated with a Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and an M.Sc. degree in Computer Science from Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France.

Current research interests include factual information extraction from unstructured text within documents and queries, and its applications to Web search.

Reference Web site: http://www.google.com/research/pubs/author107.html
Talk topic: Monitoring and analysing multilingual media reports to support users in their daily work
Speaker: Ralf Steinberger, European Commission - Joint Research Centre

Talk abstract (Slides)

Media monitoring and other large-scale text mining applications can help sieve through vast amounts of text to retrieve user-relevant documents, extract specific information aspects from them, visualise the information and possibly alert the users in case noteworthy or unexpected facts are found. Language Technology has reached a level that is likely to satisfy most customers. Challenges are the effort needed to adapt the tools to different domains and fields of interest, as well as to develop these tools for a range of different natural languages.

The European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has been monitoring the media for many years with the objective of supporting international organisations and national institutions in European Union Member States and in selected partner countries around the world, including in the US, in Canada, in China and in Africa. These users' interests include many different domains, including Public Health, Nuclear Safeguards, political conflict, cross-border crime, science watch, natural disasters, man-made disasters, and more.

The JRC's family of applications with the name of Europe Media Monitor (EMM) gathers and analyses about 100,000 news articles per day in fifty languages. Text mining tools integrated into EMM include text categorisation and clustering, an alerting and warning functionality, Named Entity Recognition and disambiguation, event extraction, cross-lingual and cross-script information fusion, multi-document summarisation, opinion mining, social network analysis based on multilingual news reports, and more. Some of the applications are publicly accessible via http://emm.newsbrief.eu/overview.html.

The speaker will present a number of practical tools and applications developed at the JRC that are in daily use by many international customers world-wide.

The speaker

Ralf Steinberger is Language Technology project manager at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Italy, where he has been working since 1998. He received his Ph.D. in computational linguistics from the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in the UK in 1994.

His specialisation lies in highly multilingual text mining tools and in methods for cross-lingual information access. A main focus of his work is on producing working tools that are useful in real-life environments.

Refrence Web Site : http://langtech.jrc.ec.europa.eu/RS.html
Talk topic: Humber Estuary UK: knowledge needs for environment professionals
Speaker: Bernard Fleming

Talk abstract (Slides)

In the UK, national nature conservation agencies fulfill the role of statutory, but independent, advisers to government. In the context of development control, they are must be consulted (with status as statutory consultees) where sites or species of national or international importance for wildlife are likely to be impacted upon by any development proposed - which can take the form of built development, transport and energy infrastructure, etc. Taking implementation of the European Habitats Directive (which is the main legislative instrument that provides protection for wildlife sites within European Member States) as an example, they are responsible for advising decision-making bodies (eg 'local and regional government, etc' and therefore have to consider the impacts of both the development itself and in-combination with other plans or projects.

As an example, the Humber Estuary in England which is designated under the European legislation referred to above, extends over 37,000ha and supports internationally important populations of breeding, passage and wintering birds, along with 13 littoral and subtidal habitats and species. It also forms the largest port complex in the United Kingdom and much new development is proposed in terms of new port construction, petro-chemical developments and both on- and off-shore windfarms. The potential for conflict is clear but examples of best practice have seen the construction of major infrastructure developments without harm to the environment.

Central to the decision-making process is the assessment of impacts resulting from a variety of sources and pathways. In-house expertise is not able to master all these disciplines and so the task of obtaining and analysing relevant data, information and knowledge is key to efficient and effective working. Difficulties in processing data and information arise when assessing complex proposals which can involve matters as diverse as chemical emissions to air, coastal dynamics, noise and water resources.

Typically, staff resort to internet searches via traditional search engines, discussion with in-house experts (if there are any) and (importantly) colleagues, library searches and the use of colleagues in specialist NGOs. This does not always provide the compelling evidence required by the legislation. This can result in delay and conflict and threatens both commercial aspirations and the biodiversity of the site.

The speaker

Mr Bernard Fleming is an experienced practitioner in the field of nature conservation with more than 20 years working in wildlife and environmental legislation and its implementation, site management, policy, stakeholder communication and issues relating to large sites (e.g. estuaries, etc). He is both an independent consultant (with work experience in eastern Europe) and a full-time employee of Natural England.

In all aspects of his work he requires access to easily digested information and data about species, habitats and a range of related issues.

Reference Web site: http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/
Talk topic: The Atlantic Coastal Action Program: Addressing complex environmental issues through the integrated application of knowledge management, results management and stakeholder engagement
Speaker: Jim Ellsworth, environmental expert

Talk abstract (Slides)

The Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) was launched by Environment Canada in 1991 under Canada's Green Plan. ACAP was initiated as a community-based ecosystem management initiative with the aim of incorporating ecosystem principles into Integrated Coastal Zone Management and engaging diverse stakeholders in addressing complex environmental issues in key watersheds and estuaries throughout Atlantic Canada. ACAP sites range from heavily developed urban zones and intensively managed rural environments to remote wilderness areas. In each instance, no single sector or agency possesses the knowledge, the resources, the authority needed to effectively address the issues at hand.

ACAP has demonstrated its capacity to address complex environmental issues that would otherwise continue to elude us. This capacity is generated through ACAP's integrated approach to knowledge management, results management and stakeholder engagement. The approach to knowledge management in ACAP and the role of knowledge management in ACAP have evolved continuously. ACAP organizations constantly look to their own experiences and that of others to improve their knowledge exchange and decision support capacities.

The legacy of ACAP extends beyond the development, implementation and evaluation of solutions to complex environmental issues. The ACAP legacy includes a lasting capacity to make evidence based decisions; a predisposition to proactively address factors affecting environmental quality and a willingness to share ownership of issues and their solutions. In this context, the search for and capture of relevant and timely data, information and knowledge will remain an ACAP priority now and in the future.

The speaker

After graduating as a Horticulturist from the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in 1975, Jim Ellsworth began a 35 year career with the Government of Canada.

Jim's federal career included management and leadership roles within Parks Canada, Environment Canada and Justice Canada.

Jims work has focused on the adoption and adaptation of the principles of ecosystem approach is such practise as the establishment and management of protected areas, integrated land management, coastal zone management, sustainable development comprehensive crime prevention.

Jim has also served as a Director with the International Association for Public Participation and Federal Chair of the national award winning Nova Scotia Sustainable Communities Initiative.

Talk topic: The KYOTO project: user group experiences, learning points, present and future perspectives
Speaker: Lawrence Jones-Walters, ECNC environmental expert

Talk abstract (Slides)

Access to reliable, high quality data, knowledge and information are essential for environmentalists working in the field of nature conservation and biodiversity. It was therefore an interesting and potentially challenging opportunity to be invited to join the KYOTO project as members of the "user group". Both the ECNC-European Centre for Nature Conservation and the WWF-Worldwide Fund for Nature are knowledge-based organisations who work to bridge the interface between science-practice-society.

Our task in this project has been to: contribute relevant information and knowledge (largely in the form of documents that could be analysed by the system); to review and provide a level of quality control to the various versions of the system as they have been developed; to reach out to the potential user community and to involve them in workshops and wider testing of the system; and to play an ongoing and active role in the project meetings and other forms of communication between the project partners.

The project has been revealing in a number of ways, including:

  1. The role of user groups in the development of ontological projects (an introduction to the World of Ontology, Fluffy the cat - who was always a cat but not always a pet!).
  2. The use of information (past, present and future) by environmentalists generally and specifically practitioners of nature conservation and biodiversity.
  3. Some key learning points in relation to best and worst practice now and in the future.
  4. Insights into the role of technology-based knowledge and information search systems for environmental practitioners - what does KYOTO tell us about the future usability and use of such systems.
  5. The role of tacit knowledge and how to make more of it.
  6. Wikyplanet: a platform and methodology for future knowledge and information exchange?

The speaker will review experience over the duration of the project, outline and explore the key learning points and offer some concluding comments and reflections based on these.

The speaker

Is presently Senior Programme Manager Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Assessment and Green Infrastructure at ECNC-European Centre for nature conservation, since the beginning of 2007.

Has worked in nature conservation and sustainability for nearly 30 years.

He ended his career in England as Regional Manager of Advocacy and Partnerships in Natural England, Yorkshire and Humber region.

He has expertise in species and ecosystem protection and management and has worked in regional economic development towards the achievement of environmental integration into the sustainable development agenda. This has encompassed work with business and industry, social inclusion and health issues.

Previously chaired the Regional Environment and Biodiversity Forums in Yorkshire and the Humber Region, UK, and was a member of the Regional Assembly for Yorkshire and Humber.

He is a skilled facilitator with much practical application of methods in multi-stakeholder situations in UK, North America and Eastern Europe.

He gained his PhD in conservation management, and has two Masters Degrees (in Applied Entomology and Business Administration) and has an extensive list of publications.