Maarten de Rijke

Information retrieval

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IRJ paper “Neural information retrieval: at the end of the early years” online

Our Information Retrieval Journal paper “Neural information retrieval: at the end of the early years” by Kezban Dilek Onal, Ye Zhang, Ismail Sengor Altingovde, Md Mustafizur Rahman, Pinar Karagoz, Alex Braylan, Brandon Dang, Heng-Lu Chang, Henna Kim, Quinten McNamara, Aaron Angert, Edward Banner, Vivek Khetan, Tyler McDonnell, An Thanh Nguyen, Dan Xu, Byron C. Wallace, Maarten de Rijke, and Matthew Lease is available online now at this location.

A recent “third wave” of neural network (NN) approaches now delivers state-of-the-art performance in many machine learning tasks, spanning speech recognition, computer vision, and natural language processing. Because these modern NNs often comprise multiple interconnected layers, work in this area is often referred to as deep learning. Recent years have witnessed an explosive growth of research into NN-based approaches to information retrieval (IR). A significant body of work has now been created. In this paper, we survey the current landscape of Neural IR research, paying special attention to the use of learned distributed representations of textual units. We highlight the successes of neural IR thus far, catalog obstacles to its wider adoption, and suggest potentially promising directions for future research.

CIKM 2018 papers online

Our CIKM 2017 papers are online now:

  • “Online expectation-maximization for click models” by Ilya Markov, Alexey Borisov, and Maarten de Rijke. Click models allow us to interpret user click behavior in search interactions and to remove various types of bias from user clicks. Existing studies on click models consider a static scenario where user click behavior does not change over time. We show empirically that click models deteriorate over time if retraining is avoided. We then adapt online expectation-maximization (EM) techniques to efficiently incorporate new click/skip observations into a trained click model. Our instantiation of Online EM for click models is orders of magnitude more e cient than retraining the model from scratch using standard EM, while loosing li le in quality. To deal with outdated click information, we propose a variant of online EM called EM with Forge ing, which surpasses the performance of complete retraining while being as e cient as Online EM. The paper is available here.
  • “Balancing speed and quality in online learning to rank for information retrieval” by Harrie Oosterhuis and Maarten de Rijke. In Online Learning to Rank (OLTR) the aim is to find an optimal ranking model by interacting with users. When learning from user behavior, systems must interact with users while simultaneously learning from those interactions. Unlike other Learning to Rank (LTR) settings, existing research in this field has been limited to linear models. This is due to the speed-quality tradeoff that arises when selecting models: complex models are more expressive and can find the best rankings but need more user interactions to do so, a requirement that risks frustrating users during training. Conversely, simpler models can be optimized on fewer interactions and thus provide a better user experience, but they will converge towards suboptimal rankings. This tradeoff creates a deadlock, since novel models will not be able to improve either the user experience or the final convergence point, without sacrificing the other.

    Our contribution is twofold. First, we introduce a fast OLTR model called Sim-MGD that addresses the speed aspect of the speed-quality tradeoff. Sim-MGD ranks documents based on similarities with reference documents. It converges rapidly and, hence, gives a be er user experience but it does not converge towards the optimal rankings. Second, we contribute Cascading Multileave Gradient Descent (C-MGD) for OLTR that directly addresses the speed-quality tradeoff by using a cascade that enables combinations of the best of two worlds: fast learning and high quality final convergence. C-MGD can provide the better user experience of Sim-MGD while maintaining the same convergence as the state-of-the-art MGD model. This opens the door for future work to design new models for OLTR without having to deal with the speed-quality tradeoff. The paper is available here.

  • “Sensitive and scalable online evaluation with theoretical guarantees” by Harrie Oosterhuis and Maarten de Rijke. Multileaved comparison methods generalize interleaved comparison methods to provide a scalable approach for comparing ranking systems based on regular user interactions. Such methods enable the increasingly rapid research and development of search engines. However, existing multileaved comparison methods that provide reliable outcomes do so by degrading the user experience during evaluation. Conversely, current multileaved comparison methods that maintain the user experience cannot guarantee correctness. Our contribution is two-fold. First, we propose a theoretical framework for systematically comparing multileaved comparison methods using the notions of considerateness, which concerns maintaining the user experience, and fidelity, which concerns reliable correct outcomes. Second, we introduce a novel multileaved comparison method, Pairwise Preference Multileaving (PPM), that performs comparisons based on document-pair preferences, and prove that it is considerate and has delity. We show empirically that, compared to previous multileaved comparison methods, PPM is more sensitive to user preferences and scalable with the number of rankers being compared. The paper is available here.

FAT* Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency

FAT* is a multi-disciplinary conference that brings together researchers and practitioners interested in fairness, accountability, and transparency in socio-technical systems.

Artificial intelligence, automation, and machine learning are being adopted in a growing number of contexts. Fueled by big data, these systems filter, sort, score, recommend, personalize, and otherwise shape human experiences of socio-technical systems. Although these systems bring myriad benefits, they also contain inherent risks, such as codifying and entrenching biases; reducing accountability and hindering due process; and increasing the information assymmetry between data producers and data holders.

FAT* is an annual conference dedicating to bringing together a diverse community to investigate and tackle issues in this emerging area. FAT* builds upon several years of successful workshops on the topics of fairness, accountability, transparency, ethics, and interpretability in machine learning, recommender systems, the web, and other technical disciplines.

The inaugural 2018 FAT* Conference will be held February 23 and 24th, 2018 at New York University, NYC. Details will be announced at

Material from NN4IR tutorial online

The material from our highly popular tutorial on Neural Networks for Information Retrieval (NN4IR), presented during SIGIR 2017 in Tokyo is available online at

Neural Networks for Information Retrieval tutorial at SIGIR 2017

Title: Neural Networks for Information Retrieval (NN4IR)

Description: Machine learning plays an important role in many aspects of modern IR systems, and deep learning is applied to all of those. The fast pace of modern-day research into deep learning has given rise to many different approaches to many different IR problems. What are the underlying key technologies and what key insights into IR problems are they able to give us? This full-day tutorial gives a clear overview of current tried-and-trusted neural methods in IR and how they benefit IR research and our understanding of IR problems. Additionally, we peek into the future by examining recently introduced paradigms as well as current challenges. Expect to learn about neural networks in semantic matching, ranking, user interaction, and response generation in a highly interactive tutorial.

Presenters: Tom Kenter, Alexey Borisov, Christophe van Gysel, Mostafa Dehghani, Maarten de Rijke, Bhaskar Mitra

Where: SIGIR 2017, Tokyo

When: August 7, 2017

Neu-IR: The SIGIR 2017 Workshop on Neural Information Retrieval

After a very successful first edition of Neu-IR at SIGIR 2016, we are happy to organize a second version of the workshop at SIGIR 2017. Key facts: the web site for Neu-IR 2017 is online now at, the deadline for submissions is June 11, 2017 and the workshop itself will take place on Friday August 11, 2017 in Tokyo, Japan.

The Birth of Collective Memories

David Graus, Daan Odijk and I just uploaded a manuscript to arXiv on “The Birth of Collective Memories: Analyzing Emerging Entities in Text Streams.”

We study how collective memories are formed online. We do so by tracking entities that emerge in public discourse, that is, in online text streams such as social media and news streams, before they are incorporated into Wikipedia, which, we argue, can be viewed as an online place for collective memory. By tracking how entities emerge in public discourse, i.e., the temporal patterns between their first mention in online text streams and subsequent incorporation into collective memory, we gain insights into how the collective remembrance process happens online. Specifically, we analyze nearly 80,000 entities as they emerge in online text streams before they are incorporated into Wikipedia. The online text streams we use for our analysis comprise of social media and news streams, and span over 579 million documents in a timespan of 18 months.

We discover two main emergence patterns: entities that emerge in a “bursty” fashion, i.e., that appear in public discourse without a precedent, blast into activity and transition into collective memory. Other entities display a “delayed” pattern, where they appear in public discourse, experience a period of inactivity, and then resurface before transitioning into our cultural collective memory.

Please see and let us know what you think.

We’re hiring (again): Fully funded PhD position in responsible people search

logo-uvaWe have another vacancy for a fully funded four-year PhD position in responsible data science and HR analytics. The starting date is “as soon as possible.” Please visit the UvA vacancies pages for details on how to apply.

We’re hiring: Fully funded PhD student in academic search

logo-uvaWe have a vacancy for a fully funded four-year PhD position in academic search. The starting date is “as soon as possible.” Please visit the UvA vacancies pages for details on how to apply.

FAT/WEB: Workshop on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency on the Web

Recent academic and journalistic reviews of online web services have revealed that many systems exhibit subtle biases reflecting historic discrimination. Examples include racial and gender bias in search advertising, image recognition services, sharing economy mechanisms, pricing, and web-based delivery. The list of production systems exhibiting biases continues to grow and may be endemic to the way models are trained and the data used.

At the same time, concerns about user autonomy and fairness have been raised in the context of web-based experimentation such as A/B testing or explore/exploit algorithms. Given the ubiquity of this practice and increasing adoption in potentially-sensitive domains (e.g. health, employment), user consent and risk will become fundamental to the practice.

Finally, understanding the reasons behind predictions and outcomes of web services is important in optimizing a system and in building trust with users. However, it also has legal and ethical implications when the algorithm has an unintended or undesirable impact along social boundaries.
The objective of this full day workshop is to study and discuss the problems and solutions with algorithmic fairness, accountability, and transparency of models in the context of web-based services.


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