International Conference Explores Disruptive Potential for Large Language Models

04 April 2023

The 45th European Conference on Information Retrieval (ECIR) takes place in Dublin this week featuring an international community of practitioners and researchers who are sharing cutting-edge developments in the field.  Academics from the SFI ADAPT Centre for AI-Driven Digital Content Technology are co-chairing the conference that will welcome over 350 delegates and presenters from Europe, Asia, USA, and Australia to Dublin while many more will join remotely from across the globe.

One of the highlights of the conference is a keynote by Professor William Yang Wang of the University of California, Santa Barbara, titled ‘Large Language Models for Question Answering: Challenges and Opportunities’. Question answering (QA) is a computer science field within the area of information retrieval and natural language processing that aims to answer a user’s question by finding appropriate text on the web or from other relevant data.  

Speaking at the event, Professor Wang said: “A key goal for Artificial Intelligence is to design intelligent agents that can reason with heterogeneous representations and answer open-domain questions. The advances in large language models (LLMs) bring exciting opportunities to create disruptive technologies for question answering (QA). However there are major challenges for open-domain QA with LLMs include the capability to reason seamlessly between textual and tabular data, to understand and reason with numerical data, and to adapt to specialised domains.”

Professor Wang’s talk described work on teaching machines how to reason and introduced cutting-edge research in the area of open-domain question answering.  It forms part of the ECIR conference which covers innovative and scientific research in the broad area of information retrieval.  ECIR provides an opportunity for both young and established researchers to present research papers reporting new, unpublished, and innovative research results and offers an opportunity to develop new networks and research partnerships.

Talking about the significance of the conference for Ireland, Professor Cathal Gurrin said: “This is only the second time ECIR has been held in Ireland and highlights Ireland’s strength in the areas of AI and information retrieval.  The conference is a wonderful opportunity for this engaged international community to meet, share ideas and develop partnerships. It presents an ideal opportunity for us to showcase Ireland’s strengths as an international ICT hub.”