GSLIS Assistant Professor Miles Efron has been chosen by the Alumni Association Board of the School of Information and Library Science (SILS), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as their latest featured alumnus. After graduating from SILS in 2003, Efron has conducted research in information retrieval (IR) with a focus on projects related to microblogging and the digital humanities:
"Most of my research focuses on learning to make search engines better," says Efron. While a lot of IR research has to do with complex statistical modeling, Efron says it always comes back to the people who are using the search engine. "Last semester I taught a Ph.D. seminar called 'human-centered information retrieval,' a term coined by Gary Marchionini." Marchionini, is the dean of SILS and Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor. "Human-centered information retrieval is concerned with considering peoples’ talents and idiosyncrasies as an integral part of the search process."
Also central to search and to Efron’s work is the problem of time.
"One of the key problems in IR is making our predictions of document relevance more accurate," said Efron. "Right now, a lot of my work deals with using time as a feature in relevance prediction. The objects we deal with in IR—languages, collections, documents, information needs—all change over time. This can be problematic. But I think it can also be informative. Change is meaningful, and meaning is often forms the crux of relevance."
In his research, Efron studies statistical aspects of information retrieval. He currently is focusing on how temporal information can improve the effectiveness of search engines. This work has impact on well-studied areas like web search. Efron also is working with emerging domains such as search over social media and information retrieval in collections of digitized books.