IR for Children 2000-2020: Where Are We Now?

Co-located with the 44th International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval

July 15, 2021


Despite several large-scale efforts over the past two decades to develop sound IR systems for children, there remains no solution or roadmap to a solution in the area. During IR4Children, we seek to answer the question: why is this?

With this workshop, we want to bring together as many key experts as possible from research and industry who focus on IR for children to understand why, unlike other IR areas, this one has not flourished and look for the biggest challenges for the next 10 years. We are not only thinking of traditional researchers and designers, but also of those who develop and use IR systems for fields, such as in music, film, and education, as a way to push past this immobility and look at the problem from new, and perhaps more stimulating, perspectives.


Theo Huibers
University of Twente
Enschede, The Netherlands

Monica Landoni
Università della Svizzera Italiana
Lugano, Switzerland

Emiliana Murgia
Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca
Milano, Italy

Sole Pera
Boise State University
Boise, Idaho

Program Committee

We have gathered a program committee with the experience to examine submissions and value the respective possible contributions regarding informing workshop discussion on understanding the “status” of this particular area of study as well as helping shape future research agenda on this area.

We will include the full PC list within the next few days.


Below is the tentative schedule we envision for the workshop.

(All times are GMT+2)

Pre Workshop: A few days before the workshop takes place, we’ll ask participants to fill out a short questionnaire inquiring on “how far have we got since then and where we would like to be in 10 more years?” and “what did stop us from being already there?“. Responses will help us tailor workshop discussions.

Welcome & Introductions (16.00-16.15): A brief welcome
address, along with an overview of activities planned for the
workshop and tools that we will use to encourage interaction,
e.g., Miro and Zoom’s breakout rooms.

Overview (16.15-16.55): Keynote address

Professor Dania Bilal

School of Information Sciences– University of Tennessee-Knoxville


Research on children’s information interaction and retrieval has flourished in the past two decades. The rise of the Google search engine in the late 1990s revolutionized how people access, search, and retrieve information on the internet; its simple design and popularity have influenced the development of many IR systems. For children, Google remains the most preferred search engine, and its increased use in and outside of school has piqued interest among researchers in investigating children’s cognitive and emotional patterns in interacting with the engine. For example, in 2010, the SIG IR Workshop on Accessible Search Systems featured state-of-the-art research on children’s information interaction with different search systems. In a similar vein, the ubiquitous use of social media among children has driven researchers to explore children’s information interaction in various media platforms, unveiling emotional, social, and information literacy concerns, as well as design issues. Most recently, there has been a focus on interaction with conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI), such as chatbots and voice digital assistants. Nonetheless, the body of research on children’s information interaction with IR systems is relatively small, compared to that in the information retrieval and human information behavior fields.

While the past decade brought strides in the design of human-centered IR systems accessible to children (e.g., auto-complete or predictive text, query suggestions, spelling corrections, relevance ranking, suggestions for related or similar searches, and rich snippets), much work is still needed.

The introduction of AI-driven solutions (e.g., robots; drones) in school and the increasing usage of smartphones among people of all age groups, including children, could lead to a new paradigm in children’s information interaction research and theory in the next few years. Such a paradigm might necessitate ideations among scholars and system designers to develop creative and innovative solutions for designing adaptable child-centered IR systems.

In this presentation, Professor Dania Bilal will share her perspectives on the growth of the field of research in children’s information interaction with IR systems, address issues and challenges in the current research landscape and design of IR systems for children, and highlight Where We Are and Where We Should Be in the next decade.  

Lightning Round (17.00-18.00): Presentations of accepted contributions. Presentations will last 5 minutes followed by 2-3 minutes for Q&A. These presentations serve as a conduit so that workshop participants are aware of each others’ interests and expertise.

Discussion (18.00-18.30): Discussions in various groups to
identify the most important research questions for the next
ten years.

Outcomes (18.30-19.15): Joint discussion to merge findings
from small-group work, resulting in a research agenda for
the next 10 years for children and IR.

Wrap (19.15-19.30): Final notes emerging from the day’s group
work. Plans for next steps.

Important Dates

Paper submission deadline (extended):

May 4   May 11

Submission of the form indicating interest in participating:

May 18

Notification to authors:

June 1

Submissions camera ready:

June 15

SIGIR conference:

July 11-15, 2021


July 15, 2021

Call for Contributions/Participants

Call for Contributions

We welcome submissions of vision papers focusing on past experiences, ongoing projects, and future directions related to IR systems for whom children are the target audience. 

Submissions should be at most 4 pages in length single-blind and be submitted via EasyChair.

Submission templates:

(*) For LaTeX or LaTeX Overleaf, use “manuscript” to create a single column format: \documentclass[sigconf, manuscript]{acmart}. 

Accepted contributions, selected through peer-review, will be published on the workshop website.

Call for Participants

If you do not have a current contribution to submit, but you would still like to join the conversation that will take place during the workshop, please complete this form.

Note that at least 1 of the authors of the accepted contributions, as well as all interested participants who submitted the form, must register for the workshop (registration information is available at ACM SIGIR website).

Topics of Interest

Topics for contribution include, but are not limited to:

  • Understanding the effects of domain expertise, age, user experience, and cognitive abilities on search goals and results evaluation
  • Non-topical aspects of relevance: text style, readability, appropriateness of language (harassment and explicit content detection), alignment with the context of the search.
  • Considering biases and transparency in Web searching.
  • Development of test collections for evaluation of classroom-related IR systems, understanding of search behavior of users with specific classroom-related needs, web search from a teacher’s standpoint, and other topics related to IR in the classroom and IR systems supporting learning.
  • Collaborative search techniques for assisting users with specific needs (e.g. parents helping children).
  • Domain-specific use cases for IR systems for children.
  • Multimedia search: audio, video, images, and their impact on the search experience.
  • New frameworks to model the searching for learning vs. searching for pleasure paradigms.
  • Beyond Cranfield, moving on to online evaluation, task-based, session-based, multi-turn, interactive search.
  • One size does not fit all when it comes to children:
  • Considerations pertaining to IR systems supporting learning

Contact Information

Email: workshop (@)