The Starting Artificial Intelligence Researchers Symposium (STAIRS-2002) was held in Lyon, France, on 22 to 23 July 2002 (Vidal and Liberatore 2002). (1) STAIRS was a stand-alone conference but was affiliated with the European Conference on Artificial Intelligence (ECAI-2002), which took place at the same venue. It was the first international congress, with edited and published proceedings, specifically aimed at Ph.D students and recent Ph.D holders in all areas of AI. It offered them, on the one hand, a first experience in submitting and presenting a paper in an international forum with a broad scope and thorough selection process and, on the other hand, the opportunity to exchange ideas related not only to their research problems and approaches but also to their future scientific career.
The format of the conference included paper presentations in thematic sessions, a poster session, two invited talks, and a panel session. The program was set up by an international program committee consisting of confirmed junior researchers, covering all domains of AI, and the organization committee, also made up of young scientists, took care of the logistics and social aspects, in close collaboration with the ECAI Organization Committee. Another goal of STAIRS was indeed to offer researchers who have recently completed their Ph.D. and started a well-established career a thorough experience in putting together all the issues related to an international event with a broad thematic scope. Thierry Vidal, from ENIT, Tarbes, France, and Paolo Liberatore, from University La Sapienza, Rome, Italy, were the cochairs of the Program Committee. Nathalie Guin-Duclosson, from University Claude Bernard, Lyon, France, chaired the Organization Committee.
Technical and Social Programs
From 64 submissions, the Program Committee selected 21 papers and 9 posters of high technical quality, covering a wide range of topics, including multiagent systems, natural language processing, learning, information retrieval, uncertainty management, constraint programming, and intelligent user interfaces. A distinction has been made between classical theoretical works and contributions dealing with applications of AI techniques in industrial projects. The latter were identified as application papers. Six such papers appeared in the paper sessions, and two more in the poster session, addressing applications from estimation of pollution solubility in wastewater or planning and optimizing in sheet metal bending to behavioral multiagent simulation of an active telecommunications network or knowledge discovery in steel industry measurement.
Interestingly enough, even the poster session was very successful. Although the papers had shown flaws that prevented them from being included in the proceedings, the works carried out were impressive, and the authors were very enthusiastic in explaining their approach to a large number of interested attendees. The best example is probably the work by Marta Sabou (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands) on creating portals using lightweight ontologies. Her presentation attracted many people during the two days, Sabou being one of the most passionate and involved students in the exchanges during the plenary sessions.
The technical program was completed by two invited talks. The first one was a general-scope tutorial entitled "How not to Give a Talk," given by Eugene Freuder, from 4C, Cork, Ireland. It gave Ph.D. students (and others ...) crucial keys into the usual errors and blunders one can make when presenting research work. The aim of the second invited talk, which had been jointly selected by the STAIRS and ECAI program committees, was to exhibit a challenging, impressive, and comprehensive work carried out by a brilliant young scientist. Sebastian Thrun, associate professor of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, appeared to be the best candidate for such a purpose. …