(invitation to the Query Log Analysis workshop, authored by Einat Amitay, IBM Research, Haifa, Israel)

The dilemma of whether to use or not to use the AOL query log data for research is described in detail in a NYTimes article: “Researchers Yearn to Use AOL Logs, but They Hesitate“. Search Engine companies no longer support independent academic research and have stopped sharing their data with graduate students and university professors. The hesitation and the data embargo are stopping research from being conducted, which in turn increases the gap between what is known to the public via published research and what is hidden behind corporate legalese.

We initiated this workshop thinking that WWW 2007 is the right place to open this issue and find a solution that will allow researchers to use query log data without the fear of being accused of a crime.

There are many ways in which we can help amend the situation. We can establish a research collection of query logs donated by consenting individual users. We can create a standard for accepting or rejecting log recording similar to the robots.txt solution. We can promote research for anonymization of logs. And we can help persuade the public that our intentions are good and that search engines live and die by their data.

We hope to have all sides represented in our workshop. Please come and join us!