PULP: A system for exploratory search of scientific literature

Alan Medlar, Kalle Ilves, Ping Wang, Wray Buntine, Dorota Głowacka

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

    27 Citations (Scopus)


    Despite the growing importance of exploratory search, information retrieval (IR) systems tend to focus on lookup search. Lookup searches are well served by optimising the precision and recall of search results, however, for exploratory search this may be counterproductive if users are unable to formulate an appropriate search query. We present a system called PULP that supports exploratory search for scientific literature, though the system can be easily adapted to other types of literature. PULP uses reinforcement learning (RL) to avert the user from context traps resulting from poorly chosen search queries, trading off between exploration (presenting the user with diverse topics) and exploitation (moving towards more specific topics). Where other RL-based systems suffer from the "cold start" problem, requiring sufficient time to adjust to a user's information needs, PULP initially presents the user with an overview of the dataset using temporal topic models. Topic models are displayed in an interactive alluvial diagram, where topics are shown as ribbons that change thickness with a given topics relative prevalence over time. Interactive, exploratory search sessions can be initiated by selecting topics as a starting point.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the 39th International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval (SIGIR 2016)
    EditorsJaved Aslam, Ian Ruthven, Justin Zobel
    Place of PublicationNew York, NY, USA
    PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
    Number of pages4
    ISBN (Print)9781450340694
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2016
    EventACM International Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval 2016 - Pisa, Italy
    Duration: 17 Jul 201621 Jul 2016
    Conference number: 39th


    ConferenceACM International Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval 2016
    Abbreviated titleSIGIR 2016
    Internet address


    • Exploratory search
    • Topic models
    • Bandit algorithms
    • Scientific literature search
    • Query formulation

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