A screenshot of the Zoom call of the last PIReT meeting.

Things change. Seasons end, and new ones emerge.

In 2016, I joined Boise State University, and founded the People and Information Research Team with Sole Pera. This was the first (only?) multi-PI research group in the department, and one of a very small number of multi-PI recommender systems groups in the US.

In our 7-year run, we’ve graduated (or will soon graduate) about 20 students, published over 100 papers of various kinds, and engaged in numerous other endeavors. Some were joint, such as co-chairing RecSys 2018; others were one or the other of us with the PIReTs serving as a home base, cheerleading team, and sounding board to refine and improve the ideas, such as the FAccTRec and KidRec workshop series.

I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished through the group. I’ve also grown a lot through these years and through my ongoing discussions with Sole about how to support our students and how do effective research. Collaborative mentoring is a fantastic thing — no one really teaches us how to advise graduate students, so being able to do it in a context where another professor has a high degree of visibility into your student’s work and successes and struggles, and you can discuss how best to support them, is immensely valuable. I’m a significantly better researcher, scholar, teacher, and adviser because of the time that we’ve spent leading this little crew together.

But the time has come to bring the PIReT ship to port and take down the sails. Today was the last regular group meeting. It isn’t completely done yet, as I have two grad students who will finish under its banner later this year, and papers in the pipeline that will still be under its auspices. When Sole moved to TU Delft last summer, we discussed quite a bit what to do with the group; she stayed involved remotely this year while we figured out the next steps and the students who started while she was here (and for some of whom she’s on their committees) finished.

The conclusion of “what’s next for the group?” is that it’s also time for me to leave Boise. Jennifer and I are moving to Philadelphia this summer, where I will be joining the Drexel University Department of Information Science. I’m really excited about this opportunity, and the interdisciplinary IS environment will be a very good context to continue to grow and to develop my scholarship in the directions I think it needs to go to meaningfully advance the science of socially-responsible information access.

The PIReT logo

The PIReT flag is a grouping that best describes what we built at Boise State, and while we might use it to brand some future collaborative work neither of us plan to use it as a group name going forward. It wouldn’t make sense for one thing — she’s in the Web & Information Science group, and I’m joining an information science department, so while “people and information research” set our lab apart in a computer science context, it’s an accurate descriptor for everything happening in our respective new departments. (I don’t have a name for my new lab at Drexel yet.)

We spent the group meeting today reflecting on where the group has been and where we’re each going. It was a good time; there are definitely feelings about the fact that the ship is sailing its last voyage, but I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished with it, and I’m excited for what’s next in my career, in Sole’s, and in our students’. This is also just the end of a label, not the collaboration — Sole and I plan to keep working on things together (hashtag acabesties?), so stay tuned for more research and maybe some collaborative service ☺️. And you can find Sole’s reflections on the birdsite.

In the words of a particular hobbit, “I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.” And go Phillies!