Like the Internet itself, early research in the field of automatic information extraction was driven by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Department of Defense (DOD) and CIA were worried about their ability to read and summarize electronic documents, particularly those in foreign languages. Could the agencies comb through all documents electronically, as the number of documents grew, instead of using humans? Working with the DOD and the CIA, DARPA created the Tipster program, a research project with three principal objectives:
Finding documents containing information of interest from a stream of text going by (such as an e-mail) or a group of documents that somebody might have “acquired.”
Locating specific information within a large collection of text.
Extracting the key ideas that summarized a text.
DARPA started Tipster in 1991, before the modern Internet emerged. Annual workshops called the Text Retrieval Conference (TREC) were instated to encourage academic and industrial research and provide a standard mechanism for evaluating programs. Each year DARPA chose a “track” or target and provided sample data to facilitate testing.
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