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Time-Critical Search

Nina Mishra, Ryen White, Samuel Ieong, and Eric Horvitz


We study time-critical search, where users have urgent information needs in the context of an acute problem. As examples, users may need to know how to stem a severe bleed, help a baby who is choking on a foreign object, or respond to an epileptic seizure. While time-critical situations and actions have been studied in the realm of decision-support systems, little has been done with time-critical search and retrieval, and little direct support is offered by search systems. Critical challenges with time-critical search include accurately inferring when users have urgent needs and providing relevant information that can be understood and acted upon quickly. We leverage surveys and search log data from a large mobile search provider to (a) characterize the use of search engines for time-critical situations, and (b) develop predictive models to accurately predict urgent information needs, given a query and a diverse set of features spanning topical, temporal, behavioral, and geospatial attributes. The methods and findings highlight opportunities for extending search and retrieval to consider the urgency of queries.


Publication typeInproceedings
Published inSIGIR (Information retrieval)
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