Here are some of the papers I found inspiring in recent months, in no particular order:
Meeting of the MINDS: An Information Retrieval Research Agenda
The IR group's output from the 2007 MINDS workshop sponsored by the Retrieval Group at NIST. What the heck is MINDS? Well, as I discovered it stands for a group of releated fields in Human Language Technologies (HLT): Machine Translation, Information Retrieval, Natural Language Processing, Data Resources, and Speech.
Challenges in Information Retrieval and Language Modeling
Report of a Workshop held at the CIIR, UMass, September 2002
The Happy Searcher: Challenges in Web Information Retrieval
From Google, the researchers outline a few methods where AI approaches could potentially benefit retrieval. (2004)
On a somewhat related note, I recently replied to a post by Daniel Lemire, More CS Ph.D.s than ever, what about research jobs? where I commented briefly about some of my motivations for grad school.
To end the year here's a quote from Liz Liddy, chair of SIGIR, from the December issue of the SIGIR forum:
In closing, let me say what I so frequently share with the doctoral students in our school – what a truly opportune time for each of us to have chosen the information field. We are indeed either fortunate or brilliant to have chosen to work in this field at a time when the importance of access to information is recognized by virtually everyone as being so vital in every domain... But as we relish the current accomplishments of our field and look with anticipation to an even more exciting future, it is important for us to remember and build upon what we learn from the work of the past.In this spirit, don't miss the executive summary from the MINDS workshop for an overview of the history of where we have been and what the future may hold.