One of the main activities of AgentLink has been to establish a number of special interest groups (SIGs). A SIG is a group of researchers and developers sharing an interest in a specific sub-area of agent technology. SIGs are funded to meet once or twice annually; so far, AgentLink has been able to fund between 10-15 AgentLink members to attend each SIG meeting, and typically, the same number fund themselves to attend. SIGs are not established in a top-down manner: they are formed as a result of unsolicited, refereed proposals made by AgentLink members. AgentLink will continue this activity, with the aims being:

  • to facilitate the development of communities around specific areas of strategic importance for European agent R&D, enabling them to share common problems, issues, and results in
    a manner that other forums (e.g., academic workshops and conferences) do not allow;
  • to develop and update the technological roadmap;
  • to provide the AgentLink management committee with ``bottom-up'' input to its decision-making process, and hence ensure that the strategic direction of the network is reactive
    to the needs of its members.

In the SIGs, members from industry and academia come together. Therefore, the SIGs are the place where requirements identified within the industrialist community can be drawn to the attention of the academic community.

In order to realise these aims, the following programme of work will be carried out:

Application area special interest groups

Application area SIGs are intended to focus on promising application areas for agent technology. Such SIGs formed so far within AgentLink include

In addition, SIGs will be encouraged to find support from other (national and European) sources in addition to AgentLink, and to form collaborations for projects, particularly with respect to the IST programme.

Research area special interest groups

AgentLink also instigated a number of research SIGs. These SIGs are collections of nodes of AgentLink, working on closely related underlying
technologies. Such SIGs established in AgentLink include:

The SIG infrastructure will (indirectly) promote collaborative projects by putting groups with related interests in touch with one-another, providing information about national and international project support for these areas of interest, workshops and conferences of interest, and so on. Other support will be provided in the form of funding to support meetings of the SIGs and dissemination of information. Requests for support of research SIGs will be directed to the workpackage coordinator, who will make
recommendations to the management team. Preference will be given to groups in new and promising areas of development, and to SIGs that form new collaborations. Information on research SIGs will be made available via the AgentLink WWW site, and in hardcopy format to nodes within AgentLink on an annual basis. Research SIGs supported by AgentLink will be required, as a condition of funding, to write an annual report on the SIGs
activities, for subsequent inclusion in the AgentLink newsletter and the AgentLink WWW site. Each SIG will have a chair person, responsible for liaising with AgentLink and managing the activities of the SIG. The chair of each SIG will sit on the AgentLink management committee.

Inter-network SIGs

One aspect of AgentLink's activities that have proved to be of great interest to the wider IT and telecomms communities was a number of meetings held in cooperation with other networks of excellence - in particular, COMPULOG (the network of excellence for computational logic) and I3NET (the network of excellence for intelligent information interfaces). These meetings provided researchers and developers working in both communities with the opportunity to meet, exchange ideas, and identify issues of common interest. This activity area will be continued and expanded.

The Technological Roadmap

The key deliverable of the SIGs will be the technological roadmap. The aim of the AgentLink technological roadmap is to provide a focussed, up-to-date assessment of how the agent field can and should develop. In so doing, it will specify:

  • briefly, the background to agent technology - where it came from, what it is all about;
  • the state of the art in agent technology - where we are today, in terms of technology and applications, including commercial success stories and failures;
  • long-term vision for the field - where will we be if agent technology succeeds? what is the long term problem (or whatever that agents are trying to solve? what commercial opportunities can be expected from this success? what social impact (if any) will the success of agent technology have? what other impact will the success of agent technology have?
  • what the technology gaps are, between the state of the art and the
    long-term vision; what problems do we need to solve in order to realise the long-term vision? what different techniques are being applied in order to bridge these gaps? what are the most promising of these, and what are their drawbacks?
  • a discussion of the implications of the study in specific terms for each set of stakeholders, for example:
    • what regulatory implications are there?
    • what are the implications for research (e.g., content gaps, funding gaps, etc)?
    • what are the implications for industry (e.g., skills gaps, collaboration opportunities, etc)?

Implications analysis should also include the consequences of not implementing the recommendations.

The roadmap document will be read by three groups of individuals:

  • R&D policy makers at the European Commission;
  • industrial members of AgentLink (typically technology-aware managers);
  • academic members of AgentLink.

Each of these will cite the document in order to support claims with respect to directions that agent technology can/should go, and the important issues facing the field.

Any member of AgentLink can propose a SIG. Information on how to do this is available in AgentLink document 1998-003.txt. There is an ongoing call for SIG proposals. SIGs will be evaluated by the following broad criteria:


AgentLink is the European Commission's IST-funded Coordination Action for Agent-Based Computing
and is coordinated by the
University of Liverpool and University of Southampton
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