Skip to content

Syracuse iSchool welcomes new faculty member and CNLP director Howard R. Turtle

The School of Information Studies (iSchool) at Syracuse University is pleased to announce the addition of Howard R. Turtle as a research associate professor and director of the Center for Natural Language Processing (CNLP). Turtle’s research interests include design and implementation of retrieval systems, operating system support for large databases, formal models for retrieval of complex objects, text representation techniques, automatic classification, text and data mining, and automated inference techniques. 

“I am thrilled to have Howard on our faculty and leading CNLP,” says Dean Elizabeth D. Liddy, who was the founding director of the center until her appointment as dean in 2008. “He is a nationally known scholar in search engine technologies who has designed and developed some exceptionally high performing search engines for a wide range of user populations. Howard will be bringing his expertise and practical experience into the classroom as well as the research center. I fully expect Howard to do great things for the center and for the iSchool.”

Turtle will build on the strong research base already established by CNLP, and his skill set complements the center’s existing strengths: large-scale statistical techniques, moving ideas from research into commercial products, and research that has a direct positive impact on users. He also says he would like to develop a course dealing with the theory and technology underlying modern search engines.

“The iSchool at Syracuse University is one of the strongest information science programs in the United States,” Turtle says. “It has a long history of leading edge research that uses technology to improve access to information and a long history of excellence in my specialty, information retrieval. I hope to help further that tradition of innovative research.”

In the field of information retrieval, Turtle developed a formal retrieval model based on Bayesian Inference Networks that formed the basis of the highly reputed University of Massachusetts’ INQUERY Information Retrieval (IR) System and of West Publishing’s natural language search product. Recently, he was actively involved in the development of Indri, an open source search engine based on language models and inference network operators, hosted on Source Forge.

Turtle’s recent professional work has been in technical consulting, primarily dealing with information retrieval system design and evaluation, text classification and mining, technology assessment, and intellectual property protection. His applied research projects have focused on faceted retrieval, geographic retrieval, range retrieval for typed data, and improved update and access concurrency.

Prior to his position at West, Turtle was chief scientist at Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), where he held corporate-wide responsibility for technology assessment, spear-headed activities of the full research programming staff, managed and conducted internal technical audits, and led the redesign of the entire OCLC system. In addition, Turtle represented OCLC on external technical standards groups such as X3T5.5 and National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD), and conducted research to analyze user behavior with interactive systems.

Prior to his time at OCLC, Turtle was a research scientist at Battelle Labs, where he designed and implemented software for their information retrieval system, free text search capability, online questionnaire facility, and participated in telecommunications consulting projects for corporate clients.

He earned a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where his advisor was Bruce Croft, generally considered the leading researcher in IR today. Turtle has published in ACM-Transactions on Information Systems, Artificial Intelligence, and Law Journal, Information Processing and Management, ACM-Special Interest Group on Information Retrieval, International Joint Conferences on Artificial Intelligence, Computer-Assisted Information Retrieval, American Society for Information Science and Technology, and the Text REtrieval Conference.

Turtle will join the iSchool full-time for the fall 2009 semester, but will work part time beginning in January, with some of his time spent here in Syracuse and some in Jackson, Wyoming.

“I’ve been very impressed with both the quality and collegiality of the iSchool faculty,” Howard says. “I look forward to being part of such a stimulating intellectual community. The faculty and the programs they’ve created have drawn a very talented group of students. It’s clear why the School is consistently top-ranked.”

Back to top