There is currently much interest and activity aimed at building powerful multi-purpose information systems. The agencies involved include DARPA, ARDA and NIST. Their programmes, for example DARPA's TIDES (Translingual Information Detection Extraction and Summarization) programme, ARDA's Advanced Question & Answering Program and NIST's TREC (Text Retrieval Conferences) programme cover a range of subprogrammes. These focus on different tasks requiring their own evaluation designs.
Within TIDES and among other researchers interested in document understanding, a group grew up which has been focusing on summarization and the evaluation of summarization systems. Part of the initial evaluation for TIDES called for a workshop to be held in the fall of 2000 to explore different ways of summarizing a common set of documents. Additionally a road mapping effort was started in March of 2000 to lay plans for a long-term evaluation effort in summarization.
Out of the initial workshop and the roadmapping effort has grown a continuing evaluation in the area of text summarization called the Document Understanding Conferences (DUC). Sponsored by the Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA), the conference series is run by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to further progress in summarization and enable researchers to participate in large-scale experiments.