The PIM Workshop
An NSF-Sponsored Invitational Workshop on Personal Information Management

January 27-29, 2005, Seattle, Washington
at the Watertown Hotel


William Jones, Harry Bruce, Nicholas Belkin, Victoria Bellotti, Susan Dumais, Jonathan Grudin, Jacek Gwizdka, Alon Halevy, David Karger, David Levy, Manuel Perez-Quinones, Jef Raskin


Karen Erickson


Personal information management or PIM is attracting increasing attention as an area of study. In the ideal world, we have the right information at the right time, in the right place, in the right form, and of sufficient completeness and quality to perform the current activity. Tools and technologies help so that we spend less time with burdensome and error prone actions of information management (such as filing). We then have more time to make creative, intelligent use of the information at hand in order to get things done.

But significant challenges must be met if PIM is to approach this ideal. For example, information that people need to complete a task is often scattered across locations and devices. Information is further fragmented across separate organizational schemes – for paper, electronic documents, email, web references, etc.

The study of PIM itself is often fragmented in similar ways. Some research focuses on email; other research focuses on the use of the web; other research on the organization of paper and electronic documents; still other research focuses on the use of mobile devices. Good research relating to PIM can be found in several current NSF programs and comes from a number of disciplines including information retrieval, database management, human-computer interaction and artificial intelligence.

The need. There is a critical need for an integrative gathering of people involved in PIM-related research. To this end, we are organizing a Workshop on Personal Information Management. Workshop participants will be selected to represent a range of perspectives on PIM and areas of expertise that are needed to make real progress in PIM. The workshop will take stock of PIM as a need and as a field of inquiry with special focus on the ways in which computing technology can help.

Workshop objectives . Objectives of the workshop include:

  • Examining what PIM is as a field of inquiry. What should it encompass?
  • Determining what good and better PIM looks like. How do we measure?
  • Establishing key problems and challenges that must be met if we are to make progress in PIM.
  • Identifying promising approaches to PIM (that may meet these challenges).
  • Fostering a research community for the field of PIM inquiry.

Intellectual merit. Notwithstanding the obvious importance of PIM, the field of PIM research is currently fragmented. The workshop will bring together acknowledged leaders involved in PIM-related research. The workshop will produce a detailed report outlining a roadmap for PIM research and describing: 1.) the current state of PIM as a practice and a field of research. 2.) major challenges that must be addressed if PIM is to improve and if the field is to advance. 3.) approaches that promise to meet these challenges and specific suggestions on how these approaches can be nurtured. The report will be widely disseminated and is expected to have a major influence on the conceptualization of PIM and on the direction of PIM research.

Broader Impacts. The workshop will play a major, “prime mover” role in fostering a greater sense of a PIM research community and outlining important directions in PIM research over the coming years. The expected advances in PIM will yield large and varied benefits: 1.) For each of us as individuals, better PIM means a better use of our precious resources (time, money, energy, attention) and, ultimately, a better quality to our lives. 2.) Within organizations, better PIM means better employee productivity and better team work in the near-term. In the long-run, PIM is also key to the management and leverage of employee expertise. And advances in the field PIM research translate into 3.) improvements in education programs that focus on information literacy and 4.) better support for our aging workforce and population.

It is critical that people not be “left behind” by advances in PIM. Special care will be taken, in the selection of workshop participants and in the content of the final report, to represent a diversity of user needs including the needs of minorities, the economically disadvantaged, students, the elderly and the disabled.