May 27, 2022

USC’s Information Sciences Institute Awarded $16.7 Million Grant to Develop Translation and Information-Retrieval System for Uncommon Languages

From University of Southern California (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering:

A team of researchers from the Information Sciences Institute at USC Viterbi has received a $16.7 million grant from the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) [a part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence] to develop an automated information translation and summarization tool to quickly translate obscure languages.


Principal investigator and ISI research team leader Scott Miller, ISI computer scientist Jonathan May, ISI research lead Elizabeth Boschee—with senior advisors Prem Natarajan, ISI’s Michael Keston executive director and research professor of computer science, and Kevin Knight, ISI research director and Dean’s professor of computer science—are leading a team of about 30 researchers, including academics from the University of Massachusetts, Northeastern University, MIT, RPI, and the University of Notre Dame.


The ISI team’s project is called SARAL, which stands for Summarization and domain-Adaptive Retrieval (a Hindi word whose translations include “simple” and “ingenious”), and includes experts in machine translation, speech recognition, morphology, information retrieval, representation, and summarization.

“The overall objective is to provide a Google-like capability, except the queries are in English but the retrieved documents are in a low-resource foreign language,” says Miller, who is based at ISI’s newest office in Boston, MA.


In this project, the ISI team will initially test their systems using Tagalog and Swahili, two low-resource languages selected by IARPA for the task. Over the course of the project, the team will receive additional languages to translate using the systems.


In addition to ISI, a number of universities and research institutions will work towards the same goal: John Hopkins, Columbia University, and Raytheon BBN Technologies are also taking part in the IARPA program, called MATERIAL, which stands for Machine Translation for English Retrieval of Information in Any Language.

Read the Complete Report

Learn More: Visit the IARPA Website


About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.