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An ever-increasing amount of valuable information is stored in Web databases, "hidden" behind search interfaces. To save the user's effort in manually exploring each database, metasearchers automatically select the most relevant databases to a user's query. In this paper, we focus on one of the technical challenges in metasearching, namely database selection. Past research uses a precollected summary of each database to estimate its "relevancy" to the query, and in many cases make incorrect database selection. In this paper, we propose two techniques: probabilistic relevancy modelling and adaptive probing. First, we model the relevancy of each database to a given query as a probabilistic distribution, derived by sampling that database. Using the probabilistic model, the user can explicitly specify a desired level of certainty for database selection. The adaptive probing technique decides which and how many databases to contact in order to satisfy the user's requirement. Our experiments on real hidden-Web databases indicate that our approach significantly improves the accuracy of database selection at the cost of a small number of database probing.
Date of Conference: 30 March-2 April 2004