EACL Newsletter

Issue 11

September 2009

Table of Contents
  1. Editorial
  2. View from the Chair
  3. EACL Board
  4. Report on EACL 2009
  5. Report on ACL-IJCNLP-09
  6. Report on RANLP 2009
  7. Report on ESSLLI 2009
  8. Calendar


Welcome to the EACL newsletter for year 2009. In the time that has passed since the last issue, several exciting events related to our community have taken place in Europe and the world. We are reporting on this below. But first of all, let us start with some announcements of interest.

The 12th conference of the EACL has taken place this year in Athens, Greece. Alex Lascarides, EACL's former chair, reports on this important event below. Meanwhile we are planning EACL 2012, for which we have received three bids. We are curious about the outcome.

Some new people have joined the advisory board and the student board of EACL. Joakim Nivre, EACL's secretary, has written a welcome section introducing the new members.

To start with our list of events, this year we have had a very exciting edition of the ACL 2009 conference, which was jointly hosted by ACL and IJCNLP. The conference was held in Singapore. This newsletter contains a detailed report about the conference, written by Keh-Yih Su, General Chair of ACL-IJNLP-09. We also have a report on RANLP 2009, which took place in  Borovets, Bulgaria, written by Galia Angelova, Chair of the Organising Committee, and Ruslan Mitkov, Chair of the Programme Committee. Finally, we report on ESSLLI'09, which took place in Bordeaux, France, written by Uwe Mönnich, Chair of the ESSLLI'09 programme committee.

As every year, the student board has carefully edited a dense calendar of events of interest that will soon take place, not limited to Europe. The document is now available in the EACL home page, and we provide a link at the end of the newsletter. The calendar will be continuously updated in the months to come.

Marie-Francine Moens

View From The Chair

In the year that has just passed since the last newsletter, EACL has been involved in several main activities: the computational linguistics field is extremely active and expanding at an unprecedented rate in the Old Continent, and the EACL board has been kept very busy.  At the same time, the board needs to be very attentive to these changes and new opportunities.  I will not report here on all of the board most recent activities, projects and discussions, since the list is too long.  But I do want to focus on two main issues regarding conference activities.

First of all, in year 2010 Europe is hosting the 48th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, which will be held jointly with EACL in Uppsala, Sweden, on July 11–16.  The conference is being organized by the Department of Linguistics and Philology at Uppsala University, and will take place at Uppsala University Campus, in a genuine university environment, dating back as far as 1477.  The city also holds a rich history, having for long periods been the political, religious and academic center of Sweden.  The local organisers, chaired by Joakim Nivre, are doing a fantastic job to provide a perfect setting for this conference.

The ACL exec, the EACL board and the ACL 2010 PC chairs have all been concerned with diversifying the types of research that will be represented at the ACL 2010 main programme. If you feel that your work doesn't conform to the methodologies that are dominant among recent ACL papers, but is nonetheless centered to important themes in natural language, then please don't hesitate to submit to ACL 2010! The PC chairs are doing their best to provide a broad main programme and, together with the area chairs, they will ensure that reviewing is rigorously evaluated against appropriate criteria.  To this end, significant changes have been made to the review form, to reflect the fact that a single set of rigid criteria cannot fit all papers.  I want to strongly encourage all of you to submit your best works to this conference!

As a second issue, in 2009 we have had the 12th Conference of EACL, which took place in Athens from March 30th to April 3rd 2009. As you will read from the report by the general conference chair Alex Lascarides below, this has been an extremely successful event, the largest EACL ever with over 500 people registered and with a record in both number of paper submissions and papers presented in the main conference programme.

For the first time in the history of EACL conferences, in addition to papers being presented through the usual 25 minute talks, at EACL 2009 several main conference papers were delivered via posters plus a 10 minute talk.  Apart from the presentation mode, these two kinds of papers have had the same status within the conference programme, and no distinction has been made in the conference proceedings between them.  This change has been very well received by people attending the conference.  EACL intends to experiment with this in the future editions of the conference.

To conclude, some acknowledgments.  There have been a number of changes among EACL's board members.  I would like to express the warmest welcome on board to chair-elect Sien Moens, secretary Joakim Nivre, advisory board member Toni Marti, and student board members Marta Recasens Potau and Mattias Nilsson. At the same time I would like to thank Alex Lascarides, Anette Frank, Paola Merlo, Vera Demberg and Yanjun Ma, whose tenure on the board has ceased at the beginning of year 2009.  A very special personal thank you to Alex Lascarides, the former EACL chair, for her fantastic work in guiding the EACL board in the past years, and for her continuous help with several EACL matters.  Alex: I hope I have learned from you!

Giorgio Satta

EACL Board

The current EACL board is as follows:

Giorgio Satta (University of Padua, Italy)
Chair elect:
Sien Moens (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium)
Mike Rosner (University of Malta, Malta)
Joakim Nivre (Uppsala University and Växjö University, Sweden)
Advisory Board:
Eric Gaussier (Joseph Fourier University, Grenoble, France)
Toni Martí (Universitat de Barcelona, Spain)
Kiril Simov (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia, Bulgaria)
Josef van Genabith (Dublin City University, Ireland)
Nominating committee:
Anette Frank (University of Heidelberg, Germany)
Alex Lascarides (University of Edinburgh, UK)
Gertjan van Noord (University of Groningen, The Netherlands)
Felisa Verdejo (Ciudad Universitaria Madrid, Spain)
Student board:
Mattias Nilsson (Uppsala University, Sweden)
Marta Recasens Potau (University of Barcelona, Spain)
Nils Reiter (University of Heidelberg, Germany)

Below, the new EACL officers introduce themselves with a short bio.

Sien Moens, Chair elect:

Sien (Marie-Francine) Moens is a research professor (BOF-ZAP) at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. She received a PhD in Computer Science in 1999 from this university. She teaches the courses Text Based Information Retrieval and Natural Language Processing at this university. She leads a research team of 10 researchers specialised in information retrieval and text analysis. She is author of two monographs published by Springer, (co)-editor of 12 books and proceedings, (co)-author of 25 journal articles, 20 book chapters and 70 refereed conference papers. She is involved in the organization or program committee of major conferences on computational linguistics and information retrieval (SIGIR, EACL, ECIR, CIKM). Her main interests are in the domain of automated content retrieval from text using a combination of statistical, machine learning and symbolic techniques, and exploiting insights from linguistic and cognitive theories.

Joakim Nivre, Secretary:

Joakim Nivre is Professor of Computational Linguistics at Uppsala University and Växjö University, Sweden. He received a PhD in General Linguistics in 1992 from the University of Gothenburg and a PhD in Computer Science in 2005 from Växjö University. He is Deputy Director of the Swedish Graduate School in Language Technology (GSLT), Treasurer of the Northern European Association for Language Technology (NEALT) and Secretary of the ACL Special Interest Group on Natural Language Learning (SIGNLL). His list of publications includes three books, eight journal articles, and over sixty refereed conference papers. He has served on the program committees of all major conferences in computational linguistics, he was Program Co-Chair (with Claire Gardent) for EACL 2009 in Athens, and he is the Local Chair for ACL 2010 in Uppsala, Sweden. His main research interests are in data-driven models for syntactic and semantic analysis, in particular methods for robust and efficient dependency parsing.

Toni Martí, Advisory board:

M.Antònia Martí is professor of Linguistics at the Department of General Linguistics at the Universitat de Barcelona since 1988. Her area of research is Computational Linguistics. She teaches at the interuniversitary PhD. Programs Cognitive Science and Language, and Linguistics and Communication. Her research focuses in Computational Semantics and Pragmatics, specifically in Word Sense Disambiguation, Coreference Resolution and Paraphrasing. She has been President of the Spanish Society for Natural Language Processing (SEPLN) between 1990 and 1996. Since 1998 she is the director of CLiC (Centre de Llenguatge i Computació), a research group at the Universitat de Barcelona.

Mattias Nilsson, Student board:

Mattias Nilsson is PhD student at Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden. He received a MSc in Computational Linguistics from this university in 2006 for a thesis on memory load in human parsing. Mattias' main research interests are in cognitive models of human language processing and his current work focuses on computational models of eye movement control during reading using machine learning techniques.

Marta Recasens Potau, Student board:

Marta Recasens is a PhD student at the University of Barcelona (Department of Linguistics), Spain. She joined the CLiC research group in Computational Linguistics in 2007, after completing a degree in English Philology, and her research has been focused on coreference resolution for Spanish and Catalan under the supervision of M. Antònia Martí and Eduard Hovy. During the first two years, she worked on the coreference annotation of the AnCora corpora (400k words). She recently returned from a stay at the Information Sciences Institute of the University of Southern California, during which she did research on machine learning for coreference resolution, evaluation measures, as well as theoretical issues behind the linguistic definition of coreference.

Joakim Nivre

Report on EACL 2009

EACL 2009 took place in Athens from March 30th to April 3rd 2009. It consisted of four tutorials, ten workshops and a main conference programme, including a student research workshop and demos session. It was the largest EACL ever, with over 500 people registered and also with more papers presented than ever before in the main conference programme. Organising such a big conference takes a massive number of volunteers. There were some eight committees of varying size dealing with: the main programme, the demo sessions, student research workshop, tutorials, workshops, sponsorship, publications and last but definitely not least local organisation. As general chair, I was blessed with fantastic people on all these committees, making my job ridiculously easy. I'm very grateful to them all.

Joakim Nivre and Claire Gardent, the programme chairs, worked hard to design both the call for papers and the reviewing process so as to encourage a more diverse technical programme than we have seen in recent ACLs and EACLs. For the first time, EACL main conference papers were delivered via posters plus a 10 minute talk, as well as via the usual 25 minute talks. This enabled us to increase the acceptance rate without stretching the conference out into a 10 day event! Also, for the first time in ACL's history, the proceedings did not include the schedule. This was done deliberately, so that on cannot tell from the proceedings itself whether a paper was presented as a 25 minute talk or as a poster. This is designed to remove the usual stigma that goes with presenting a poster. I found the poster session to be highly stimulating, and I very much hope that future EACLs will continue to experiment with it.

The tutorial programme was especially strong this year, but unfortunately the take up from attendees was very low in spite of this. In future, EACL should perhaps consider how they want to take the tutorial programme forward. For instance, it may be necessary to avoid a schedule clash with workshops, much like ACL conferences do.

The conference venue was extremely grand, and also expensive! So in spite of the highest ever income from registrations together with the highest ever income from local sponsorship (thanks to the talented Vangelis Karkaletsis and Stelios Piperidis more than doubling their target), we made a very tiny profit. But the conference setting was fantastic, and I feel sure that almost everyone who attended appreciated the surroundings.

I need to give a special mention to the local organising team, who were excellent in every way and a total pleasure to work with. The local chair Vangelis Karkaletsis, the co-chairs Ion Androutsopoulos and Stelios Piperidis and their extensive team of volunteers (both staff and students) worked for over two years on an overwhelming number of tasks, ranging from liaising with the conference venue to catering, printing, publicity and local sponsorship. They dealt brilliantly with every problem that was flung at them, including a general strike in Athens on day 3 of the conference. One cannot wish for a better team of people. I owe them a massive debt.

Alex Lascarides,
General Chair, EACL 2009

Report on ACL-IJCNLP-09

ACL-IJCNLP-09 was held in Singapore during 2-7 August, 2009. This is the first joint conference sponsored by ACL (The Association for Computational Linguistics) and AFNLP (Asian Federation of Natural Language Processing). The idea to have a joint conference between ACL and AFNLP was first discussed at ACL-05 (Ann Arbor, Michigan) between Martha Palmer, Benjamin Tsou, Jun’ichi Tsujii and Keh-Yih Su (who were ACL President, AFNLP President, Vice President, and Conference Coordinating Committee Chair, also the Secretary General, respectively, at that time). We are glad that the original idea has become true four years later and even the affiliation relationship between these two organizations has been built up now.

In this joint conference, we have tried to mix the spirit from both ACL and AFNLP (we have one co-chair from Asia and one co-chair from US/Europe for each position, except the general chair), and Singapore, which itself has mixed cultures from various Eastern and Western regions, is certainly a wonderful place to see how different languages meet each other. The conference organizers are as follows: Jan Wiebe and Jian Su (Program Chairs), Haizhou Li (Local Arrangements Chair), Minghui Dong (Webmaster), Gary Geunbae Lee and Sabine Schulte im Walde (Demo Chairs), Timothy Baldwin and Philipp Koehn (Exhibits Chairs), Hwee Tou Ng and Florence Reeder (Mentoring Service Chairs), Jing-Shin Chang and Regina Barzilay (Publication Chairs), Min-Yen Kan and Andy Way (Publicity Chairs), Hitoshi Isahara and Kim-Teng Lua (Sponsorship Chairs), Davis Dimalen, Jenny Rose Finkel, and Blaise Thomson (Student Research Workshop Chairs), Grace Ngai and Brian Roark (Faculty Advisors), Diana McCarthy and Chengqing Zong (Tutorial Chairs), Jimmy Lin and Yuji Matsumoto (Workshop Chairs), and Priscilla Rasmussen (ACL Business Manager).

Despite the bad global economic situation and the H1N1 threat, we still got total 925 submissions this year (which is record high[1]). Among them, 569 were full paper submissions (99 + #ACL-08), and 120 of them were accepted (21%); 356 were short paper submissions (81 + #ACL-08), and 93 of them were accepted (26%). These data definitely show that our field keeps growing. Those accepted main conference papers were presented in 4 parallel tracks. Besides, we organised 6 half-day tutorials, 12 workshops (2 days), and 4 parallel tracks for EMNLP (2 days). Furthermore, two invited talks were given by Prof. Qiang Yang (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong) for “Heterogeneous Transfer Learning with Real-world Applications”, and Prof. Bonnie Webber (University of Edinburgh, UK) for “Discourse - Early problems, current successes, future challenges”. Both talks got warm response from the audiences.

About the social events, the welcome reception was held during the eve of the main conference, and started with a very fascinating Chinese Lion Dancing; also, the banquet was held at the second day of the main conference with various performances related to different local cultures (including Chinese, India and Malay, etc).  Prof. Key-Sun Choi, the AFNLP president, gave his presidential speech first when the banquet began, and then Prof. Steven Bird, the ACL president, gave his speech at the end of banquet. In addition to giving his presidential address, Steven also shown the musical talent by playing his guitar for various kinds of music. Many people took this chance to relax themselves by joining the after banquet dance.

In the last day of the main conference, the life time achievement award was given to Prof. Frederick Jelinek, for his great contribution to speech recognition and statistical MT. Besides, three best paper awards are given in the closing session: “Concise Integer Linear Programming Formulations for Dependency Parsing” (Andre Martins, Noah Smith and Eric Xing), “Reinforcement Learning for Mapping Instructions to Actions” (S.R.K. Branavan, Harr Chen, Luke Zettlemoyer and Regina Barzilay), and “K-Best A* Parsing” (Adam Pauls and Dan Klein). Besides, Andre Martins, S.R.K. Branavan and Adam Pauls have received the best student paper awards sponsored by IBM.

According to the statistics of August 5, 2009 we registered 850 participants for the main conference and 315 registrations for EMNLP. Many conference participants have expressed that they really enjoyed this latter conference, which not only has high quality technical presentations, but also has interesting social activities, and regard this conference as a very successful one.

Keh-Yih Su
ACL-IJNLP-09 General Chair

Report on RANLP 2009

The biennial conference Recent Advances in Natural Language Processing (RANLP) has established itself as one of the leading international conferences in Natural Language Processing, Computational Linguistics and Language Technology. The conference is preceded by tutorials and followed by workshops. This year RANLP 2009 featured also a student research workshop. The RANLP conferences continue the tradition of the international summer schools in computational linguistics held in Bulgaria since 1989. Since its first edition in 1995, the conference has grown from strength to strength, attracting leading researchers from all over the world. RANLP is cited as one of the most successful events among Computer Science conferences (Conference Rankings, updated February 2009) . One of the distinctive features of the conference is the fact that keynote speakers (6 for each conference) represent leading lights in the field.

The papers accepted at the conference are reviewed by a Programme Committee consisting of well-known experts with the acceptance rate being very competitive. In terms of acceptance rate of regular papers, RANLP 2009 reported an acceptance rate as low as 13%!  This year 87 papers were presented at the conference (as regular, short or poster papers), authored by researchers from 28 countries.RANLP 2009 and its associated events were held in the Rila mountain resort Borovets, Bulgaria in the period 12-18 September 2009.  Keynote speakers at RANLP 2009 gave six invited talks:

The following workshops were accepted and held at RANLP’2009: 

One of the historical values of RANLP is that it has traditionally been an important meeting point between the East and the West; this was the place where students from young democratic Eastern Europe had the chance to meet leading NLP researchers.

The informal team behind RANLP consists of Bulgarians, working based in different countries and includes Galia Angelova  (Organising Committee Chair), Kalina Bontcheva, Ruslan Mitkov (Programme Committee Chair), Nicolas Nicolov, and Nikolai Nikolov.  Kiril Simov was the workshop coordinator and Ivelina Nikolova was the Programme Committee Coordinator.  The Committee was also supported by Irina Temnikova and Natalia Konstantinova.

Galia Angelova, Chair of the Organising Committee
Ruslan Mitkov, Chair of the Programme Committee

Report on ESSLLI 2009

On July 31, 2009 one of the most successful summer schools came to its conclusion, ending two weeks of stimulating courses, workshops and public lectures that make this gathering into such a significant event. The European Summer School in Logic, Language and Information (ESSLLI) has for more than two decades served as a meeting point where students, researchers from academe and industry and participants from business exchange ideas, learn about new and established topics mentioned in the title of the school and, generally, face the challenge of exploring the interface of distinct scientific constituencies.

This interdisciplinary European summer school is organized every year by the Association for Logic, Language and Information (FoLLI) in different sites around Europe. Its 21st instalment took place at the university of Bordeaux. During the two weeks from July 20 to July 31 the participants could choose among 47 foundational, introductory and advanced courses as well as workshops covering a variety of topics at the interface of the three areas of focal interest: Language and Computation, Language and Logic, and Logic and Computation.

Previous summer schools have been highly successful, attracting up to 500 students from mainly Europe, but also the America’s, Asia, Australia, and recently Africa. The current economic crisis and the coincidence with other important conferences were expected to result in a depletion of inscription figures. It testifies to the extraordinary attraction of the school that this expectation turned out to be unfounded. This year again, more than 500 participants gathered in Bordeaux. The school was hosted by a large and efficient organizing committee, led by Christian Retore (chair) and Richard Moot (local co-chair).

The school’s operating budget came largely from inscription fees paid by the participants, with additional funding from academic institutions, international organizations (including EACL), local business and communal services. As in the past, all teaching and organizing at the summer school was done on a voluntary basis. Lecturers and workshop organizers were not paid for their contribution, but were reimbursed for part of their travel and accommodation cost. This financial policy made it possible to keep the inscription fees at a record low this year.

In spite of these economic restrictions lecturers and workshop organizers jockeyed hard for participation. The response to the call for proposals was overwhelming and the programme committee was confronted with nearly three times as many submissions as could be accepted for the tight schedule of the school. This undiminished interest of highly qualified scholars to attend the school as lecturer or organizer is a reflection of the high quality of the student participants and of the fact that it counts as an endorsement of someone’s academic standing to be accepted as a teacher at ESSLLI.

Even though the school has maintained its interdisciplinary focus during its distinguished history, over the years its profile has shifted in reaction to emerging priorities in scientific developments and in response to prominent research done at the hosting institution and in the hosting country. In the case of the Bordeaux event this was illustrated by particularly stimulating courses and workshops in the fields of quantitative computational linguistics, sign languages, semantics and pragmatics of vagueness, logics for social concepts and frameworks for grammatical descriptions, to name just a few highlights.

Another constitutive feature of ESSLLI is the student session that is organized as a separate slot and which was held every day of the summer school. This event enabled master students and beginning PhD students to present their work to a knowledgeable audience of fellow students and senior researchers. It is worth mentioning that many of the teachers in Bordeaux had started their career as presenters at student sessions in previous years.

In addition to the workshops and courses the tradition of evening lectures was continued in Bordeaux with four talks in which prominent researchers talked on actual issues at the forefront of research in their fields. The hosting country was represented by presentations given by A. Abeillé on the project of the Grande Grammaire du Français and by B. Courcelle on context-free graph grammars. N. Chater discussed the question of why language acquisition is possible and Y. Moschovakis outlined his approach towards English as a programming language.

A summer school would be incomplete without a social programme. Bordeaux with its restored centre on the UNESCO World Heritage list and its famous vineyards provided ample opportunities for excursions both into the world of architecture and of culinary excellence. The organizing committee went out of their way in providing information material and in arranging bus trips to the vineyards.

With hindsight, this year’s ESSLLI in Bordeaux has been an outstanding platform for students to become acquainted with new and established fields of research and for senior scholars to exchange ideas on recent developments in the areas of logic, language and information. Bordeaux has successfully continued the tradition of this annual gathering at the interface of activities that are covered by the nowadays slightly old-fashioned term ‘cognitive science’. The two weeks of the summer school concluded with an invitation to meet again next year in Copenhagen, August, 9 -- 20. Vincent Hendricks acts as chair of the organizing committee of ESSLLI 2010, the chair of the programme committee is Valentin Goranko.

Uwe Mönnich
Chair of the Programme Committee, ESSLLI'09


The calendar can be found here

[1] Some reference numbers: Coling-ACL 2006 had 618 submissions (no short papers category), ACL-2007 had 588 submissions (no short papers category), ACL 2008 had a total of 745 submissions (470 full papers 275 short papers).