COLING as a Locus of Interdisciplinary Communication

The nature of the relationship between (computational) linguistics and natural language processing remains a hot topic in the field.  There is at this point a substantial history of workshops focused on how to get the most out of this interaction, including at least:

[There are undoubtedly more!  Please let us know what we’ve missed in the comments and we’ll add them to this list.]

The interaction between the fields also tends to be a hot-button topic on Twitter, leading to very long and sometimes informative discussions, such as the NLP/CL Megathread of April 2017 (as captured by Sebastian Mielke) or the November 2017 discussion on linguistics, NLP, and interdisciplinarity, summarized in blog posts by Emily M. Bender and Ryan Cotterell.

It is very important to us as PC co-chairs of COLING 2018 to continue the COLING tradition of providing a venue that encourages interdisciplinary work. COLING as a venue should host both computationally-aided linguistic analysis and linguistically informed work on natural language processing. Furthermore, it should provide a space for authors of each of these kinds of papers to provide feedback to each other.

Actions we have taken so far to support this vision include recruiting area chairs whose expertise spans the two fields as well as in the design of our paper types and associated review forms.

We’d like to see even more discussion of how interdiscipinarity works/can work in our field. What do you consider to be best practices for carrying out such interdisciplinary work? What role do you see for linguistics in NLP/how do computational methods inform your linguistic research? How do you build and maintain collaborations? When you read (or review) in this field, what kind of features of a paper stand out for you as particularly good approaches to interdisciplinary work? Finally, how can COLING further support such best practices?

 

Recruiting Area Chairs

An absolutely key ingredient for a successful conference is a stellar team of area chairs (ACs). What do we mean by stellar? We need people who take the task seriously, work hard to ensure fairness, bring their expertise to bear in selecting papers that make valuable contributions and constitute a vibrant program, can be effective leaders and get the reviewers to do their job well, and finally who represent a broad range of diverse interests and perspectives on our field. What a tall order!

On top of that, given the size of conferences in our field presently, we need a large team of such amazing colleagues. How big? We are planning for 2000 submissions (yikes!), which we will allocate evenly across 40 areas, so roughly 50 papers per area. We plan to have area chairs work in pairs, so we need 80 area chairs to cover 40 areas. In addition, we anticipate a range of troubleshooting and consulting beyond what we two as PC co-chairs can handle, and so we also want an additional 10 area chairs who can assist across areas, with START troubleshooting, handling papers with COI issues, and whatever else comes up. That means we’re looking for about 100 people total.

We decided to do the recruiting in two phases. The first phase involved recruiting 50 area chairs directly by invitation. Phase II is an open call for nominations (and self-nominations!) for the remaining 50 area chairs. The purpose of this blog post is to give you an update on how we are doing in terms of various metrics of diversity, and, more importantly, to alert you to the call for area chairs. If you would like to serve as area chair, or if you know someone who you’d like to nominate, please fill out this form.

As we select additional area chairs, we will be looking to round out the range of areas of expertise we have recruited so far (see below); maintain our gender balance; improve our regional diversity; improve the representation of area chairs from non-academic affiliations; and improve racial/ethnic diversity. The stats for our area chairs so far are as follows (based on a self-report survey we sent to the area chairs).

Research Interests

A diverse range of areas were described, from a free-text entry from. Those with multiple entries are shown in the chart, and the hapaxes listed below.

  • Accent Variation
  • Active Learning
  • Argument Mining
  • Aspect
  • Authorship Analysis (Attribution, Profiling, Plagiarism Detection)
  • Automatic Summarization
  • Biomedical/clinical Text Processing
  • BioNLP
  • Clinical NLP
  • Clustering
  • Code-mixing
  • Code-switching
  • Computational Cognitive Modeling
  • Computational Discourse
  • Computational Lexical Semantics
  • Computational Lexicography
  • Computational Morphology
  • Computational Pragmatics
  • Conversational AI
  • Conversation Modeling
  • Corpora Construction
  • Corpus Design And Development
  • Corpus Linguistics
  • Cross-language Speech Recognition
  • Cross-lingual Learning
  • Data Modeling And System Architecture
  • Dialogue Pragmatics
  • Dialogue System
  • Dialogue Systems
  • Discourse Modes
  • Discourse Parsing
  • Document Summarization
  • Emotion Analysis
  • Endangered Language Documentation
  • Evaluation
  • Event And Temporal Processing
  • Experimental Linguistics
  • Eye Movements
  • Fact Checking
  • Grammar Correction
  • Grammar Engineering
  • Grammar Induction
  • Grounded Language Learning
  • Grounded Semantics
  • HPSG
  • Incremental Language Processing
  • Information Retrieval
  • KA
  • Korean NLP
  • Language Acquisition
  • Lexical Resources
  • Linguistic Annotation
  • Linguistic Issues In NLP
  • Linguistic Processing Of Non-canonical Text
  • Low-resource Learning
  • Machine Reading
  • Modality
  • Multilingual Systems
  • Multimodal NLP
  • NER
  • NLG
  • NLP In Health Care & Education
  • NLU
  • Ontologies
  • Ontology Construction
  • Phonology
  • POS Tagging
  • Reading
  • Reasoning
  • Relation Extraction
  • Resources
  • Resources And Evaluation
  • Rhetorical Types
  • Semantic Parsing
  • Semantic Processing
  • Short-answer Scoring
  • Situation Types
  • Social Media
  • Social Media Analysis
  • Social Media Analytics
  • Software And Tools
  • Speech
  • Speech Perception
  • Speech Recognition
  • Speech Synthesis
  • Spoken Language Understanding
  • Stance Detection
  • Structured Prediction
  • Summarization
  • Syntactic And Semantic Parsing
  • Syntax/parsing
  • Tagging
  • Temporal Information Extraction
  • Text Classification
  • Text Mining
  • Text Simplification
  • Text Types
  • Transfer Learning
  • Treebanks
  • Vision And Language
  • Weakly Supervised Learning

Gender

We asked a completely open-ended question here, which was furthermore optional, and then binned the answers into the three categories female, male, and other/question skipped.

Country of affiliation

Another open-ended question, which we again binned by region.  Latin America is the Americas minus the US and Canada.  Australia is counted as Asia.  So far Africa is not represented.

 

Type of affiliation

Our survey anticipated five possible answers here: Academia, Industry – research lab, Industry – other, Government, Other; but only the first two are represented so far.

Race/ethnicity

We are interested in making sure that our senior program committee is diverse in terms of race/ethnicity, but it is very difficult to talk about what this means in an international context, because racial constructs are very much products of the cultures they are a part of. So rather than ask for specific race/ethnicity categories, which we would be unprepared to summarize across cultures, we decided to ask the following pair of questions, both of which were optional (like the question about gender):

As we work to make sure that our senior PC is appropriately diverse, we would like to consider race/ethnicity.  Yet, at the level of an international organization, it is very unclear what categories could possibly be appropriate for such a survey.  Accordingly, we have settled on the distinction minoritized (treated as a minority)/not minoritized (treated as normative/majority).

 

In the context of your country of current affiliation, and with respect to your race/ethnicity, are you: (optional)

  • Minoritized
  • Not minoritized

During your education or career prior to your current affiliation, has there ever been a significant period time during which you were minoritized with respect to your race/ethnicity? (optional)

  • Yes
  • No

Please join us!

We’re looking for about 50 more ACs!  Please consider nominating yourself and/or other people who you think would do a good job and also help us round out our leadership team along the various dimensions identified above.  Both self- and other-nominations can be done at this form. You can nominate as many people as you like (but only nominate yourself once, please 😉

 

Writing Mentoring Program

Among the goals we outlined in our inaugural post was the following:

(1) to create a program of high quality papers which represent diverse approaches to and applications of computational linguistics written and presented by researchers from throughout our international community;

One of our strategies for achieving this goal is to create a writing mentoring program, which takes place before the reviewing stage. This program is focused on helping those who perhaps aren’t used to publishing in the field of computational linguistics, are early in their careers, and so on. We see mentoring as a tool that makes COLING accessible for broader range of high-quality ideas. In other words, this isn’t about pushing borderline papers into acceptance but rather alleviating presentational problems with papers that, in their underlying research quality, easily make the high required standard.

In order for this program to be successful, we need buy-in from prospective mentors. In this blog post, we provide the outlines of the program, in order to let the community (including both prospective mentors and mentees) know what we have in mind and to seek (as usual) your feedback.

We plan to run the mentoring program through the START system, as follows:

  • Anyone wishing to receive mentoring will submit an abstract by 4 weeks before the COLING submission deadline. Authors will be instructed that submitting an abstract at this point represents a commitment to submit a full draft by the mentoring deadline and then to submit to COLING.
  • Requesting mentoring doesn’t guarantee receiving mentoring and receiving mentoring doesn’t guarantee acceptance to the conference program.
  • Any reviewer willing to serve as mentor will bid on those abstracts and indicate how many papers total they are willing to mentor. Mentors will receive guidance from the program committee co-chairs on their duties as mentors, as well as a code of conduct.
  • Area chairs will assign papers to mentors by 3 weeks before the submission deadline, giving priority as follows. (Note that if there are not enough mentors, not every paper requesting mentoring will receive it.)
    1. Authors from non-anglophone institutions
    2. Authors from beyond well-represented institutions
  • Authors wishing to receive mentoring will submit complete drafts via START by 3 weeks before the submission deadline.
  • Mentors will provide feedback within one week, using a ‘mentoring form’ created by the PCs structured to encourage constructive feedback.
  • No mentor will serve as a reviewer for a paper they were mentor of.
  • Mentor bidding will be anonymous, but actual mentoring will not be (in either direction).
  • Mentors will be recognized in the conference handbook/website, but COLING will not indicate which papers received mentoring (though authors are free to acknowledge mentorship in their acknowledgments section).

As a starting point, here are our initial questions for the mentoring form:

  • What is the main claim or result of this paper?
  • What are the strengths of this paper?
  • What questions do you have as a reader?  What do you wish to know about the research that was carried out that is unclear as yet from the paper?
  • What aspect of the paper do you think the COLING audience will find most interesting?
  • Which paper category/review form do you think is most appropriate for this paper?
  • Taking into consideration the specific questions in that review form, in what ways could the presentation of the research be strengthened?
  • If you find places where there are grammatical or stylistic issues in writing, or in general, if you think certain improvements are possible in terms of overall organization and structure, please indicate these. It may be most convenient to do so by marking up a pdf with comments.

Regarding code of conduct, by signing up to mentor a paper, mentors agree to:

  • Maintain confidentiality: Do not share the paper draft or discuss its contents with others (without express permission from the author).  Do not appropriate the ideas in the paper.
  • Commit to prompt feedback: Read the paper and provide feedback via the form by the deadline specified.
  • Be constructive: Avoid sarcastic or harsh evaluative remarks; phrase feedback in terms of how to improve, rather than what is wrong or bad.

The benefits to authors are clear: Authors participating in the program will benefit because they will receive feedback on the presentation of their work, which if heeded, might also improve chances of acceptance as well as enhance the impact of the paper once published. Perhaps the benefits to mentors are more in need of articulation. Here are the benefits we see: Mentors will be recognized through a listing in the conference handbook and website, with outstanding mentors receiving further recognition. In addition, mentoring should be rewarding for the mentors because the exercise of giving constructive feedback on academic writing provides insight into what makes good writing. Finally, the mentoring program will benefit the entire COLING audience through both improved presentation of research results and improved diversity of authors included in the conference.

Our questions for our readership at this point are:

  1. What would make this program more enticing to you as a prospective mentor or author?
  2. As a prospective mentor or author, are there additional things you’d like to see in the mentoring form?
  3. Are there points you think we should add to the code of conduct?

 

Call for input: Paper types and associated review forms

In our opening post, we laid out our goals as PC co-chairs for COLING 2018. In this post, we present our approach to the subgoal (of goal #1) of creating a program with many different types of research contributions. As both authors and reviewers, we have been frustrated by the one-size-fits-all review form typical of conferences in our field. When reviewing, how do we answer the ‘technical correctness’ question about a position paper? Or the ‘impact of resources’ question on a paper that doesn’t present any resources?

We believe that a program that includes a wide variety of paper types (as well as a wide variety of paper topics) will be more valuable both for conference attendees and for the field as a whole. We hypothesize that more tailored review forms will lead to fairer treatment of different types of papers, and that fairer treatment will lead to a more varied program. Of course, if we don’t get many papers outside the traditional type (called “NLP engineering experiment paper” below), having tailored review forms won’t do us much good. Therefore, we aim to get the word out early (via this blog post) so that our audience knows what kinds of papers we’re interested in.

Furthermore, we’re interested in what kinds of papers you’re interested in. Below you will find our initial set of five categories, with drafts of the associated review forms. You’ll see some questions are shared across some or all of the paper types, but we’ve elected to lay them out this way (even though it might feel repetitive) so that you can look at each category, putting yourself in both the position of author and of reviewer, and think about what we might be missing/which questions might be inappropriate. Let us know in the comments!

As you answer, keep in mind that our goal with the review forms is to help reviewers structure their reviews in such a way that they are helpful for the area chairs in making final acceptance decisions, informative for the authors (so they understand the decisions that were made), and helpful for the authors (as they improve their work either for camera ready, or for submission to a later venue).

Computationally-aided linguistic analysis

The focus of this paper type is new linguistic insight.

  • Relevance: Is this paper relevant to COLING?
  • Readability/clarity: From the way the paper is written, can you tell what research question was addressed, what was done and why, and how the results relate to the research question?
  • Originality: How original and innovative is the research described? Originality could be in the linguistic question being addressed, in the methodology applied to the linguistic question, or in the combination of the two.
  • Technical correctness/soundness: Is the research described in the paper technically sound and correct? Can one trust the claims of the paper—are they supported by the analysis or experiments and are the results correctly interpreted?
  • Reproducibility: Is there sufficient detail for someone in the same field to reproduce/replicate the results?
  • Generalizability: Does the paper show how the results generalize, either by deepening our understanding of some linguistic system in general or by demonstrating methodology that can be applied to other problems as well?
  • Meaningful comparison: Does the paper clearly place the described work with respect to existing literature? Is it clear both what is novel in the research presented and how it builds on earlier work?
  • Substance: Does this paper have enough substance for a full-length paper, or would it benefit from further development?
  • Overall recommendation: There are many good submissions competing for slots at COLING 2018; how important is it to feature this one? Will people learn a lot by reading this paper or seeing it presented? Please be decisive—it is better to differ from other reviewers than to grade everything in the middle.

NLP engineering experiment paper

This paper type matches the bulk of submissions at recent CL and NLP conferences.

  • Relevance: Is this paper relevant to COLING?
  • Readability/clarity: From the way the paper is written, can you tell what research question was addressed, what was done and why, and how the results relate to the research question?
  • Originality: How original and innovative is the research described? Note that originality could involve a new technique or a new task, or it could lie in the careful analysis of what happens when a known technique is applied to a known task (where the pairing is novel) or in the careful analysis of what happens when a known technique is applied to a known task in a new language.
  • Technical correctness/soundness: Is the research described in the paper technically sound and correct? Can one trust the claims of the paper—are they supported by the analysis or experiments and are the results correctly interpreted?
  • Reproducibility: Is there sufficient detail for someone in the same field to reproduce/replicate the results?
  • Error analysis: Does the paper provide a thoughtful error analysis, which looks for linguistic patterns in the types of errors made by the system(s) evaluated and sheds light on either avenues for future work or the source of the strengths/weaknesses of the systems?
  • Meaningful comparison: Does the paper clearly place the described work with respect to existing literature? Is it clear both what is novel in the research presented and how it builds on earlier work?
  • Substance: Does this paper have enough substance for a full-length paper, or would it benefit from further work?
  • Overall recommendation: There are many good submissions competing for slots at COLING 2018; how important is it to feature this one? Will people learn a lot by reading this paper or seeing it presented? Please be decisive—it is better to differ from other reviewers than to grade everything in the middle.

Reproduction paper

The contribution of a reproduction paper lies in analyses of and in insights into existing methods and problems—plus the added certainty that comes with validating previous results.

  • Relevance: Is this paper relevant to COLING?
  • Readability/clarity: Is the paper well-written and well-structured?
  • Analysis: If the paper was able to replicate the results of the earlier work, does it clearly lay out what needed to be filled in in order to do so? If it wasn’t able to replicate the results of earlier work, does it clearly identify what information was missing/the likely causes?
  • Generalizability: Does the paper go beyond replicating the results on the original to explore whether they can be reproduced in another setting? Alternatively, in cases of non-replicability, does the paper discuss the broader implications of that result?
  • Informativeness: To what extent does the analysis reported in the paper deepen our understanding of the methodology used or the problem approached? Will the information in the paper help practitioners with their choice of technique/resource?
  • Meaningful comparison: In addition to identifying the experimental results being replicated, does the paper motivate why these particular results are an important target for reproduction and what the future implications are of their having been reproduced or been found to be non-reproducible?
  • Overall recommendation: There are many good submissions competing for slots at COLING 2018; how important is it to feature this one? Will people learn a lot by reading this paper or seeing it presented? Please be decisive—it is better to differ from other reviewers than to grade everything in the middle.

Resource paper

Papers in this track present a new language resource. This could be a corpus, but also could be an annotation standard, tool, and so on.

  • Relevance: Is this paper relevant to COLING? Will the resource presented likely be of use to our community?
  • Readability/clarity: From the way the paper is written, can you tell how the resource was produced, how the quality of annotations (if any) was evaluated, and why the resource should be of interest?
  • Originality: Does the resource fill a need in the existing collection of accessible resources? Note that originality could be in the choice of language/language variety or genre, in the design of the annotation scheme, in the scale of the resource, or still other parameters.
  • Resource quality: What kind of quality control was carried out? If appropriate, was inter-annotator agreement measured, and if so, with appropriate metrics? Otherwise, what other evaluation was conducted, and how agreeable were the results?
  • Resource accessibility: Will it be straightforward for researchers to download or otherwise access the resource in order to use it in their own work? To what extent can work based on this resource be shared?
  • Metadata: Do the authors make clear whose language use is captured in the resource and to what populations experimental results based on the resource could be generalized to? In case of annotated resources, are the demographics of the annotators also characterized?
  • Meaningful comparison: Is the new resource situated with respect to existing work in the field, including similar resources it took inspiration from or improves on? Is it clear what is novel about the resource?
  • Overall recommendation: There are many good submissions competing for slots at COLING 2018; how important is it to feature this one? Will people learn a lot by reading this paper or seeing it presented? Please be decisive—it is better to differ from other reviewers than to grade everything in the middle.

Position paper

A position paper presents a challenge to conventional thinking or a futuristic new vision. It could open up a new area or novel technology, propose changes in existing research, or give a new set of ground rules.

  • Relevance: Is this paper relevant to COLING?
  • Readability/clarity: Is it clear what the position is that the paper is arguing for? Are the arguments for it laid out in an understandable way?
  • Soundness: Are the arguments presented in the paper relevant and coherent? Is the vision well-defined, with success criteria? (Note: It should be possible to give a high score here even if you don’t agree with the position taken by the authors)
  • Creativity: How novel or bold is the position taken in the paper? Does it represent well-thought through and creative new ground?
  • Scope: How much scope for new research is opened up by this paper? What effect could it have on existing areas and questions?
  • Meaningful comparison: Is the paper well-situated with respect to previous work, both position papers (taking the same or opposing side on the same or similar issues) and relevant theoretical or experimental work?
  • Substance: Does the paper have enough substance for a full-length paper? Is the issue sufficiently important? Are the arguments sufficiently thoughtful and varied?
  • Overall recommendation: There are many good submissions competing for slots at COLING 2018; how important is it to feature this one? Please be decisive—it is better to differ from other reviewers than to grade everything in the middle.

 

So, those are the initial set of submission types. These types of paper aren’t limited to single tracks. That is to say, there won’t be a dedicated position paper track, with its own reviewers and chair. You might find a resource paper in any track, for example, and a multi-lingual embeddings track (if one appears—but that’s for a future post) might contain all five kinds of paper mixed together. This makes it even more important that the right questions are asked for a paper type, to help out hard-working reviewers with the task of judging each kind of paper in an appropriate light.

Our questions for you: Is there a type of paper you’d either like to submit to COLING or would like to see at COLING that you think doesn’t fit any of these five already? Should any of the review questions be dropped or refined for any of the paper types? Are there review questions it would be useful to add? Please let us know in the comments!