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?

 

12 thoughts on “Writing Mentoring Program

  1. As someone who does this sort of thing as a matter of course (for my own students), I like this idea. I am not sure whether how to make mentoring appealing to others, but speaking only for myself: I would actually prefer to mentor than review. Both require reading the paper and engaging in its content; but mentoring is more about collaborative dialogue, while reviewing is more adversarial. And quite frankly, I think the field is collectively suffering from decision fatigue due to an overload of reviewing.

  2. I agree with every word of Adam’s comment. I’d add the question:

    – what aspect of the paper do you think the COLING audience will find most interesting?

    and

    correct a sentence in point 3 to

    What do you wish to know about the research that was carried out that is unclear as yet from the paper? (“you” was missing)

  3. Is ‘mentoring’ actually proof reading or anything more substantive? A much more radical idea would be to volunteer to actively collaborate with the research and not be named on the list of authors. Score one for subversion of the publishing process.

    • It’s intended to be more substantive, but still focused on the writing part, rather than research design etc. See the questions listed that the mentors are meant to address in responding to a paper.

  4. This is a great initiative! I like the initial set of questions; they already cover most of the aspects. Just wanted to add – over the years, I have seen papers with lack of proper organization and structure to better articulate the carried out research. This could be added as part of the last question like:

    “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.”

  5. As an early researcher, this is really encouraging. In the few papers I’ve submitted, I have always found the reviewer’s comments to be immensely helpful in strengthening the content and presentation. Mentoring as a pre-review would no doubt benefit people like me.

    I just have a small question. If during the mentoring, the mentor comes across an obvious flaw/limitation/oversight in the research design that the author may not have thought of, is he allowed to point this out to the author?

    • I don’t see why that wouldn’t be allowed — it’s not the main focus of the exercise, though, and so it won’t be specifically requested. In fact, in many cases something that seems confusing in the writing might in fact trace back to different expectations about research design, so writing advice and research design advice can often be intertwined.

  6. @Emily M. Bender
    Dear Madam,
    Its a great initiative that you started this “Writing Mentoring System”.
    I have a very simple query that “Are there any chargers for a researcher to avail mentoring services (If one has got accepted after request)?”

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