2013Q3 Reports: Program Chairs

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Program Chairs (Pascale Fung and Massimo Poesio)


This year's ACL introduces a number of innovations, the main among of which is that this is the first years in which papers from TACL will be presented at ACL. This was handled by adding an extra track to the program. A stricter policy requiring at least one author of an accepted paper to register in order for that paper to be published was also introduced. Third, we introduced an Industry Keynote, inviting the Chief Engineer from Facebook to speak this year. Last but not least, mentoring was implemented again with positive results, and several innovations from previous years were maintained (e.g., including supplemental materials with the papers). Handling such innovations as well as the greatly increased number of submissions proved challenging, but in the end not really problematic.


ACL 2013 received a total of 1286 submissions, of which 662 long papers and 624 short papers. (This number of long paper submissions is in line with previous years and in fact slightly lower than in 2011, but the number of short paper submissions is the highest ever - almost twice the 369 of last year, and 20% higher than in 2011.) These submissions were managed by a program committee of 45 area chairs assisted by 711 reviewers.

The submission process in general worked reasonably well, except for the delay caused by Softconf moving to a new platform in October 2012. The new platform aims at reducing the number of distinct Softconf accounts each of us has to keep track of, which is a very good idea, but the fact it only came live in October meant that both us and the area chairs had to invite people twice, first via email and then through Softconf, which was quite painful. (But apart from this difficulty we wish to stress that we were very impressed with the level and speed of support provided by Softconf, which went way beyond the terms of the contract.) The timetable for submissions, developed in close collaboration with both the chairs of NAACL and with ACL exec, worked quite well and we recommend future chairs to follow it quite closely as it will not be easy to find a different solution satisfying all the constraints.


174 (26%) long papers and 154 (24%) short papers were selected for presentation in the conference (12 long paper submissions and 35 short paper submissions were either withdrawn or rejected without review for violating anonymity or page length rules). Among the accepted papers, 111 of the long papers will have an oral presentation (in 37 sessions of 3 papers each) as well as 56 of the short papers (in 14 sessions of 4 papers each). In addition, the authors of 16 TACL papers chose to present their paper at ACL; 9 of these were given an oral presentation slot and 7 a poster presentation slot. In total, 344 papers will be presented at ACL 2013: 176 orally and 168 as posters. The number of poster presentations is much higher than the 75 of the 2012 edition and the 128 of 2011. We believe the increase in the number of posters is a positive development in the ACL community; but it will have to be managed in a number of ways. For example, we recommend installing all-day parallel poster sessions, on all three days of the conference, so that the audience can have more time to look at the posters they are interested in. To enable this, the PC and the local arrangement need to choose venues amenable to multiple, parallel oral and poster sessions. (How to handle the unexpected large number of posters was one of the main issues we had to face as program chairs. More in general, we recommend keeping program chairs more in the loop regarding physical constraints of the venue - we only learned about the specifics of this year's venue after coming up with a first version of the program, which then had to be substantially revised.)

In addition to the normal presentations, there will be at ACL 2013 a number of keynote speeches by invited speakers and winners of awards. We are delighted to have three excellent speakers. Prof. Baayen from Tuebingen and Alberta has a well-deserved reputation for deploying innovative statistical methods in the study of language, in particular in morphology. Prof. Chantel Prat from the University of Wisconsin will talk about her research studying language in bilinguals using methods from neuroscience. In addition, we are quite pleased to have been contacted by Facebook, who is expanding its NLP activities and has been recruiting a number of well-known NLP researchers, contacted us offering to give a talk. The industrial keynote speaker, Dr. Lars Rasmussen from Facebook, will talk about the new graph search algorithm recently announced by the company. We think that ACL should consider introducing an 'Industry Speaker' slot as a regular feature at ACL. In addition to the three invited talks we will have two additional lectures: by the winner of the best paper award and the winner of the ACL Career Award.

Areas and Area Statistics

The list of areas was substantially revised compared to previous years. The traditional area 'Dialogue and Discourse' was split in two separate areas- Dialogue and Interactive Systems and Discourse Coreference and Pragmatics - as there is very little interaction between these communities nowadays. Information Retrieval and Information Extraction, unified in a single area in 2012, have been separated again, as in 2011, due to the large number of accepted papers in 2012. Phonology/Morphology, Tagging/Chunking, and Word Segmentation were treated as separate areas. Conversely, the areas 'Lexical Semantics' and 'Lexicon and Ontologies' introduced in 2012 were merged into a single area 'Lexical Semantics and Ontology'. New areas for 'Evaluation Methods', 'Low Resource Language Processing' and 'NLP for the Languages of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans' were introduced. These changes resulted in a fairly large number of 26 areas. Table 1 below shows the number of submissions in each area for long and short papers, as well as the number of papers accepted in each area. This required a record high number of 45 area chairs (cfr. the 30 area chairs of 2012 and the 27 of 2011).

Areas Long Received Long Accepted Short Received Short accepted Total submissions (and % of total) Total accepts (and % of total) Area accept rate
Cognitive Modelling and Psycholinguistics 13 3 12 5 27 (2% ) 8 (2.4%) 29.6%
Dialogue and Interactive Systems 15 4 10 1 25 (1.9%) 5 (1.5%) 20%
Discourse, Coreference, and Pragmatics 28 9 19 4 47 (3.6%) 13 (4%) 27.6%
Evaluation Methods 11 3 15 4 26 (2%) 7 (2.1%) 26.9%
Information Retrieval 20 1 20 4 40 (3.1%) 5 (1.5%) 12.5%
Language Resources 24 9 27 5 51 (4%) 14 (4.2%) 27.4%
Lexical Semantics and Ontologies 25 3 25 6 50 (3.9%) 9 (2.7%) 18%
Low Resource Language Processing 10 3 13 5 23 (1.8%) 8 (2.4%) 34.8%
Machine Translation: Methods, Applications and Evaluations 50 11 58 14 108 (8.4%) 25 (7.6%) 23.1%
Machine Translation: Statistical Models 44 21 30 10 74 (5.7%) 31 (9.4%) 41.9%
Multilinguality 11 3 10 5 21 (1.6%) 8 (2.4%) 38%
NLP Applications 46 10 42 15 88 (6.9%) 25 (7.6%) 28.4%
NLP and Creativity 3 2 4 2 7 (0.5%) 4 (1.2%) 57.1%
NLP for the Languages of Central and Eastern Europe and The Balkans 2 1 8 3 10 (0.8%) 4 (1.2%) 40%
NLP for the Web and Social Media 32 8 26 2 58 (4.5%) 10 (3%) 17.2%
Phonology and Morphology 11 2 10 0 21 (1.6%) 2 (0.6%) 9.5%
Question Answering 14 4 12 3 26 (2%) 7 (2.1%) 26.9%
Semantics 50 17 32 10 82 (6.4%) 27 (8.2%) 32.9%
Sentiment Analysis, Opinion Mining and Text Classification 46 12 60 15 106 (8.2%) 27 (8.2%) 25.4%
Spoken Language Processing 9 2 12 2 21 (0.2%) 11 (0.3%) 52.3%
Statistical and Machine Learning Methods in NLP 35 11 32 5 67 (5.2%) 16 (4.9%) 23.9%
Summarization and Generation 31 11 23 6 54 (4.2%) 17 (5.2%) 31.5%
Syntax and Parsing 39 13 43 13 82 (6.4%) 26 (7.9%) 31.7%
Tagging and Chunking 12 2 13 2 25 (1.9%) 4 (1.2%) 16%
Text Mining and Information Extraction 68 7 53 9 121 (9.4%) 16 (4.9%) 13.2%
Word Segmentation 13 2 15 4 28 (2.2%) 6 (1.8%) 21.4%
TOTALS 662 174 624 154

The top 5 areas for submissions this year were Machine Translation (when considering the two sub-areas together), Text Mining (top individual area), Sentiment Analysis, NLP Applications, and ex-aequo Semantics and Syntax/Parsing. Some of the new areas were successful, others less so. The new area 'Evaluation Methods', with 26 submissions (2% of the total), proved reasonably popular. But having separate areas for 'Low Resource Language Processing' and 'NLP for the Languages of Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans' didn't work so well; in the future it may be sensible to have a single area for Low Resource Languages. Some of the traditional areas also appear to be losing in popularity, or at least researchers in those areas may not choose to publish at ACL (see, e.g., Information Retrieval and Speech Processing). Note also the great disparity in acceptance rate, ranging from the 9.5% of Phonology / Morphology to the 57.1% of NLP and Creativity - so that for instance Text Mining, top single area for submissions, is only eight in terms of accepted papers.

Other recommendations

Based on our experience this year, we would like to make the following recommendations to improving the Softconf system and the reviewing process:

  1. Program chairs need to be aware of the physical constraints of the conference venue before deciding on the total number of papers accepted. Conversely, the PC needs to be aware of the fact that ACL will continue to grow and needs to choose venues that would support such a large program.
  2. We recommend automating more parts of the START system to allow reviewing consistency from one year to the next. Reminder emails need to be sent out automatically to area chairs and reviewers.
  3. Following 2, we recommending providing a template of pre-defined messages for area chairs to send to reviewers.
  4. Area chairs need to be given a list of reviewer emails for them to send mass emails to. This year, only program chairs can send messages directly to reviewers even though we asked the area chairs to provide instructions to the reviewers.
  5. Again for the sake of reviewing consistency, we should automatically keep the list of reviewers by area and add to it any new authors of published ACL papers. This list of reviewers, along with their email contact, the areas for which they reviewed previous, should be passed to the next program chairs and all area chairs to allow them to select reviewers.