2017Q3 Reports: General Chair

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The 55th annual meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) will take place next week in Vancouver, Canada. ACL 2017 will be held at the Westin Bayshore Hotel in downtown Vancouver from July 30th through August 4th, 2017.

The activities that I undertook as General Chair were:

  1. Selecting the organizing committee. Priscilla Rasmussen was already on-board as the local arrangements chair. I selected the program co-chairs, Regina Barzilay and Min-Yen Kan, in consultation with the ACL 2017 coordinating committee. The remainder of the committee I picked myself. In addition to selecting people who I thought would be excellent in the roles, I made a conscientious effort to have a good gender balance in the organizing committee. I attempted to recruit an even number of women and men to organize ACL 2017. There are 12 male organizers (including myself) and 12 female organizers.
  2. In my capacity as general chair, I wanted to try to make the conference friendlier to participants bringing their children along. My goal for this is to help promote the careers of women in the ACL community, since a disproportionate amount of childrearing responsibility often falls on women, and since it can be hard for mothers with young children to attend conferences. My hope is that by offering childcare we make it easier for parents with young children to attend the conference, and thus engage in normal career building activities. I coordinated with the ACL Executive to hire a professional childcare company, KiddieCorp, to provide on-site subsided childcare for the first time at an ACL conference. We have also selected a kid-friendly venue for the social event, and we have allowed conference goers to purchase breakfasts and dinners for their family members.
  3. I wanted to ensure the financial viability of the conference, and to make sure that my experiment with offering childcare did not result in the conference making a financial loss, so I engaged in a higher level of outreach for new sponsorships than is typical for a general chair. I sent out approximately 60 "cold call" emails to solicit sponsorship from new sponsors, and I followed up with many previous sponsors that Priscilla was having trouble contacting. I sorted through the list of corporate participants from past conferences, and identified companies that were attending our conferences but who were not yet sponsors. I solicited two new platinum sponsors (Apple and Alibaba), several silver sponsors, and I added several new academic institutions who offer professional master's degrees as supporter-level sponsors.

I have asked the organizers to update the Conference Organization Handbook on the ACL admin wiki. The following sections were updated (some of the sections hadn't been modified since 2008):