2017Q3 Reports: Office Manager
Priscilla Rasmussen 23 July 2017
ACL Business Office Report
As usual, the Office is running smoothly.
Last week a financial audit was successfully conducted by Nisivoccia, LLP, both in the office and through emails with Graeme and me. This is in preparation for an earlier-than-usual filing of our 2016 annual taxes.
Pat Kirby continues to be an indispensable assistant to me in our daily office operations (especially handling most of the membership entries into the portal) as well as managing the conference student housing and working with me in preparation for and onsite at our conferences, especially with registrations.
The Office was pressured much more than usual this year, though, mainly in having two conferences so very close to each other. This meant barely ending involvement in EACL 2017 and immediately managing ACL 2017’s logistics, sponsorships, budgeting, registrations, general advising, etc. and midway through this, beginning the serious daily planning of EMNLP 2017, developing the working budget, setting registration fees and opening registration, advising and other duties. The overlap of ACL and EMNLP increased the day-to-day workload and is one more reason (besides paper reviewing/acceptances) to be mindful of spacing the conferences as far apart as possible. It can be especially noted that, with a large increase in sponsorships and exhibitors, each requiring a lot of time, it may be useful in the future to have a person specifically named to manage sponsor and exhibitor questions and planning.
Adding to the above increased workload was searching for appropriate venues for both NAACL 2018 and 2019 and negotiating these contracts. It may not be well understood the time it takes to sift through many, many venues looking for appropriately sized space and then doing pre-negotiations before making a list of acceptable possibilities for a Board’s consideration. It is encouraged that all larger conferences, especially ACLs, EMNLPs, and NAACLs lock in contracts close to two years out (before good venues are otherwise booked).
Publications, Journals and Royalties:
With our ongoing arrangement of Curran Associates handling print-on-demand of our publications, I typically receive no requests for hardcopy publications in the office. However, one long-time member has asked to fill in gaps in his personal CL Journal library and will pay for the long list of journals, proceedings and shipping costs. After much digging, this order has now been filled.
The Curran Associates agreement has turned out to be a good one for both them and the ACL. In 2017, we have received a total of $2,731.40 in royalties from them, covering the 4th quarter of 2015 through the 3rd quarter of 2016 plus $1,371.16 paid to us in February covering the 4th quarter of 2016. Copyright Clearance Center has not sent any earnings to ACL for CY 2017, nor has MIT Press Journals.
MIT Press Journals has sent us an invoice for their fiscal year, July 2015 - June 2016 for their services related to the Computational Linguistics Journal. The invoice, for $35,968.50 was paid in February.
Our journals pay editorial assistants to help with the process. The CL Journal’s assistant was paid $4,730 for her services for the remainder of the 2016 calendar year. No additional billing has been received yet for 2017. The TACL Journal’s assistant was paid $7,975.33 covering January through June 2017.
Since 2007 we have been growing, especially last year with ACL 2016 in Berlin when we recorded almost 3,000 members. I am pleased to report that, at the half year mark, we have 2,015 members and many more can be expected through onsite ACL 2017 and all EMNLP 2017 registrations plus some resulting from both SIGdial and INLG 2017 conferences. This indicates the continuing growth of our field and conferences. The distribution of countries represented and numbers from each country fluctuate each year depending upon the area of the world our conferences are held, although we seem to be representing between 55 and 60 countries on a regular basis and currently have a total of 57 countries being represented by our membership.
We began 2017 with 177 members who were in a multi-year membership, added a little more than 350 members from EACL 2017 directly through portal membership payments, and about 260 members who renewed on their own. As is becoming more standard, most memberships come from conference registrations. As of June 30th, of the 2017 memberships, EACL 2017 attendance (17.4%) and ACL 2017 attendance (60.9%) made up the bulk of memberships. There are over 200 ACL 2017 attendees still owing memberships and they will be caught onsite as well as adding any onsite registrations. Additional memberships are expected to come from EMNLP 2017, SIGdial 2017 and INLG 2017 this fall. Between the growth in overall memberships and the increased number resulting from conference registrations, a larger burden is on the office to input new and renewing members into the portal but, with Jing-Shin’s and (especially) Pranav’s help in automating the input process, we should be able to keep up with memberships much better and have more time for other endeavors.
We have not begun the new nomination and recommendation process but it will be implemented for the fall nomination “season”.
EACL 2017 was held in Valencia, Spain, at the Valencia Conference Center, April 3-7. This conference set the highest attendance for EACLs with about 690 final attendees. Although the Office is not typically involved in this conference’s planning, the organizers and General Chair have been requesting much more guidance than in years past. There was some confusion between the local organizers, PCO, and the Office about collection of membership fees, sponsorships, and other things. Better or more explicit division of duties might be recommended for future EACLs with the Office.
The ACL 2017, to be held in Vancouver next week, July 30-August 4 promises to be equal to or a bit larger than ACL 2016 in Berlin which set an all-time record at 1,650 attendees. The current registration count for Vancouver is 1,712 but this includes all exhibitors and recruiters and does not include cancellations we may still receive. While growth of our ACL conference is a great thing, this year the venue may be crowded for some sessions and workshops. Adding to the crowding this year will be up to 24 exhibitors, most of whom are also our sponsors. This is an increase of almost 10 exhibitors over previous years. We decided repeat the Recruitment Lunch which was very successful in Berlin, charging a $500 fee for each recruiting company to help defray some part of the lunch costs. We have 16 companies signed up for the lunch, 4 more than in Berlin. One problem that arose with the Recruitment Lunch was that over 700 people registered indicating they would attend the lunch and about half were regular attendees, many of which thought they could just show up and recruit people. Lesson learned that we need to be more explicit about the intentions of the lunch – that it is mainly meant for students to attend and that recruiters must reserve a space and pay for the event. Also, although we offered childcare as a first-time experiment, very few children (5 from last report) are signed up for this and yet there seem to be many families coming to Vancouver as shown by the 150 accompanying people registered and paid for the Social Event at the Aquarium. Adding a Handbook Chair this year was a great idea.
EMNLP 2017, to be held in Copenhagen, Denmark, September 7-11, is well along in the planning and registration opened last week. The venue will be in the old meat packing district which has been turned into shops, restaurants, bars and a meeting space (Øksnehallen). It is a lively area with many other restaurants and hotels in the vicinity. We expect EMNLP 2017 to end with over 1,000 total registrants, making it even larger than Lisbon and Austin. The Office is providing advice, general support, and registration management.
Given the current concerns about possible travel restrictions going into the future, it may be interesting to note that, so far, ACL 2017 has had 6 cancellations specifically due to visas being denied.
Planning for NAACL 2018 and 2019 has begun with the signing of two contracts. NAACL 2018 will be at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in New Orleans, June 1-6 and NAACL 2019 will be at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis, June 2-7. Bundling the negotiations and using the same hotel chain produced extra leverage in obtaining better pricing and concessions for both conferences.
ACL 2018 planning is under way. Venue and Social Event (Aquarium) contracts have been signed, with special care given to assuring the proper space for all possible conference events. I will continue to offer advice as needed but it was agreed to be more fiscally reasonable to have the local professional conference organizers manage registrations to avoid complicated and costly taxation.
While it is always difficult to project attendance at conferences, we seem to be settling into a new higher level of attendance, after a growth spurt the last 2-3 years. Being prepared for more than expected numbers is extremely important for the next couple of years until we can again trust our newly-adjusted predictions. We may be at a point where most conference hotels no longer are large enough and we will have to specifically consider convention centers for future conferences.
Both ACL and EMNLP 2017 are keeping in mind Michael Strube’s schema to optimally lay out the posters, demos and food/beverages for the poster/dinner sessions to allow ample walk space and overall comfort. Workshops continue to be more challenging in finding adequate space for the growing attendance at some workshops and the many poster sessions and numbers of posters within a workshop that they plan to present. Careful advance planning is essential for these events.
EACL 2017 had sponsorships through the Office totaling $18,259 plus $3,500 from Google sponsoring the Ethics in NLP workshop. The Office has no record of local sponsorships obtained and kept within Europe.
ACL 2017 has proven to be quite popular, not only in numbers of registrations but also in having an all-time record breaking $303,237 in conference sponsorship commitments. Our faithful sponsors (Amazon, Baidu, Bloomberg, Brandeis University, ebay, Facebook, Google, Huawei Technologies, IBM Research, Microsoft, Nuance, Recruit Technologies, University of Washington, Yandex) plus sponsors we have not seen before or are returning (Adobe, Alibaba, Apple, Columbia University, CVTE, Duolingo, Elsevier, Grammarly, KPMG LLC, Maluuba/Microsoft, NAVER Corporation, NEC, NYU, Oracle, Robert Bosch LLC, SAP, Samsung Electronics, Sogou, Tencent, Textkernel, Toutiao, VoiceBox, @Newsela) continue to help us thrive. We also have $44,100 in sponsorships supporting workshops (primarily $40,000 to the WiNLP). Exciting commitments are from sixteen companies who each promised $500 for the Recruitment Lunch, for a total of $8,000. Five of these companies, including Twitter, are not also sponsors of the main conference. Special thanks to the General Chair, Chris Callison-Burch, and the Asian International Sponsorship Committee representative, Wanxiang Che, for eagerly pursuing additional and often new sponsors!
$108,473.80 in EMNLP 2017 sponsorships were committed so far. Many were the result of 2-Pack or 3-Pack sponsorship agreements so the same companies as listed above (Apple, Amazon, Baidu, Bloomberg, Brandeis University, CVTE, Duolingo, ebay, Facebook, Google, Grammarly, Huawei Technologies, IBM, Maluuba/Microsoft, Microsoft, Nuance, Oracle, Recruit Institute of Technology, SAP, Sogou, Textkernel, Yandex) plus deloitte, NEXT Canada, Siteimprove, SnapChat, Trust Pilot and Wizkids (mostly local companies) generously donated. Additionally, the BEA Workshop and W-NUT have $3,600 in sponsor commitments.
The idea of offering 2-Pack or 3-Pack options and including EMNLP allowed sponsors to make one payment to support two or all three events rather than one at a time. This made sponsoring easier, especially for our ongoing sponsors. For the 2017 Sponsorship Booklet that the International Sponsorship Committee and the Office pulled together, we continue to offer these multi-pack options, resulting in some of the first commitments and at higher levels (Amazon and Baidu at Platinum, for example) to come in.
The area Sponsorship Chairs and the Local Arrangement Sponsorship Chairs are working diligently to help make our conferences successful and it is a pleasure working with them. And, many thanks to all sponsors who help to make our conferences and workshops successful!