Li Sheng receives 2015 Association for Computation Linguistics Lifetime Achievement Award

During its 53rd annual meeting in Beijing, China (July 26-31, 2015), the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) awarded its 2015 ACL Lifetime Achievement Award to Prof. Li Sheng.

Li Sheng (Chinese: 李生; Li is the family name; born in 1943), is a professor at the School of Computer Science and Technology, Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) in China. Prof. Li began research on Chinese-English machine translation 30 years ago in 1985, making him one of the first Chinese scholars in this field.

Born and raised in Heilongjiang province, Prof. Li graduated in 1965 from the computer specialty of HIT, one of the first computer science specialties in Chinese universities. Then he started work as a staff member in the Computer specialty of HIT, which was finally granted status as a department in 1985. From 1985, he was appointed to a series of administrative positions in HIT, including Dean of the Computer Department (1987–1988), Director of the R&D Division (1988–1990), and Chief R&D Officer at HIT.

Resigning all his administrative positions in 2004, Prof. Li devoted himself as the director of the Chinese Ministry of Education-Microsoft Joint Key Laboratory of Natural Language Processing and Speech at HIT, making it a leading NLP research group with more than 100 staff and students working on various aspects of NLP. Its research progress is reported annually in top tier conferences including at the annual meeting of ACL.

As one of the pioneers in NLP research in China, Prof. Li contributed to many areas of machine translation and NLP research in China. In addition to technology innovations, he was also a leader in the education of NLP students. So far, his research group has graduated more than 60 Ph.D. and almost 200 M.E students with an NLP major. Many of them are now working as chief researchers in various NLP groups of universities and companies in China, including several world-known NLP scholars, such as Dr. Haifeng Wang, vice president of Baidu, Dr. Ming Zhou, principal researcher in Microsoft Research Asia, Dr. Min Zhang at Soochow University (China) and Dr. Teijun Zhao and Dr. Liu Ting at HIT. Due to these contributions to Chinese Language Processing, Prof Li was elected as the President of Chinese Information Processing Society of China (CIPSC) in 2011.

In his speech following receipt of his lifetime achievement award, Prof. Li spoke about the history of NLP in China. Machine translation (MT) in China dates back to 1956 with the first MT demo in 1959, the year the HIT MT research center was founded by Prof. Wang Zhen and Prof. Wang Kaizhu. Prof. Li’s group developed the CEMT-I MT system, for translating technical paper titles from Chinese to English. In 1989, it was the first MT system to pass Chinese government technical appraisal. This work was followed by a sequence of ever better MT systems: CEMT-II, CEMT-III, DEAR, and then, starting in 1994, his group developed the BT863 MT system for bidirectional translation between Chinese and English, which achieved the best performance among Chinese-English MT systems in the formal technical evaluation of the Chinese government National 863 program for human language technology. Simultaneously, other research explored dependency parsing, semantic analysis and the development of the Language Technology Platform for Chinese, including as a cloud service. Professor Li’s talk ended with a live demonstration of speech-to-speech machine translation during the question and answer period.



The Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) is the premier international scientific and professional society for people working on computational problems involving human language, a field often referred to as either computational linguistics or natural language processing (NLP). The association was founded in 1962, originally named the Association for Machine Translation and Computational Linguistics (AMTCL), and became the ACL in 1968. Activities of the ACL include the holding of an annual meeting each summer and the sponsoring of the journal Computational Linguistics, published by MIT Press; this conference and journal are the leading publications of the field. For more information, see: