2009Q1 Reports: Office

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Priscilla Rasmussen 12 January 2009


ACL Business Office Report

First, all the best to everyone throughout 2009 and, my sincere thanks for my contract renewal and raise…much appreciated!

Graeme Hirst and I continue working on setting up a good system for transferring financial information back and forth and getting our accounting scheme in place.

John Kirby, my assistant, continues to be invaluable to me in many aspects of keeping the office, memberships and publications in order. Mainly, though, as many of you have seen when he accompanies me to our conferences, I am finding bringing him along when possible allows me greater freedom to attend meetings, put out logistical fires, and do all those things I need to do but am torn in half when trying to also manage the registration desk full time. So far, I have only brought John to meetings I was able to drive to and had negotiated his stay as part of the hotel contract (or got agreement to use some of our earned credit nights) so his involvement would not cost anything to ACL other than his working hours. Of course, I'd really benefit from having him come to both Boulder and Singapore but hadn't wanted to introduce more costs to the conferences. If possible, though, bringing John along (if he can come) would be excellent!

Our Office three-year lease comes to an end as of April 1st. Within the lease is an option of two one-year extensions “at no more than 5% increase per year”. I intend to work with the realtor to lock in the first year (2009/10) option at the best (lowest) possible rate. It occurs to me that, beginning April 1, 2010, I might make three rooms in my home available as the office (Graeme and Kathy McCoy have both seen my space at home). This would reduce the ACL Office rent as well as making it more convenient for me. I mention this just as a possible option for the future for you to mull over since my expectation is that less space will be required to house fewer hardcopies of both the journals and conference publications.

Regarding moving the office to my home, first some background: ACL has always paid 75% of the office rental; AMTA pays 10%; ARCS (my company) pays 15%. These percentages were derived based upon the amount of time I spend on ACL and AMTA activities and the remainder covers whatever other events I might pick up through ARCS (Digital Government Society, WISE, ISI, etc). So, currently:

       $850  Rent = $630 ACL/$85 AMTA/$135 ARCS (expected increase April 1st to $900 = $675 ACL/
         $90 AMTA/$135 ARCS)
       Plus security system (around $400/year) and electric utilities (around $1,000/year)
       Yearly ACL office rental cost = $630 X 12 = $7,560 + $400 + $1,000 = $8,960
       ACL currently pays separate phone/fax/internet regardless of where the office is located

If we were to use my loft and its closets as the "main office", one bedroom as storage/mailing/etc. that must always be accessible, and half my barn for historical and publication storage, this equals about 600 sq ft of my 2000 sq ft. So, with the same 75% ACL, 10% AMTA, and 15% ARCS of the 30% of total sq. ft. space:

       30% of $1,763/month I pay for my house = $528.90/month
       75% ACL = $396.67
       Plus 25% of electric monthly average of $185 = $52 X 75% = $39
       So, ACL's monthly portion would be $396.67 + $39 = $435.67 = $435.00
       Presumes house security and water are part of my household expenses and not chargable; 
       ACL continues to pay phone/fax/internet

So, ACL would stand to save about $311.66/month = $3,739.92/year or $11,000+ over the next 3 years.

Publications: Publications orders seem to have leveled off to only a small amount per year now. We have a few “standard” book resalers who faithfully order small quantities of the newest publications but have very few orders from the membership these days. And, we have almost no requests for workshops or older copies of main conference proceedings (I think there were only 1-2 older main proceedings ordered in all of 2008). So, I believe we need to further reduce our hardcopy ordering for future conferences. And, by the end of the month, the online Publications Order Form will be updated to reflect our newest publications, including Coling 2008.

Membership: I will summarize here the important points of the two spreadsheets I have sent to this group as excel files: Total membership at the end of 2008 was 1602, comprised of 1137 Regular, 463 Student, and 2 Unknown type members. Three took advantage of the ISCA discount to first-time members and eight were from hard-currency problem countries. The worldwide composition is 214 Asia/Pacific Rim, 59 Canada/Mexico, 439 Europe, 10 South America and 880 USA. Conferences generated memberships as well as through direct membership applications: 426 through ACL 2008 and 110 through EMNLP 2008.

We had a record-breaking total of 2,123 members in 2006. For 2007, after taking out fraudulent and conference no-shows who did not pay at all, we ended the year with 2,104 total members. Sadly, my optimism of coming close to the 2,000 mark did not materialize by the end of 2008. Our final membership count is 1,602. My best guesses of why we see this slippage in members are that NAACL hosted ACL this year and did not hold its own event and EACL did not hold a European conference in 2008 either. Conferences seem to generate quite a lot of one-time members who must become members to attend our meetings. For example, ACL 2007 in Prague totaled 1082 registrants, of which 533 were one-timers who did not renew for 2008. Another approximately 250 registrants from 2006 Coling/ACL renewed only for 2007 but not again for 2008. It seems many of these were Europeans who do go to Colings and EACLs moreso that to US-held meetings. We had 425 brand new memberships in 2008, most of whom attended either ACL 2008 or EMNLP 2008 and will hopefully renew for 2009. I would expect in 2009, with three conferences, one in each geographic area of the world we represent, our membership should increase over the 2008 numbers.

We begin 2009 with the multi-year members who carry over into 2009 plus some anxious renewals that have come in even before our online membership form has been updated. The total membership for 2009 now stands at 254. The membership form should be updated online within the next week or so. And, lastly, with our changes to memberships and benefits and the decision to eliminate the Joint membership option, I want to let you know there were only 22 such memberships to be effected.

Walker Fund: Thanks to the Executive for their approval of increasing Student Travel Awards funding beyond the previously typical 1-3 Walker Fund awards (basically never exceeding 10% of the roughly $30,000 in the Walker Fund account). I received a total of 34 applications for Student Travel Awards and was able to extend the $10,000 to make meaningful awards to 14 students. Unfortunately, two students were from China and, in the end, could not get visas to attend the conference.

Conferences:

ACL 2008 in Columbus ended with a final count of 804 total registrants. The last of the invoices was recently paid so we can begin to finalize the bookkeeping. I believe there should be a reasonably healthy surplus.

EMNLP 2008 in Hawaii was also a success with a final registration count of 227. Holding EMNLP immediately following AMTA 2008, in the same hotel, resulted in a good amount of “cross-pollination” which helped the attendance at both meetings.

The planning for ACL/IJCNLP 2009 in Singapore continues; I expect my involvement to intensify in the coming months.

EACL 2009, to be held in Athens, Greece, promises to also be a wonderful meeting. The Office continues to provide advice and support as requested. Registration opened mid-December.

And, NAACL 2009, in Boulder, Colorado, will be an exciting meeting, with the beautiful mountains surrounding our venue. The planning and budgeting is shaping up quite nicely and most everything is now in place.

The Office has also been heavily involved in negotiating the final NAACL 2010 contract for Los Angeles and this contract is now in place. My next steps are to finalize the Banquet contract with the Library which is nearby the hotel. Also, in April 2009, Jan Hajic and I will conduct the ACL 2010 site visit to Uppsala, Sweden. Joakim Nivre is pulling together a site visit agenda for us now. And, Ido Dagan has just issued the ACL 2011 Call for Bids so, hopefully soon, we will have those proposed bids for review.

Conference Sponsorship:

I am very pleased to report that, for ACL 2008, we received commitments totaling $33,000 which is a very healthy amount of support, indeed! Additionally, two workshops (BioNLP and SIGdial) found their own support of their 2008 workshops, totaling $5,250. EMNLP 2008 received support from Google in the amount of $4,000 and $500 from Microsoft. Many thanks to all sponsors who helped to make our conferences and workshops successful!

Unfortunately, so far for the three 2009 conferences, non-local support has been very slow to materialize, although I have just received a Gold Level ($5,500) sponsorship check from the Rosetta Stone for NAACL 2009 (through Martha Palmer and the local team) and have invoiced CNGL for a 3-pack sponsorship.