2010Q3 Reports: General Conference Chair
General Chair's Report
Given all the detailed reports from the committee chairs, there is little to report or add for me as the General Chair. Everything worked smoothly from my point of view (for an exception, see below), and what was the most prominent but perhaps not so much visible was the excellent work of Joakim Nivre and the LOC, both program chairs (Sandra Carberry and Steven Clark) and Jing-Shin Chang as the publications chair, who in the past three months had to work the hardest to have everything ready at the various important points in time during that period.
What I had been involved in (except for minor things) was the production of the publications. (Let me stress right here that in the end, everything is ready for the conference, on a nice USB card, and ready to go live as part fo the ACL Anthology on the first day of the conference, the handbook is ready, and the web was ready in time, too.) There has been a certain amount of "friction" between the publication chair, program chairs and the local chair and his team regarding the correct and necessary flow of information among them; just to remind the Exec, there is a great deal of coordination absolutely necessary to provide the conference participants with consistent information in the proceedings / anthology, on the web and in the Conference Handbook. This exchange of information is also under a very heavy time pressure, since the deadlines for the various publications are very soon after the infromation is ever known (such as all the program schedules). In addition, the chairs typically reside in an area "with no sunset", i.e. in very different time zones, thus not readily available to discuss things right away (despite of course putting very long hours into this, in all cases!). It is thus no wonder that the highest chance of problems is exactly here.
In my opinion, the reason was not in the people, who in fact worked very very hard to manage everything in time and in excellent quality, but it was the lack of proper software support for the whole conference organization. In many cases, it is possible to adopt ad hoc solutions inside local organization, between the program chairs, etc., but the publications issue alone is much more complicated, spans several committess and many people and involves (my guess) 80% of all the information exchanged between the committees. Apparently, even after the integration of ACLPUB into the START system this year, the problem is far from solved - and maybe even amplified due to less flexibility of the currently integrated system. Please refer to Jing-Shin's report (Publications Chair) with a detailed description of the problem(s) and some suggestions.
However, I believe that the problem is even wider than solely the publications issue and that the Exec should, as part of its future plans, consider ways of implementing unified and integrated software support for our conference organization. We should use the experience with the past (including this year) to integrate all the support better and eventually extend it to cover all aspects of the conference.
Some additional important points and/or highlights from the other reports:
- one of the authors, Dmitry Davydov, a PhD student, has tragically passed away; we have decided to let someone else to present his paper, and say a few words (James Curran, the session chair of that session, has been informaed by Steven Clark, one of the program chairs). A small obituary will be placed on the ACL board;
- early registration has been extended by 4 days due to technical problems; we all hope the monetary loss will be minimal if any (cf. also below);
- it appears it will be the second largest of all non-combined ACLs, maybe even the largest (competing with Prague 2007); despite that, room sizes, materials etc. seem to be OK thanks to careful planning of the LOC;
- the extended scope of the conference as proposed and handled by the program chairs worked very well (it might in fact be one of the reasons of the large number of registrations, cf. above);
- very good sponsorship results (with exceptionally high local sponsor contributions).