2012Q3 Reports: SIGGEN

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ACL SIGGEN report 2011-2012 SIGGEN continues to be a valued shared resource for an active and developing community of researchers in natural language generation. Over the past year we supported a number of workshops and initiatives and maintained and developed our web presence. We have just now held the 7th International Conference on Natural Language Generation, INLG 2012.

The SIGGEN board has not changed this past year. However, Ielka van der Sluis (chair of the board) moved from Dublin to Groningen, and three current board members are reaching the end of their term, so that we will be preparing for elections in the fall. …

SIGGEN organises the biennial INLG conferences and INLG 2012 (http://nlp.cs.uic.edu/inlg2012/) was competently organized by Barbara Di Eugenio (University of Illinois, Chicago, USA) and Susan McRoy (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA). INLG 2012 took place at Starved Rock State Park, Utica IL, about 90 miles / 144 km south of Chicago, IL, USA. The conference was held immediately prior to NAACL-HLT 2012 at Montreal, Canada. This year INLG received 27 submissions (12 full papers, 9 short papers and 6 demo proposals) from 10 different countries from around the world. 8 submissions were accepted as full papers, 10 as short papers (2 presented orally, and 8 as posters), and 3 demos. In addition there were 6 paper and two poster presentations for the GenChal'12 and two keynote addresses by Kathy McCoy (University of Delaware) and James Lester (North Carolina State University). With 39 attendees, of which 35 paying, 2 organizers, and 2 invited speakers, we experienced an academically, socially and financially successful conference. The number of submissions received by INLG was quite a bit lower than what we had hoped for. We are discussing possible reasons and will address them when preparing for INLG 2014. In particular, it might be better to find a location closer to the venue of the larger event that we are trying to piggy-back on.

In addition, SIGGEN offers (non-financial) endorsement to workshops and activities related to language generation. This year we were pleased to support the 13th European Workshop on Natural Language Generation (ENLG 2011; http://talc.loria.fr/13th-European-Workshop-on-Natural.html), which took place in Nancy on 28 - 30 September 2011 and was organised by Claire Gardent (LORIA INRIA, Nancy, France) and Kristina Striegnitz (Union College, Schenectady, NY). ENLG received 41 submissions (24 long, 17 short) of which 13 long papers were accepted to be presented orally and 12 short papers were accepted for poster presentations. The workshop provided lots of room for informal discussions (which the participants seemed to happily take advantage of). The program also reserved one slot for birds-of-a-feather sessions, in which the participants suggested topics and then split up into groups for informally discussions about these topics. This is a session format that our community is not very used to and people were somewhat hesitant to suggest topics, but in the end three different discussion groups had formed and the organizers received a lot of positive feedback on the birds-of-a-feather sessions. Next year, we are looking forward to the 14th European Workshop on Natural Language Generation. Albert Gatt (University of Malta, Malta) has stepped forward to take care of the organisation. Most likely, he will apply for ENLG to be a workshop at ACL 2013 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

SIGGEN also endorsed a workshop on Language Generation and Evaluation (UCNLG+Eval; http://www.nltg.brighton.ac.uk/ucnlg/ucnlg11) which was organized as a one day workshop at EMNLP 2011 in Edinburgh by Anja Belz (University of Brighton, UK), Roger Evans (University of Brighton, UK), Albert Gatt (University of Malta, Malta) and Kristina Striegnitz (Union College, USA).

Finally, SIGGEN continues to endorse Generation Challenges (http://www.itri.brighton.ac.uk/research/genchal12/), an umbrella and incubator for shared task evaluations in the area of natural language generation. Generation Challenges 2012 was the 6th edition. Reports on ongoing shared tasks and new task proposals were presented at INLG 2012. The results of the HOO -- Helping Our Own -- task (http://clt.mq.edu.au/research/projects/hoo/hoo2012) were presented at the Workshop on Innovative Use of NLP for Building Educational Applications at NAACL-HLT 2012. Three shared tasks are currently preparing for an evaluation (Surface Realization, GRUVE - Generating Route Instructions under Uncertainty in Virtual Environments, Question Generation) and three new tasks were proposed.

It is encouraging to see all this activity in the field. However, the visibility of NLG in mainstream conferences and in industry remains rather low. Therefore, at INLG 2012, a panel discussion was held on `Advances in NLG: impact on industry’. The panelists were (Eva Banik (Computational Linguistics Ltd UK) , Pablo Dubuoe (Les Laboratoires Foulab Canada), Chris Howell (Agfa Healthcare USA), Ehud Reiter (Univ of Aberdeen / Data2Text, UK), Frank Schilder (Thomson Reuters R&D US)). The panelists were asked to think about: "how their organization is using NLG, how they see it as providing value/impact, and what particular advances in NLG they might employ in the future or what challenges the NLG community might most usefully address." The discussion included lots of interaction and questions from the audience. Some thoughts from the panel: the need in the "real world" is definitely there. Obstacles to full deployment in industry were found in: necessity to educate collaborators and users on what NLG can do; lack of shared, easy to use resources (huge learning curve).

To further SIGGEN’s visibility the SIGGEN website has been well-maintained in 2011 and 2012 due to the efforts of our webmaster Margaret Mitchell. The SIGGEN website was linked to the NLG resource pages at the ACLwiki and holds an updated list of the job opportunities in the field.

SIGGEN's financial position was extremely healthy. Prior to INLG-2012, SIGGEN had USD 7741 in its sub-account. At the point of writing the final budget for INLG 2012 is not known yet, but we are confident that we played at least even.