Sample letter to panelists

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Letter to Student Research Workshop Panelists

Conference Handbook - Sample Letter to Panelists

Since one of the main purposes of the student research workshop is to nurture young researchers, the letter to the workshop panelists should emphasize this aspect and provide useful instructions to the panelists. The following sample letter accomplishes this objective.

Dear ____________,

The program for the student research workshop is now set and you should have received a separate email from Peter with instructions on how to download your assigned paper(s). If you haven't already, please take a quick look at the program located at (give URL) and let us know immediately if you have a conflict with the time-slot for a paper you are slated to support. The motivation for changing the format for student presentations is to increase both the quantity and the quality of feedback provided to student presenters. In a large conference setting, audience members often want to avoid being very critical of the students who are presenting, possibly for the first time at a large event. Therefore, the audience comments usually focus on polite suggestions for improvement or simple clarifications of the student's results. Also, the amount of time available for questions after each presentation is often inadequate to cover issues in any depth or for the presenter's responses to go into much detail. We hope this new workshop format will remedy that situation by allowing more time for questions/feedback, by allowing you to read the paper beforehand and have plenty of time to think about the research and prepare comments, and by moving to a smaller location where discussion of problems or possible improvements in the student's research is facilitated. As a panelist, we ask that you assume the role of "advisor-for-a-day" for the student presenting, and that you carefully read your assigned paper(s) before the workshop and prepare comments and questions that focus on (but are not limited to) the following points:

  • What suggestions do you have for improvements of the methods used
  • How could the exposition of the results or approach be improved
  • What potential trouble spots do you see or particularly questionable elements of the future work
  • What related material has the student missed

The schedule of the workshop allows each student 25 minutes to present, followed by 15 minutes for questions. Panelists will be asked to sit down front with the session chair. In the question period, we will first take questions and comments from the panelists, then open the floor for questions and comments from the audience. Panelists will not make formal presentations, but otherwise just about anything goes: you can stand up to deliver your comments or you can remain seated, you can ask the author to expand on a particular point or work through an example, you can even hop up on stage if you need to explain your point on the board (or on a blank transparency). Use the time as you would working with an advisee. We want the interaction to stay friendly and collaborative and supportive of the student's endeavors, but don't be afraid to point out problems that you see with the research, or trouble lurking ahead that will impact the student's completion of the work. The student may also have prepared questions for you, which we will cover if time allows. Students at previous similar events were required to be past the proposal phase, but we did not impose that requirement in our review procedures for this workshop. The work being presented is not necessarily the student's thesis work. You are welcome to make written comments on your hard-copy of the paper or on a separate sheet to give to the author either before or during the workshop. You should also let the student know if you are interested in continuing to work with him/her via email after the workshop. A future working relationship with the student is not expected of you, so it's your option to initiate such a relationship if you wish.

We realize that many of you are attending other workshops and will come and go from the student workshop throughout the day. You are not expected to attend student presentations other than the ones you are assigned as a panelist, but of course we would appreciate your presence for as much of the day as your schedule allows.

Thanks again for your participation in this first student workshop at an ACL event. With such high caliber scientists serving as panelists and the high quality of student research being presented, we are confident that the day will prove very worthwhile. We hope you enjoy this unique opportunity to have a positive impact on the career of a future NLP researcher. If you have any questions about the workshop, feel free to contact either of us.

Best Regards,
Donna Byron and Peter Vanderheyden Student Research Workshop Co-Chairs