The Nominating Committee for the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (NAACL) has chosen the following candidates for the open positions on the NAACL board with two year terms beginning January 2020.

Additional nominations can be made until November 15th, 2019. The voting period will begin once the final slate of candidates and voting instructions are announced (soon after November 15th, 2019), and is scheduled to close on December 15th, 2019.

The names below and on the ballot appear in a (fixed) random order.

Chair (one opening, one candidate):


Colin Cherry


Colin Cherry is a Research Scientist at Google in Montreal. Previously, he worked at Natural Research Council Canada and Microsoft Research. He received his Ph.D. in Computing Science from the University of Alberta. His primary research area is machine translation, but he has been known to venture into parsing, morphology and information extraction. He is currently secretary for the NAACL and an action editor for the Transactions of the ACL. He has served as a workshop chair for HLT-NAACL 2012, as a publications chair for HLT-NAACL 2013, on the editorial board of Computational Linguistics from 2013 to 2015, and as an area chair for ACL 2014, IJCNLP 2017 and EMNLP 2019. He co-organized the Workshop on Deep Learning Approaches for Low-Resource NLP (DeepLo) in 2018 and 2019, and he was Research Program co-chair for the conference of the Association for Machine Translation in the Americas (AMTA) in 2018.

Candidacy Statement

From what I have seen, the role of the NAACL chair is threefold: first to keep the NAACL board on track with its recurring responsibilities of conference organization and community outreach, second to act as a liaison between the NAACL and the ACL, and third to enable and amplify the great ideas of NAACL’s board members. As a chair candidate, my primary advantage is having served as secretary for two great NAACL chairs. Over the past four years, I have watched them do these things expertly, and if selected as chair I will endeavour to do the same.

In terms of a platform, I mostly offer continuity and stability. These are extraordinary times for natural language processing, and I have no illusions about the amount of effort required just to scale our conferences and outreach to match our field’s rapid growth. I will continue to support NAACL’s widespread efforts to make its conferences more inclusive, by reducing financial barriers for disadvantaged groups, continuing to refine our strategies for family-friendliness, and improving the accessibility of our venues. I also intend to prioritize a careful discussion of how to handle remote presentation properly and consistently. Reviewing, of course, remains an ongoing concern as we attempt to scale our processes to an ever-growing flood of submissions. I will ensure that the NAACL board remains actively engaged in this discussion as it continues in our community and in those of our neighbouring fields.

Secretary (one opening, two candidates):


Heng Ji


Heng Ji is a professor at Computer Science Department of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received her B.A. and M. A. in Computational Linguistics from Tsinghua University, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University. Her research interests focus on Natural Language Processing, especially on Information Extraction and Knowledge Base Population. She is selected as “Young Scientist” and a member of the Global Future Council on the Future of Computing by the World Economic Forum in 2016 and 2017. The awards she received include “AI’s 10 to Watch” Award by IEEE Intelligent Systems in 2013 and NSF CAREER award in 2009. She has coordinated the NIST TAC Knowledge Base Population task since 2010. She is the associate editor for IEEE/ACM Transaction on Audio, Speech, and Language Processing. She has served as the Program Committee Co-Chair of NAACL-HLT2018, NLP-NABD2018, NLPCC2015, CSCKG2016 and CCL2019, and senior Information Extraction area chair for many ACL conferences.

Candidacy Statement

As one of the top three Computational Linguistics conferences, NAACL has created a nice culture of openness, fairness and efficiency in the community. However, NAACL’s exponential growth is making it increasingly difficult for authors to gain visibility for their research, find relevant papers, new members to find mentors, for program chairs to identify conflicts of interest (COI) and match papers with reviewers. I will focus on the following initiatives.

  1. To improve career and paper mentorship matching and general information sharing, I will closely work with Softconf and NAACL board to semi-automatically build and update a comprehensive NAACL member profile knowledge base: (a). A NAACL member can choose if they want a profile; (b). Use Information Extraction along with crowd-sourcing techniques to disambiguate entities and extract profiles, by integrating multiple sources (Softconf, ACL Anthology, webpages, Google Scholar pages, and conference pages); (c). Work with Softconf to integrate this knowledge base into Softconf, update it over time, and post it on the NAACL website; (d). Get input from NAACL board and/or community to create mailing lists (by area and subarea) to enable more focused resource sharing and discussions;

  2. I will also contribute constructive ideas and techniques to NAACL and ACL committees on improving paper COI handling, review matching, review quality control process and author disambiguation and paper search, again by leveraging my expertise in Information Extraction and the problems I have observed from being a recent NAACL2018 PC co-chair.

  3. When Amanda Stent and I were co-chairing the NAACL2018 PC, we greatly benefitted from the guidelines propagated from former conference chairs and we also wrote many guidelines/handbooks at each step for PC chairs and area chairs. I will work with NAACL conference chairs to collect all relevant materials and integrate them into a common reference repository to share with future chairs of NAACL and conferences in other regions and countries.

  4. For the basic duties, I will handle external communications through the NAACL website, mailing lists and social media in a clear and timely manner, take detailed and well-organized minutes at meetings, and run elections in a well-organized, fair and transparent format. The relevant services I have done in the past include proposing and organizing the nomination and selection of the Test-of-time award at NAACL2018, leading several multi-institute research efforts, and coordinating NIST TAC-KBP for ten years.


Steven Bethard


Steven Bethard is an Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona. He has previously worked at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Stanford University, Johns Hopkins University, KU Leuven, and the University of Colorado Boulder, where he received his PhD in 2007. His research focuses on modeling the language of time and timelines, normalizing text to medical and geospatial ontologies, and information extraction models for clinical applications. He is currently publications co-chair for ACL 2020 and a member of the SIGLEX board, and has previously served as co-chair of SemEval 2016-2018, publication chair for EMNLP 2013, area chair for ACL 2015, 2016 and 2019, and is a standing reviewer for TACL.

Candidacy Statement

As NAACL secretary, I would organize meetings, elections and general communications, including the website and social media. I believe our current website and Twitter activity are in good shape, and would aim to continue the recent work in posting relevant NAACL calls multilingually to encourage broad participation. I would also like to improve communication about the activities of the NAACL board, for example, condensing one or two interesting items from each board meeting into something that can be shared on the website and social media. As a NAACL board member, I’m interested in working with the rest of the board to help the NAACL organizers maintain the quality and inclusivity of the conference in the face of the exploding popularity of NLP, for example, by finding ways to better scale up the reviewing load. I’m also interested in helping to organize NAACL-sponsored programs such as the Jelinek Summer School or NAACL Emerging Regions Funding that help bring new members into our community.

Board Member nominees (three openings, five candidates):


David Traum


David Traum is the Director for Natural Language Research at the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and Research Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Southern California (USC). He leads the Natural Language Dialogue Group at ICT. More information about the group can be found here: Traum earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Rochester in 1994.Traum’s research focuses on dialogue communication between humans and artificial agents. He has engaged in theoretical, implementational and empirical approaches to the problem, studying human-human natural language and multi-modal dialogue, as well as building a number of dialogue systems to communicate with human users. Traum has authored over 250 refereed technical articles.

Research Community service includes SIGdial leadership from 1998-2015 (vice president, president, president emeritus, and board member), area chair for 3 NAACL conferences, ACL Demo Chair (1999), NAACL Workshops co-chair (2010), Associate editor for Dialogue and Discourse Journal, and (co-)chair of over 30 smaller conferences and workshops.

Candidacy Statement

These are “interesting times” for the Computational Linguistics/NLP field! The recent growth rate is tremendous, e.g. doubling participation and 75% increase in submissions from ACL 2018 to 2019. Recent initiatives to increase diversity and inclusion of participants have the potential to further grow the field in interesting ways. It will be a challenge for NAACL (as well as ACL and other regions, and related organizations) to preserve the best of what has worked in the past, while also adapting to accommodate the evolving changes and leverage new emerging opportunities. I’d like to work with NAACL to help address these issues, particularly

  • How should meetings like NAACL HLT evolve to address increased number of submissions? (e.g., how to choose between lower acceptance rate, shorter presentations, more parallelism, more conference days, more conferences?)

  • How do we improve policies and procedures to maintain high quality, encourage innovative and creative (and harder to evaluate) work, and establish more uniform and well-understood reviewing criteria (and adherence)?

  • How can we better support the needs for natural language processing research for and from all of the Americas?

  • How can we support a research infrastructure including stakeholders from industry and academia to support developers, researchers, trainees, and consumers?


Thamar Solorio


Thamar Solorio is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Houston (UH). Her main research interests include stylistic modeling of text and enable technology and information extraction for user generated data. She has M.S. and PhD degrees in Computer Science from INAOE, Puebla, Mexico. Her research program has been supported by the Department of Defense, the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and ADOBE Inc. She is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award for her work on authorship analysis. She is also recipient of the 2014 Emerging Leader ABIE Award in honor of Denice Denton. She serves as editorial board member for the Computer Speech and Language Journal. She has served as reviewer and area chair to ACL, NAACL, AAAI, among others, and was program co-chair for NAACL 2019.

Candidacy Statement

Our community keeps growing, and while this rapid growth is welcomed as it brings innovation, energy, and new brilliant minds, it also strains our infrastructure and it makes it harder for our community to mentor younger researchers and scale up our diversity efforts. If elected as a member of the NAACL board, I plan to make progress towards the following initiatives:

  • I would like to explore alternatives to START for our conference submission management system, for example, the one used by AAAI. In my experience as PC co-chair for NAACL 2019, and as observed in the follow-up conferences, START showed technical challenges supporting the number of submissions and users. Additionally, there is also a lot of manual work still needed when assembling the different components of the conference (handbook, proceedings, conference schedule, and app). This manual work makes the process error prone. I plan to invest efforts into improving this aspect by investigating other popular conference management systems.

  • Design and launch a “mentor the reviewers” system so that well-seasoned reviewers can provide advice and mentorship to less-experienced reviewers to improve the overall quality of the review process while still allowing younger researchers and researchers new to NAACL to contribute to the process.

  • Support initiatives like the WiNLP workshop to increase their visibility by exploring ways in which some of the talks can be allocated space during the main conference event. For example, talks from previous WiNLP events, voted for by workshop attendees, can be invited to be presented at the main conference. In this way, awareness of very important issues presented at WiNLP can be broadcast to the wider NLP community.

  • Explore a tiered registration cost to our conference so that large companies pay higher registration costs for their researchers, while researchers from places with low travel budgets and postdoctoral researchers pay fees closer to the student registration costs. This will keep the conference costs manageable while allowing more room to support researchers from underrepresented regions and institutions.


Smaranda Muresan


Smaranda Muresan is a Research Scientist at the Data Science Institute at Columbia University. Her research focuses on computational models for understanding language in context, such as social context or visual context, with application to computational social science and education. She served as Faculty Advisor for NAACL 2015 Student Research Workshop, and as a co-organizer of the 2nd Workshop on Argumentation Mining at NAACL 2015 and the Workshop on Figurative Language Processing at NAACL 2018. She served the ACL/NAACL/EMNLP community as reviewer and area chair and will serve as Program Co-chair for the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue (SIGDIAL 2020) and as senior area chair for ACL 2020.

Candidacy Statement

NAACL has a top quality conference and a fast growing community. As a member of the board I would like to work towards maintaining the high quality of the conference and supporting inclusiveness and interdisciplinary research. One priority would be to ensure that a larger number of high quality papers introducing creative and non-mainstream ideas are part of the NAACL program. Another priority, closely linked, would be to improve the quality of reviewing especially given the explosion in number of paper submissions. The hierarchical model of having one or two senior area chairs (SACs) and many area chairs (AC) who will be responsible for a small number of papers (at most 20) is a step forward. This model will allow SACs and ACs to propose the list of reviewers in their area based on expertise (possibly consulting or starting from list of reviewers in previous years) and to ensure that each paper is assigned a good mixture of senior and more junior reviewers. I also think that a simple and structured review form that encourages reviewers to provide arguments to support their assessment of papers’ strengths and weaknesses is a step forward to ensure quality reviews. And last but not least, I would argue in favor of keeping the author response as part of the reviewing process and having a constructive meta-review for each paper that communicates to the authors the main issues raised during the discussion period besides the main points in the reviews.


Amittai Axelrod


Amittai Axelrod is a staff scientist at DiDi Chuxing in Los Angeles, working on machine translation, dialog systems, and energy efficiency. They wandered into NAACL in 2003, without knowing what NLP was. Now, they have: degrees from MIT, U. of Edinburgh, and U. of Washington (PhD 2014); spent summers at ISI and Microsoft; been a postdoc at U. of Maryland and Johns Hopkins, and worked at Amazon. Amittai was the program chair / co-organizer of the Widening NLP (WiNLP) workshops in 2018 (@NAACL) and 2019 (@ACL).

Candidacy Statement

My goal in joining the NAACL board is to build closer ties with NLP communities in the rest of the Americas. This has been a long-standing NAACL effort, evidenced by the Emerging Regions Fund and the 2021 conf site! These are significant steps, but we can still do a lot more. Our challenge isn’t to convince potential graduate students in Mexico/Brazil/Peru/Chile/etc that NLP is a worthy field, nor to prove to ourselves that Mexico exists, but rather to ensure that we, the umbrella org, are connected with regional counterparts, wherever they may be.

I’ve spent the past two years helping members of underrepresented NLP communities join *ACL. WiNLP, while labor-intensive, is very effective at increasing year-on-year participation from external NLP communities. I’ve seen that the most important factors are:

  1. Experienced mentorship.
  2. Physically moving people between the communities.

We (as NAACL) can take a different tack: we can work with existing local conferences and workshops to have experienced NAACL members provide mentoring and feedback on papers, posters, or presentations. A few people spending a morning giving constructive feedback has a huge impact, for little cost. This isn’t a new idea, just a different implementation; we already do these things with students in our own institutions, by having 1-1 meetings and sending them to conferences. In this manner, NAACL becomes a little more portable and a little more accessible. There is no shortage of kindness nor goodwill in NAACL; the rest just takes dollars and coordination. As the loneliest puertorrican in NLP, I have some first-hand experience and a vested interest in this effort, and I intend to keep working on it.


Aline Villavicencio


Aline Villavicencio is a Reader/Professor in Computer Science affiliated to the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) and to the University of Sheffield (UK). Her research interests include lexical semantics, multilinguality, and cognitively motivated NLP. She received her PhD from the University of Cambridge (UK), held postdoc positions at the University of Cambridge and University of Essex (UK) and was a Visiting Scholar at institutions like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA) and École Normale Supérieure (France). She is the PC co-chair of CoNLL-2019, Area Chair for events like ACL-2019, NAACL 2018, COLING 2018, and General co-chair for the 13th Int. Conf. on Computational Processing of Portuguese (PROPOR 2018). She is a member of the advisory board of WiNLP, of the editorial board of TACL, JNLE, Journal of Language Modelling and Linguamatica, and a reviewer for various conferences, in addition to having co-chaired numerous *ACL workshops on Cognitive Aspects of Computational Language Acquisition and on Multiword Expressions. She has also co-edited special issues and books dedicated to these topics.

Candidacy Statement

If elected to the NAACL board one of my main goals is working towards increasing geographical diversity and inclusion of underrepresented NLP communities at NAACL events. There are many thriving NLP groups doing amazing work on a rich diversity of (often under-resourced) languages, and their greater presence at *ACL events would enrich and facilitate the exchange of knowledge and ideas and foster collaborations. This includes supporting NAACL initiatives and activities that promote diversity and inclusion, like WiNLP which has successfully increased participation of underrepresented communities. I am also committed towards promoting further the diversity and inclusion of areas in NAACL events. There is a growing community working towards strengthening the links with researchers from cognitive sciences, brain science, physics and biology. I will work towards supporting these efforts and promoting the greater presence of interdisciplinary initiatives in NAACL events for facilitating collaborations.

Additional nominations:

Additional nominations can be submitted until November 15th, 2019. To make a nomination, three or more NAACL members should send email to NAACL past-chair, Emily M. Bender at expressing support for the nominee and giving evidence that he or she will serve if elected. (It is recommended that this evidence consist of a forwarded email from the nominee containing a candidate statement, a biographical sketch, homepage URL, and a brief affirmation of intent to serve if elected.) In addition, the nominees for Chair should meet the criteria set out in the NAACL constitution.

Election process:

The voting period will begin once the final slate of candidates and voting instructions are announced (soon after November 15th), and is scheduled to close on December 15.

Many thanks to the Nominating Committee for doing the hard work of putting together an excellent slate of nominees.

Nominating committee for the 2020 elections:

  • Matt Post (chair)
  • Fei Xia
  • Hal Daumé III
  • Philip Resnik
  • Ellen Riloff

For more information about the NAACL, NAACL officer responsibilities, and NAACL election procedures, please see the NAACL home page, and the NAACL constitution, which is available there.