Introducing the Diversity & Inclusion Committee

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What if NLP researchers simply came together for a conference to share work, exchange ideas, and collaborate on science? The reality today is that this does not happen. Only a relatively homogeneous segment of the population of NLP researchers manages to attend the conference. These are the participants who are lucky enough to have funding, visas, able bodies, and the flexibility to leave home for a week. Even those of us who do attend are sometimes distracted by challenges that we encounter at the conference itself. But what if we could all simply come together and focus on the science?

NAACL 2019 General Chair Jill Burstein has created the new roles of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Co-Chairs for the conference. That’s us! Our job is to make sure that everyone feels welcomed at the conference and can fully participate.

To get started, we looked at D&I efforts from past NAACL and *ACL conferences, along with online checklists, and advice from peers. However, as we built a preliminary list of things to do, we quickly realized the limitations of our own personal experiences for understanding the diverse array of challenges encountered by potential NAACL participants.

That’s why we put out a survey, last fall, and called for volunteers. Today we’re working as a D&I team of 18 volunteers from diverse backgrounds, divided into 6 subteams with different missions. We have all been very busy!

Over the coming weeks running up to NAACL 2019, our teams will publish a series of D&I blog entries here to make everyone aware of the solutions that will be available to them at the conference, so science can be everyone’s focus. And hopefully we’ll manage to encourage some participants who wouldn’t previously have attended that this is just the right place for us all!

Meet our committee!

  1. Disability access: Cassidy Henry (Maryland), Adam Goodkind (Northwestern), Klaus Zechner (ETS)
  2. Financial access: Tirthankar Ghosal (IIT, Patna) and Valia Kordoni (Humboldt)
  3. Childcare and parental inclusion: Cissi O Alm (RIT) and Emily Prud’hommeaux (Boston College)
  4. Other accessibility issues (especially neuro-diversity, food, religion) : Libby Barak (Toronto), Shruti Rijhwani (CMU)
  5. Socially inclusive activities: Zeerak Waseem (Sheffield), Marianna Martindale (Maryland), Cassandra L Jacobs (Toronto)
  6. Academically inclusive activities: Kellie Webster (Google), Aakanksha Naik (CMU), Dirk Hovy (Bocconi), Masoud Rouhizadeh (JHU)

If you have questions about whether NAACL 2019 will be a good experience for you, we hope the answer is yes. But please feel free to ask us directly either via email or Twitter. We are also open to suggestions.

Hope to see you at the conference.

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