RANLP 2021 Conference Report

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A number of staff and students recently attended RANLP 2021 – online this year due to the ongoing pandemic – however, as you can see from the reports below, still a lively and engaging conference.

Another successful online conference I attended is RANLP. I enjoyed the ability to attend many sessions and workshops from the comfort of my home office😊 RANLP had very interesting keynote speeches, they were quite informative on the ongoing research trends for different NLP groups all over the world. My online presentation went very well, the only thing that I was missing was to see the attendees reactions while talking. I can either concentrate on my slides or the participants 😊 But I was happy from how the research ideas were interesting to many. The RANLP workshops were also excellent. Researchers from top-notch universities gave very interesting presentations. Looking forward to repeating this wonderful experience in the future.

Hadeel Saadany – PhD Student

I recently participated in RANLP 2021 (Recent Advances in Natural Language Processing). RANLP has established itself over the years as one of the most influential and competitive NLP conferences. This year, due to the COVID situation in many countries, organisers decided to keep the conference virtually using the zoom technology.

RANLP 2021 had excellent keynote speeches from top researchers in NLP around the world. The RANLP organisers made sure that there were at least three keynote speeches for a day. Usually, the day started with a keynote speech. There was another keynote speech after the lunch break and the day concluded with a keynote speech. Day 1 in RANLP 2021 began with a keynote speech from Dr Jing Jiang in Singapore Management University. She talked about the latest research on question and answering. In the afternoon, we had a keynote speech from Prof Josef van Genabith and Nico Herbig on translation technologies. They talked about implementing a multimodal user interface for post-editing. Day 2 in RANLP started with a keynote speech from Prof Hwee Tou Ng where he talked about current and future research directions in grammatical error correction in texts.  After the lunch break, we had a keynote speech from Prof Constantin Orasan. He provided a very informative session on preserving sentiment in machine translations. Since he is the first supervisor in my PhD studies, he also talked about the research we did on translation quality estimation for my PhD. Therefore, this session was special for me. Later, in the afternoon we had a keynote from Dr He He at New York University about text generation. She talked about the latest developments in the text generation area, including neural transformers. The final day in RANLP started with a keynote speech from Prof Tim Baldwin about text summarisation and the evaluation of text summarisation methods. As the second keynote speech of the day, we had a session by Prof Sebastian Riedel where he talked about learning from knowledge bases and reasoning in machine learning models. As the final keynote, we had a session with Prof Alessandro Moschitti. He presented a very informative session on recent developments of question and answering. Overall, all of the keynote speeches in RANLP were enlightening and provided useful insight knowledge about the state-of-the-art in several NLP topics. It was great to listen to the pioneers of the field and hear their first-hand experiences.

In RANLP 2021, I was fortunate to be a session chair of two parallel sessions. My first parallel session was on the 1st of September, which contained four long papers about offensive language identification. There were four exciting papers, including offensive language identification in Spanish and Romanian, in that session. The second session I chaired was on the 2nd of September. It contained four fascinating papers on translation technologies. RANLP was my first experience being a session chair, and it was a good opportunity for me. I thank the RANLP organisers for allowing me to be a session chair.

I presented two papers at the conference.  I got the opportunity to present my first paper on the 1st of September. It contained the work we did on creating an offensive language identification corpus on a low-resource language, Marathi. I presented the second paper on the 3rd of September, which was on multilingual misinformation identification on COVID-19 tweets, which is timely research. I received very good feedback from the audience for both of the papers with comments to improve in future work. I hope to incorporate them in my future work, and I am glad for the RANLP participants for their valuable ideas.

During the conference, I got the opportunity to get to know several researchers working in the same field from universities worldwide, and the networking was very valuable. However, I did miss the physical presence and all the fun activities in RANLP, such as cocktail receptions and the Gala dinner. I hope that we can have the next RANLP conference physically in Varna, Bulgaria and present at the venue site. Finally, I would like to thank the organisers of RANLP for having the conference despite the difficult situation in the world.

Tharindu Ranasinghe – PhD Student