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NLP Conference Success for Danae

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NLP Conference Success for Danae

It is a busy time of year for most, not least our PhD students. We caught up with Danae, from our first cohort, to find out about her recent success and attendance at three different NLP conferences.

‘Attending academic conferences is an important way to build skills as a PhD student. You get the opportunity to ask questions, get new ideas, ask for practical advice and meet professionals in the field. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, this year most conferences took place online. I recently attended 3 virtual conferences: ACL, EMNLP, and AACL.’

ACL 2020

The 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) took place online from 5th to 10th July 2020. ACL is the leading conference in the field of computational linguistics, covering a wide variety of research areas dealing with computational approaches to natural language.

In this conference, I presented the paper Analyzing Political Parody in Social Media. This paper is co-authored with Antonis Maronikolakis, my supervisor Nikolaos Aletras (University of Sheffield), and with Daniel Preoţiuc-Pietro (Bloomberg). We present the first study of parody using methods from computational linguistics and machine learning. We introduce a freely available large-scale dataset containing a total of 131,666 English tweets from 184 real and corresponding parody accounts, and evaluate and analyze a range of neural models achieving high predictive accuracy.

Also, I attended a mentoring session led by Dr. Alona Fyshe from University of Alberta, where PhD students could ask general questions. A common concern among students is how to balance work and social life. Dr. Fyshe recommended the book Deep Work: Rules for Concentrated Success in a Distracted World, a guide to intense concentration in a distraction-free environment that leads to rapid, efficient learning and results. She reminded us to have fun, too!

EMNLP 2020

The 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP) took place online from 16th to 20th November 2020. The Keynote by Dr. Janet Pierrehumbert, from University of Oxford, discussed the importance of the effects of context when determining the efficiency of NLP systems, as well as the variability in language among individuals. She reminded us to be cautious of what we are evaluating. For example, when using annotators, we should take into account that annotation depends on the point of view and lived experience of the participants, thus, we shouldn’t treat annotators as having access to ground truth. 

AACL 2020

The 1st Conference of the Asia-Pacific Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (AACL) took place online from 4th to 7th December 2020. In this conference I presented the paper Point-of-Interest Type Inference from Social Media Text. This work is co-authored with Daniel Preoţiuc-Pietro (Bloomberg), and my supervisor Nikolaos Aletras (University of Sheffield). We present the first study on the relationship between language of a social media message, and the type information associated with the point of interest (POI) the message was sent from. We develop a large-scale dataset of tweets mapped to their POI category, and conduct an analysis to uncover characteristics specific to place type. Also, we train predictive models to infer the POI category using only the text of the tweet and the posting time. Inferring the place type from the text could help geographers and social scientists research mobility trends, and how people interact with places in real-time.

Interspeech 2020

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The CDT at Interspeech

Within the CDT there is an emphasis on attending and participating in academic conferences. Not only to understand the latest developments in the field, but to network and communicate with the wider SLT community. Four of our students from across the two cohorts attended this year’s Interspeech Conference

Introduction from Hussein

Interspeech is one of the foremost academic conferences for Speech and Language Technology. It incorporates a variety of specialities and disciplines and provides a forum to discuss and share the latest research and innovations. 

This year’s Interspeech was scheduled to be held in Shanghai; however, it was converted to a fully virtual conference. As an attendee this was extremely beneficial as all sessions were timed and organised so I could easily participate and discuss further with the authors of certain papers.

 

This year has been especially good for the University’s Speech and Hearing (SpandH) research group. As a CDT student this is inspiring to see and be involved in.

Paper Spotlight

Our Cohort 2 member, Jonathan Clayton, had a paper published this year. 

‘The paper adapts the work which I produced as part of my MSc project with another student and supervisors at the University of Edinburgh. In this work, we investigated the utility of lightweight EEG (ElectroEncephaloGraphy) devices for the decoding of spoken, heard and imagined speech from brainwave signals. The research was aimed at contributing towards the development of brain-computer interfaces which could be used as communication aid for people with speech deficits or impairments. The work involved the collection of a dataset containing EEG recordings, which has been made publicly available.’

Interspeech Mentoring 

Meg attended one of the mentoring sessions available.

‘Instead of joining hundreds of other academics, professionals, and students in Shanghai, I had to join from the comfort of my bedroom. Nevertheless, this year’s ISCA-SAC provided an incredible opportunity to talk with industry professionals and ask questions about their experiences in moving between industry and academia. With our industry links being a big part of the CDT at Sheffield, it feels like my options are open for both staying and progressing in academia, or making the move over to industry. This mentoring session let me talk with Visar Berisha, associate professor at Arizona State University, and Rosario Signorello, a linguist team lead at Apple in Barcelona. Both had different perspectives on the pros and cons of staying in academia vs moving into industry, but two key pieces of advice were mirrored by both; find the things you want to prioritise and don’t feel bad making career decisions based on these (be it staying close to family or accepting positions further afield to experience more of the world), and it is going to be hard work no matter where you end up. Luckily the CDT is keeping us busy enough to get used to this one!’

Validate AI Conference 2019

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Conferences and the CDT

As part of our PhD programme, our students are supported with attending  a variety of conferences that cover the wide range of SLT subjects.

In November one of our students from cohort 1, Will, took a trip down to the Royal Society in London to attend the Validate AI conference

What Will said about the day;

‘It was a very unique conference to attend. This was because the sole focus of the conference was to try and answer the question of “how do we validate AI?”. There was a lot of discussion around this question and how it applies to particular industries, such as the automotive industry, financial sector and public sector.

Some of the common themes throughout the day included:

  • Validation & verification of AI systems
  • The triple helix (public, private and academic institutions cooperating)
  • Regulation & ethics of AI
  • Developing robust & explainable AI

Overall this was a really fascinating conference to attend with some really important questions being raised and a lot of people trying to think ahead for what are the challenges of the future in the field of AI. Many of these questions will have an impact on the field of speech and language technology in a profound way, particularly with regards to the tools we use and the way we handle the personal data involved in developing speech and language models.’