NEALT President’s report 2020-2021

by Beáta Megyesi

The Northern European Association for Language Technology (NEALT) was founded in Gothenburg on October 28, 2006 to promote research, cooperation and development activities in language technology in Northern Europe. NEALT is registered as a Swedish association with a Swedish bank account. The University of Oslo maintains the official NEALT website for the association and a registry of members of the association. At the time of writing, the organization has over 200 registered members, an increase by over 10% since the last president report in 2019.

The aims of the Executive Committee during the past two years have been to bring more structure into the organization and to strengthen the relations with our sister organizations. The covid-19 pandemic put a spoke in our wheel to achieve the latter, but it allowed us to focus more on the former.

We created a new website to consolidate and structure the content about NEALT with improved usability and design. You can find information about the organization in general and the responsibilities of NEALT in particular. We collected information about the NEALT publications including the Northern European Journal of Language Technology, the NoDaLiDa proceedings and the NEALT Proceedings series. Also, we collected information for our members about the previous business meetings, the constitution, and the executive committees that served NEALT over the years.

To make work easier for future executive committees we collected internal documents to be archived in Dropbox. These include the constitution, information for various areas of responsibilities such as documents for treasurer and auditor, editorial work, and material to business meetings. Also, we created a checklist for program and local chairs for the organization of NoDaLiDa. Since many of our members have old email addresses, we updated the NEALT membership list so hopefully our emails will reach all NEALT members. In addition, we reviewed our routines for tax reports to the Swedish tax authorities.

The association has the responsibility for the continuation of the biannual NoDaLiDa conferences which have been successfully organized since 1977, see the compiled list of NODALIDAs and their sites along with the collection of the proceedings from previous years. The NEALT Executive Committee appoints the chairpersons of the program committee and the local organization committee who then take the shared responsibility for organizing the conference according to the rules for NODALIDA conferences. The executive committee appointed Hrafn Loftsson, Reykjavík University as the local chair and Lilja Øvrelid, University of Oslo as the program chair. Even though the pandemic prevented us from traveling to beautiful Iceland, the conference was held online and became a great success with over 350 registered participants. The baton is now handed over to Bergur D. Hansen and Peter Juel Henriksen and their team to organize the 24th NoDaLiDa on the Faroe Islands in May 2023!

Another important task of the association is to host publications, for which purpose one member of the Executive Board is the Editor in Chief heading the Editorial Board. The Editor in Chief together with the Editorial Board maintains the NEALT Proceedings Series and the Northern European Journal of Language Technology (NEJLT). The publication of the NEALT Proceedings Series is carried out by Linköping University E-Press, a highly professional service free of charge, that we are very grateful for. The Executive Committee has initiated discussion on the future of NEJLT as it has been struggling to attract sufficient interest from authors for high quality publications. A comprehensive update of NEJLT with a global focus with quick and thorough reviews was carried out by the editor-in-chief. The journal website received a facelift, a new editorial board, eleven submissions so far, and a new issue is planned to be released soon in 2021.

The association operates five special interest groups (SIGs) that work according to the rules for SIGs, some highly active, while some are asleep. The following SIGs have been established:

  • SIG-CG: The SIG-CG acts as a forum for the Nordic Constraint Grammar community which facilitates cooperation, exchange of ideas and programs, and building and sharing common resources;
  • SIG-INFRA: The SIG-INFRA acts as a forum for developing language technology infrastructures in the NEALT region;
  • SIG-TEACHING: the SIG for teaching, especially Master’s level education;
  • SIG-ICALL: The SIG for Intelligent Computer-Assisted Language Learning;
  • SIG-NHPC: The SIG for Nordic High-Performance Computing for Natural Language Processing.

The presidential period is usually summed up at the business meeting. The meeting this year, the ninth in order, was devoted to the memory of our dear colleague and friend, Professor Janne Bondi Johannessen who was one of the funders of our organization and served as the president in 2010-2011. Janne will be remembered for her warm and winning personality, her passion and truthfulness. She was a role model for many of us, never afraid of speaking up to serve justice, something to strive for us all. Thank you, Janne, for being you, for being our colleague, and friend. Rest in peace!

Last but not least, I would like to thank all the people who contribute to our organization in some way or another in their spare time. We are especially grateful to Anders Nøklestad for his generous help and support with the NEALT website, and to Kristin Hagen for taking care of the NEALT membership list. The NoDaLiDa organizers deserve a huge thank for the successful conference, in particular Hrafn Loftsson, Anton Karl Ingason, and Steinþór Steingrímsson for the local organization, and Lilja Øvrelid for chairing the program committee.  The high-quality conference would not have been possible without the program committee members: Johannes Bjerva, Simon Dobnik, Mark Fishel, Jón Guðnason, Jurgita Kapočiūtė-Dzikienė, Hans Moen, Ildikó Pilán, Barbara Plank, Yves Scherrer, Sara Stymne, and all reviewers. A big thank you all!

I would like to thank specially my fellows on the executive committee, Barbara Plank, Elena Volodina, Hrafn Loftsson, Leon Derczynski, and Yvonne Adesam for the fruitful cooperation and constructive Zoom-meetings in a cheerful atmosphere ­– a great team! – and the nominating committee, the past two presidents, Trond Trosterud and Andrejs Vasiljevs. I welcome the new committee members and hope that we all will be able to meet physically after more than a year of isolation, at the next NoDaLiDa in 2023, if not sooner.

With the best wishes,

Beáta Megyesi

President of NEALT 2020-2021

Professor, Uppsala University, Sweden