August 9, 2015

ICPhS Behind the Scenes: The Oral Programme

Posted in icphs tagged , at 1:25 pm by mariawolters

In this series of blog posts, I would like to take you behind the scenes of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS) in Glasgow. All posts are written to be accessible to both phoneticians and non-phoneticians.

In this post, we will look at the way in which the oral programme was assembled. This is not just a peek behind the scenes, but should also go a long way to explain why your paper (of all papers) got stuck in that particular session.

First of all, ICPhS is much bigger than it used to be, which also makes it more tricky to organise and schedule For example, the 16th ICPhS in Saarbrücken, Germany (2007) featured around 450 oral and poster presentations. At this ICPhS, the attendees have the choice of around 750 papers, split almost equally between oral and poster sessions.

Phonetics has also become both more diverse, with specialisations upon specialisations. This is particularly true for the prosody community (or should I say avalanche?) where every single aspect of rhythm, stress, and intonation will be discussed in great detail. Methods range from corpus-based studies (i.e., you speak, we record and annotate) to intricate perception experiments.

The prosody avalanche is almost matched in sheer impact by the language acquisition (in particular second language acquisition) tsunami. Pretty much every oral session features either papers or full sessions on bilingualism or second language acquisition.

Needless to say, this made the task of putting together the programme a challenge, and some of the resulting sessions are best approached with a spirit of discovery.

(After all, each paper has to fit somewhere, and if it fits, it sits. Even if one has to be a little creative sometimes.)

In order to help with this process, we relied on the people who know their papers best – the authors. On submitting a paper to ICPhS, each author (or author team, in most cases) was asked to categorise their paper into 27 scientific areas. Authors could specify up to three areas for their paper. All papers also had keywords that describe key aspects of the content, a meaningful title, and an abstract, which could be consulted in case of confusion (or despair).

All oral papers were first grouped by the scientific areas that the authors had indicated. After some checking, we found that papers were described best by the combination of areas specified, and took this as the starting point for the next step.

The initial grouping yielded around 40 groups of oral papers. Some of them fell neatly into sessions, and there was much rejoicing. Others were more complex. For these papers, keywords were consulted. Sometimes, frequently used keywords suggested themes (such as rhotics). If that approach was not fruitful, groups of papers were inspected for meaningful clusters.

The overall approach was what us computer scientists would call greedy – coherent sessions emerged first, and were fixed in the structure. The remaining papers were then grouped into sessions that were as coherent as possible, until all papers had been assigned to one of 72 sessions.

As a result, sessions can be grouped by topic (coronals), method (ultrasound investigations of speech), area of phonetics (speech perception), or language group (Arabic Phonetics), and therefore, one paper can easily fit into several different sessions.

Related posts:


ICPhS Behind the Scenes: The Poster Sessions

Posted in icphs tagged , , at 1:25 pm by mariawolters

In this series of blog posts, I would like to take you behind the scenes of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS) in Glasgow. All posts are written to be accessible to both phoneticians and non-phoneticians.

In this post, we will talk about the way the poster sessions were assembled.

This task was somewhat more straightforward than the oral sessions, because each poster session could hold up to 60 papers (a little more if the other poster session of the day was below 60 papers).

Authors had assigned one to three subject areas to their paper, and we used the main subject area to group papers initially. We then created sub groups for all of the larger subject areas, so that posters in an area were spread over several days. This gives people who are interested in an area more time to look at the posters carefully and talk to presenters; it also makes poster sessions more diverse and interesting for those attendees who like to browse and who prefer variety.

When we saw clear thematic links, subgroups were named (for example Speech Perception), when the group was very mixed, subgroups were just numbered (for example Phonetic Psycholinguistics and Neurolinguistics).

When assigning poster sessions to specific slots, we worked around the following constraints:

  • timing of relevant plenaries, such as Simon King’s plenary on speech technology
  • timing requests by attendees that reached us in the first few weeks after acceptance
  • the original position of discussant sessions, which shifted slightly as additional scheduling constraints became clear
  • ensuring that different sessions from the same subject area were on different days
  • no more than 120 posters per day, which avoids poster overload.

Related posts:

May 29, 2015

Blogging ICPhS

Posted in research tagged , , , , at 2:18 pm by mariawolters

As those of you who follow me on Twitter or are Facebook friends with me, I’ve been part of the local programme committee of the International Congress of Phonetic sciences 2015 in Glasgow, and my role was to draft the oral programme, with steadfast support from Glasgow phonetician Rachel Smith.

In the following weeks, I will give you an insight into the way the programme was put together and explain some of the constraints we faced, the tools we used, and the decisions we made.

As ICPhS draws ever closer, I will start to highlight interesting sessions and feature phonetics bloggers and tweeters.

Kicking off, the next post (to be posted in two hours) is a plea for help from fellow Social Media junkies. If you have any comments, or ideas for what you would like to see featured in future posts, please leave a comment or tweet me (@mariawolters).

Active on Social Media? ICPhS Needs You!

Posted in icphs tagged , , , at 12:00 am by mariawolters

I swear – the first person to develop instantaneous human cloning will be a frustrated attendee of the International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS).

ICPhS is the biggest gathering in phonetics. Every four years, phoneticians and speech scientists from all over the world (except Antarctica) meet for five days of phonetics, phonetics, and yet more phonetics.

The programme is usually packed. This year alone, we will have fifteen time slots for oral presentations, with up to 8 parallel sessions. Around 380 papers will be presented orally, the same number as posters.

This year, we have a new feature, organised by Bert Remijsen and Pavel Iosad – ten discussant sessions, where eminent phoneticians pick four particularly interesting papers and discuss them in a thematic session. For reasons I will explain in a later post, these sessions are organised in two blocks of five parallel sessions.

All of this is a surefire recipe for many, many frustrated phoneticians. One way of mitigating at least some of the frustration is social media.

I know from ICPhS 2011 in Hong Kong that many people are already prepared to tweet the sessions they attend, but I wonder what we could do if we were a bit more organised this time around.

Specifically, I am wondering whether people would be happy to commit in advance to reporting specific sessions on social media. This could be through live tweets, a blog post, a LinkedIn entry, a Facebook summary, a MySpace song … you get the idea.

What do you think? Could you help?