Based on our recent experience as publications co-chairs for ACL-08: HLT, we have tried to put together what we hope will be useful hints for future publications chairs for ACL conferences. After a short introduction on the responsibilities of the publications chair, the organization is roughly chronological with sections corresponding to what we take to be the major milestones of the process leading up to the conference. The information in this document is meant to be a complement to the ACL Conference Handbook and the documentation of the ACLPUB package (where it will also be included).
We are grateful to previous publications chairs who have shared their experience with us, in particular Jason Eisner, Eric Ringger, and Su Jian. In putting together this web page we were also inspired by Jason Eisner's How to Chair a Conference.
The conference proceedings are produced in three forms:
NB: The pub chair is not responsible for printed matter other than the conference proceedings, such as the conference brochure and (normally) tutorial notes.
Although the most intensive work period occurs rather close to the conference, after the submission of camera-ready papers, there are a number of things that have to be done earlier and that, if done right, can facilitate the work later on. In order to group the tasks chronologically we distinguish the following five milestones (with rough indications of the time-frame relative to the start of the conference):
Typically you'll use the style files from the previous conference. These change gradually, and it's okay to introduce some changes. (We brought in some tricks many people were using anyway to save space: smaller font in bibliography and captions, tighter bibliography spacing, etc.) The page limits have been fluctuating in the past few years; eight pages is the starting point, but in 2008 (for example) references (only) were allowed to spill onto page nine. Some years authors have been allowed to pay for 1 or 2 more pages at camera-ready time. These decisions are up to the general and program chairs, but you will need to discuss with them so you can give accurate instructions to authors. It's wise to make the page limit eight for review. We advocate permitting unlimited pages for references, to encourage good citation practices (this was done at EMNLP-CoNLL 2007). Also, you might consider officially deprecating the use of Microsoft Word to prepare papers. Some people still do like to use it, but many conferences don't offer Word templates as an option, and you will save yourself headaches later if everyone uses LaTeX. This might meet with resistance, so proceed at your own risk. You should also provide guidelines to the workshop organizers. Each workshop's organizers can decide about page limits and formatting separately, but most will follow your guidelines.
Keep it simple at this stage. See previous years' instructions; the main thing is for authors to preserve anonymity and adhere to the page limit.
ACL usually uses Omnipress, a company in Ann Arbor, Michigan. If the conference isn't in the US, this might be inconvenient (we're not sure). Priscilla Rasmussen at ACL knows them well and the process is very easy. You tell them what you need (Priscilla will provide info on how many books and CD-ROMs, shipping, etc.), they give an estimate, Priscilla says it's okay, and you're good to go. Discussion of cover art will come up in these conversations; officially it's up to the general chair, but the program chairs and local arrangements chair should be involved in the initial discussions (often the cover art is locally inspired, as at ACL 2007 in Prague or the color choice at ACL 2008 at Ohio State University). Part of the agreement with the printer will be the date upon which you have to provide everything to them. That date will drive the timeline below, including the next item ...
Most of the deadlines (e.g., paper submission date, notification date, camera-ready deadline) will have been set before you start your job, with the exception of the date on which book chairs need to send you their books. The book chairs will in turn base their decisions about when workshop camera-ready papers are due on this date. Tell them they should leave themselves two weeks from the workshop's camera-ready deadline to the deadline for sending you the book. You, in turn, should leave at least two weeks between their deadline and the day you send everything to the printer. Some of the book chairs will be late. All of them will put off the construction of their book to the last minute. Finally, you need to check that the official deadline for submission of camera-ready papers to the main conference is at least four weeks before you need to send everything to the printer. (Then you can do most of the work on the main proceedings in two weeks and still have two weeks to work on all the other books.)
Touch base with all book chairs (student research workshop chairs, workshop chairs, tutorials chair, demos chair); make sure they know who you are and what you're going to provide for them (the ACLPUB tools and help if they have trouble), what you will need from them (their book as a pdf, and files for the CD-ROM and anthology), and on what timeline. (Note that some of the book chairs will be the chairs of specific workshops which at this point may not yet have been accepted. These book chairs you will have to contact later.) A special warning about tutorials, which do not really fit into the general model for ACL proceedings. Normally, the tutorial notes to be distributed to attendees are printed by the local organizers, while the tutorial abstracts are included in a volume of the proceedings, with the tutorials chair as book chair, but different schemes have been used as well. So make sure that you agree with the tutorials chair, the local chair (who may have to handle the printing of tutorial notes) and the general chair (who may want to have a say in the matter) on who does what.
Make a budget for publications labor by your students and staff. The ACL may provide a small budget (a few thousand dollars) to pay for administrative help by your staff or students. At some universities, this can be administratively inconvenient and it may be easier just to donate your students' time. There doesn't seem to be any consistent year-to-year pattern in how pub chairs handle this.
Set up a pubs e-mail address that forwards to all pub chairs. This will save headaches, and you'll be able to track who answered what when the questions roll in, as long as everyone always replies-to-all.
See instructions from 2008 here. We recommend putting these on your own server so you can update them as questions/issues arise, rather than having them live on the official conference website. Note the importance of the copyright transfer agreement. Hopefully the latest version of the agreement - here - will be sufficient for everyone. If authors have problems with the agreement, you may need to have a conversation with the ACL Secretary/Executive Committee.
ACLPUB is a set of scripts, templates, and makefiles that are meant to automate much of your job (and that of the book chairs). We recommend getting familiar with it early, and running through the whole process with toy data to familiarize yourself. A nasty surprise: the very last step, building the anthology, requires some extra packages that are finicky on some systems. Figure out how to make it work early and prevent stress later. You may also want to contact pub chairs from the most recent 1-2 conferences and check that they've committed all of their changes to the CVS repository. We all have good intentions, but sometimes we need to be reminded to wrap things up.
Finalize cover design. We don't have much advice on this; we went with the classic ACL look and only got fancy with the colors (OSU's scarlet on white). We considered hiring a graphic designer at the conference site (OSU) to design the covers, and decided not to. If you go with color ink, note that there are standard systems that professional printers use to refer to colors, and organizations like universities often have official guidelines for getting the colors right. Your local arrangements chair can help with this.
Each physical book should get an ISBN number, as should the "full" package of the main and companion volumes, and the CD. Priscilla purchases these; you give her the titles of all the books and she gives you the ISBN numbers, with which you can generate the bar codes using software available here. We put the ISBN number on the copyright page of each book, and the bar code on the back of each book. It's not clear how consistently this has been done in the past.
ACLPUB comes with template instructions for book chairs. You should revise these as you see fit, after working through them yourself. We strongly recommend that you create the front matter (i.e., title page, which is equivalent to the cover if you go with the classic look, spine for books that are sufficiently thick, copyright page, and citation stamp) LaTeX files for each workshop chair before they get started with ACLPUB, to save yourself time later trying to standardize.
These are typically inserted on the copyright page. Consult the general chair, local chair, and sponsorship chairs to find out who the sponsors are, which ones qualify to have their logos in the proceedings, and where to get the actual graphics files.
The same files you provided the workshop chairs need to be made for the main volume and all volumes that go in the companion book. You'll also need to make a title page and copyright page, cover, and spine for the overall companion volume (these are for the printed book only; in all other formats the volumes within the companion book are separate).
Confirm URL of mirror site for use in creating the CD-ROM. Check with Ali Hakim, or whoever the ACL webmaster is, to get the mirror site. It will probably look like http://www.aclweb.org/mirror/acl2008.
ACLPUB offers tools to help make sure papers fit within margins, and generally conform to guidelines. It's up to you how strict to be. You can choose to send half of the papers back to authors if you want to be very strict, but it will create more work for you. We only sent back egregious deviations from the guidelines, and cases where we thought the author would probably want to fix the mistake (e.g., a misspelling of an author's name). We suggest you keep the return rate below 15%. You are responsible for the main conference and portions of the companion volume excluding the demos, student research workshop, and tutorial abstracts (i.e., if there's a short paper or separate poster track).
For each physical book, you will provide four pdf files: the "guts" (everything from the title page to the last page of the author index), the cover (one page), the spine (possibly a postscript file for historical reasons), and the back (one page). In the case of the companion volume, the title pages are sometimes printed on cardstock to separate the logical volumes within; you can tell the printer which pages (absolute numbers within the "guts" pdf file) should be printed this way. Note that the ACLPUB tools generate the guts (book.pdf) and the spine (spine.ps), while you have to create the cover and back yourself (since these may involve graphical designs produced elsewhere, as noted earlier).
It's up to you how much to try to make all the books look alike. We weren't sure how far to take this, and wanted the conference to have a more-or-less unified look. We met with mixed success; at least one workshop's organizers preferred to be consistent with past workshops in their series rather than the rest of the ACL workshops in 2008. We didn't fight hard, but we did try to make the citation stamps consistent in things like capitalization and the name of the main conference ("ACL-08: HLT" in our year), and make sure the books' spines, title pages, and citation stamps were internally consistent. Eventually this might be automated, but there are often special cases.
The ACLPUB tools will help you produce the contents of the CD-ROM. Historically there were postscript files included, but we decided that wasn't necessary any longer and removed them. (So the latest version of ACLPUB do not include postscript files.) The printing on the face of the CD-ROM was something we didn't think of until the last minute. We told Omnipress what we wanted, and they just did it. We suggest you make the CD-ROM match the other books. Keep its cover simple and legible.
They'll give you an ftp site to which you'll upload the files. We found them to be very flexible; when we encountered a problem with one book, they didn't complain about giving us an extra day. They promptly sent us physical proofs of all the books, complete with yellow post-it notes marking potential problems they found, and a copy of the CD. They gave us a week or two to get everything fixed, uploaded again, etc.
The ACLPUB tools will help you. Please test the tools early; we did this last and found that the required packages didn't work on some systems.
They will tell you what you need to do.
Check in any improvements to the code, templates, or documentation that will be useful to pub chairs later on.
Make this document better!