Pubs, Poets and the Weather: CL/NLP in the Dublin Area.

by: Josef van Genabith, Dublin City University, January 2001

In the past, Dublin and Ireland have attracted visitors for a number of reasons, prominent among them its pubs and poets. Over the last decade the country has undergone a substantial transformation so much so that some visitors (and locals) find it difficult to reconcile the old with the new Ireland. The economy is booming. The country enjoys near full employment. There is talk of a "Celtic Tiger". Ireland has become a net immigration country attracting professionals from Europe, the US and Asia. To a large extent the economic success story is due to an Information Technology industry with software development, software localisation and globalisation, and support services. Business is attracted by favourable corporate taxes, Irish membership in the Euro zone, an English speaking workforce and the availability of qualified and well-educated graduates.

Because of the high concentration of IT industry it is no surprise that Ireland and the Dublin area in particular provides an attractive setting for computing and CL/NLP degrees and research. The Dublin area alone features four universities: Dublin City University (DCU), University College Dublin (UCD), Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and the National University of Ireland in Maynooth (NUIM). What is more, the city hosts a large number of further third level technical and professional colleges. To add to this, the MIT Media Lab Europe research center has recently decided to set up in Dublin.

All four Dublin universities offer degrees in computing and three of the four, DCU, UCD and TCD, have a keen interest in NLP. Indeed, two of those, DCU and TCD, offer popular and thriving undergraduate degree courses in CL/NLP: the B.Sc. in Applied Computational Linguistics (ACL) at DCU and the B.A. in Computer Science, Language and Linguistics (CSLL) at TCD. Both degrees are firmly rooted in computing and include a healthy dose of foreign language and computational linguistics. The degrees run over 4 years with 3rd year abroad at a French, German or Spanish speaking host university on an Erasmus/Socrates exchange programme. In addition to this, UCD has recently started a B.A. in Computer Science programme that allows students to combine any arts subject (such as e.g. linguistics or psychology) with computing. Graduates of these programmes are in great demand in both the Irish and international IT industry.

Apart from employment opportunities Dublin has lots to offer to CL/NLP and computing graduates: TCD runs a one year taught M.Phil. course in Speech and NLP. UCD offers an M.Sc. in Cognitive Science programme. In addition to the taught programmes DCU, TCD and UCD all offer well established M.Sc. by research programmes. These usually take 18-24 months and often come with competitive scholarships.

Graduate programmes take us firmly into research. The Dublin universities offer Ph.D. programmes in computing, CL and NLP, often with competitive scholarships and funding for qualified students. Check out the following webpages at DCU, TCD, and UCD. Due to the revenue generated by the thriving economy for the first time in its history Ireland is developing an attractive infrastructure to support research in a substantial way.

CL/NLP is well placed in the research landscape. We are fortunate to have established a research community spanning different universities and departments in Dublin, this largely due to the joint Dublin Computational Linguistics Research Seminars (DCLRS). The basic idea is simple and effective: rather than running separate (and often competing) departmental seminars we pool our resources: DCLRS is hosted and funded by TCD, UCD and DCU and rotates between the participating universities on an annual basis. This spreads the costs of an international research seminar series and, most importantly, is community building: it provides an opportunity for staff, students and industrialists working on NLP to meet on a regular basis. In deep respect to Irish culture, tradition and hospitality often these meetings are continued in the above mentioned pubs long into the night .. A similar situation holds for a weekly CL/NLP reading group. The difference is that unlike the research seminars the reading group meetings both start and end in a pub!

To give you an overview of the CL/NLP research carried out in the Dublin area below I cluster researchers around (very) broad research topics (rather than around deartments and institutions). I cannot hope to be fully comprehensive here. Please use the names and references as pointers to more in depth information. To facilitate this you are invited to consult the following URLs which provides links to the institutions and people listed.

Dublin is a very attractive place to learn about CL/NLP in one of its excellent undergraduate degrees. It is an exciting place to do research as part of a postgrad degree or as a future colleague of us at one of the universities or research centers. It is a fun place to live and work, to visit or to give a talk. I very much hope to be able to welcome you in Dublin in the near future. Is all well and rosy then? According to some statistics the annual rainfall in Dublin is supposed to be less that that of Nice .. Jesus, now that is one thing I find hard to believe ..