Highlights from the CLARIN conference

The CLARIN (European Research Infrastructure for Language Resources and Technology) annual conference was held in Aix-en-Provence, France, 26-28 October 2016. The conference gathered representatives of all members, observers and countries considering joining.

During the opening, Franciska de Jong, the executive director of CLARIN, presented the CLARIN evolutions and perspectives. The membership is growing, with three new members joining last year. The user involvement is a priority of the strategy. Darja Fišer, the new Director of User Involvement, presented her ideas to be discussed in the different CLARIN committees.

Lars Borin, the programme chair, presented the work of the programme committee. They accepted 14 oral presentations and 11 posters out of the 34 submissions reviewed and they mapped them according to the 9 facets of CLARIN. A conference volume will be edited including long versions of each paper.

Different scientific presentations and posters demonstrated the advantages and different ways to use CLARIN solutions and technology services for deploying, connecting, analysing and sustaining digital language data and tools for scientists in the field of humanities and social sciences.

The progress of the strategy plan was presented by the board of directors and it is made of the following 9 pillars:

  • Coverage: covering all countries of the EU and associated countries
  • Legal: good licenses, and get rid of IPR as a hindrance to research
  • Integration of data: metadata and content search over the whole data space
  • Integration of services: combinable advanced tools
  • Preservation: sustainable access to all resources
  • Ease of access: no technical obstacles for HSS scholars
  • Crossing borders: disciplines, countries, continents
  • Sustainability: financial, technical, organisational
  • User involvement

The progresses done for each pillar were detailed. The coverage is growing with 3 new members this year and 2 underway. The user involvement is really impressive with a large number of papers citing CLARIN and a growing number of activities (130 in 2016 to be compared with 131 during the 2012-2015 period).

The technical infrastructure covers centres in Europe and in the US. 20 data centres are now certified by the Data Seal of Approval and 38 centres are now registered. More than 1200 organisations can use the federated login and different services such as the virtual language observatory. The language resource switchboard is going to build the missing link between metadata and data and web applications.

The conference bazaar was a very interesting experience. Each selected demonstration, project or entity was invited to present themselves with a poster or other communication material. The room was very busy wth a lot of attendees. As foreseen, I took part in the bazaar to represent the EGI Foundation. EGI was generally not known to the people I discussed with and they were surprised to know they could use EGI services and resources. Thanks to Sarah and Iulia (the EGI communication team), the materials and brochures were a very good support for discussions and answering questions. I did not found a direct use case for EGI services among the different contacts but such a dissemination can take time to get concrete results.

This idea of a bazaar with a light process of selection and a free way to present itself is a very good means to give people the opportunity to meet developers, services providers, e-infrastructures or projects in an informal manner. I think it is a good way to enforce links in a community and across communities.

The theme of the conclusion was the future of CLARIN: we discussed the continued efforts to improve the infrastructure, a reinforced focus on user involvement and a workshop as an instrument for collaboration across member states, a collaboration with e-infrastructures such as RDA, EUDAT, GEANT, EGI, OpenAIRE and also librairies and LIBER and Europeana, the impact of EU projects on CLARIN value proposition and the impact of EU policies on CLARIN strategy.

CLARIN considers itself a positive contribution to the long tail of science thanks to the diversity of the data, users, tools and methodologies represented in the community. CLARIN is involved in several European projects that have a clear impact on its value proposition as well as in European policies such as Open Science Policies and the ESFRI roadmap.


This article is posted on behalf of Geneviève Romier, CNRS, France Grilles, who attended the CLARIN conference.