NLP-OSS Democratizing NLP!

2nd Workshop for Natural Language Processing Open Source Software (NLP-OSS)

With great scientific breakthrough comes solid engineering and open communities. The Natural Language Processing (NLP) community has benefited greatly from the open culture in sharing knowledge, data, and software. The primary objective of this workshop is to further the sharing of insights on the engineering and community aspects of creating, developing, and maintaining NLP open source software (OSS), which we seldom talk about in scientific publications. Our secondary goal is to promote synergies between different open source projects and encourage cross-software collaborations and comparisons.

We refer to Natural Language Processing OSS as an umbrella term that not only covers traditional syntactic, semantic, phonetic, and pragmatic applications; we extend the definition to include task-specific applications (e.g., machine translation, information retrieval, question-answering systems), low-level string processing that contains valid linguistic information (e.g. Unicode creation for new languages, language-based character set definitions) and machine learning/artificial intelligence frameworks with functionalities focusing on text applications.

There are many workshops focusing on the creation and curation of open language resources and annotations (e.g. BUCC, GWN, LAW, LOD, WAC). Moreover, we have the flagship LREC conference dedicated to linguistic resources. However, the engineering aspects of NLP-OSS are overlooked and under-discussed within the community. There are open source conferences and venues (such as FOSDEM, OSCON, Open Source Summit) where discussions range from operating system kernels to air traffic control hardware but the representation of NLP related presentations is limited. In the Machine Learning (ML) field, the Journal of Machine Learning Research - Machine Learning Open Source Software (JMLR-MLOSS) is a forum for discussions and dissemination of ML OSS topics. We envision that the Workshop for NLP-OSS becomes a similar avenue for NLP-OSS discussions.

A decade ago, there was also the SETQA-NLP (Software Engineering, Testing, and Quality Assurance for Natural Language Processing) workshop that raised awareness of the need for good software engineering practices in NLP. In the earlier days of NLP, linguistic software was often monolithic and the learning curve to install, use, and extend the tools was steep and frustrating. More often than not, NLP-OSS developers/users interact in siloed communities within the ecologies of their respective projects. In addition to engineering aspects of NLP software, the open source movement has brought a community aspect that we often overlook in building impactful NLP technologies.

One example of NLP-OSS synergy is NLTK’s support for Stanford NLP tools which provide a Pythonic interface to the Stanford tools written in Java. More recently, the REST-ful API from Stanford CoreNLP tools has alleviated a host of issues that are related to cross-OSS interfaces in NLTK (c.f. The developers have also interacted across their respective code repositories to raise issues and give code reviews. Beyond the diamond-sharpening effect of cross-OSS collaborations, the result of the successful interface between the tools opens the door to easily benchmark annotations created by NLTK and Stanford CoreNLP.

Another example of precious OSS knowledge comes from SpaCy developer Montani (2017), who shared her thoughts and challenges of maintaining commercial NLP-OSS, such as handling open issues on the issue tracker, model release and packaging strategy and monetizing NLP OSS for sustainability. More recently, there is also the PyTorch Transformer by Hugging Face, which has gathered much interest from the community by open sourcing implementations and pretrained weights of BERT-like models, in a clean and well-organized structure. The interoperability of various pretrained models trained with different tools in one library enables quick benchmarking across the models, as well as developing best practices for reading/saving serialized interoperable models.

The first NLP-OSS workshop, which was co-located with ACL 2018, was the first workshop in recent years that focused more on building quality software for NLP, open sourcing, developing useful engineering practices, and less on scientific novelty or state-of-art development. We hope that the 2nd NLP-OSS workshop could also be hosted in an *ACL conference, to be an intellectual forum to collate this type of knowledge, announce new software/features, promote the open source culture and best practices that go beyond the conferences.

Call for Papers

We invite full papers (8 pages) or short papers (4 pages) on topics related to NLP-OSS broadly categorized into (i) software development, (ii) scientific contribution and (iii) NLP-OSS case studies.

Important dates

The 2nd NLP-OSS workshop will be co-located with the EMNLP 2020 conference.

Invited Speakers


Programme Committee

Workshop Structure

To promote closer interaction, all accepted publications will be presented in the poster format and be required to give a 1 slide (90 seconds) introduction of their work at the beginning of the session. For the rest of the workshop, invited talks will be given by developers and maintainers of prominent NLP-OSS projects and we plan to close the workshop with a panel session with the invited speakers and the audience of the workshop.

Submission information

Authors are invited to submit a

All papers are allowed unlimited but sensible pages for references. Final camera ready versions will be allowed an additional page of content to address reviewers’ comments.

Submission should be formatted according to the ACL2018 templates. We strongly recommend you to prepare your manuscript using LaTeX:

Submissions should be uploaded to Softconf conference management system at

Previous Workshop

First Workshop for Natural Language Processing Open Source Software (NLP-OSS 2018)