Distinguished Service Award Policy


ACL is primarily run by volunteers, and some of these are known to have dedicated not just years but decades of service to the organization. Currently, although ACL recognizes outstanding scientific achievement with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and further recognizes outstanding scholars in the form of ACL Fellows, the organization does not impart formal recognition for service above and beyond standard levels.

Many academic organizations that are otherwise similar to ACL have Service Awards. These include:

The Proposal

This document proposes to establish a Distinguished Service Award, with many parallels to the ACL Lifetime Achievement Award. This proposal enumerates the qualifications for recipients of the award, the process for nominating and selecting recipients of the award, and the procedure for announcement of award winners.


The ACL Distinguished Service award recognizes one individual each year for extraordinary service to the computational linguistics community. Areas of service include, but are not limited to: association service, service as an editor, conference organization, representation of ACL in other organizations, or influential service as a government agency contract monitor or program director, that results in positive effects on the field of computational linguistics.

Criteria for Selection

The criteria for this award are:

  • Extraordinary service to ACL and its activities
  • Extended service over many years
  • Responsible, ethical representation of ACL

Procedure for Selection

  1. Nominations for award recipients can be made by any current or former ACL member, including members of the Executive Committee and members of the ACL Nominating Committee.
  2. The ACL Nominating Committee is charged with soliciting a large and diverse pool of candidates and with making the final selection in accordance with the criteria for the award.
  3. To be eligible, the nominee must have been a member of the ACL at some time in the past.
  4. The selection of the award recipient from the pool of nominees is handled by the ACL Nominating Committee, consisting of three past ACL presidents and six ACL Fellows.
  5. To avoid conflicts of interest, members of the Executive Committee and the Nominating Committee are not eligible to receive the Distinguished Service Award while serving.
  6. The committee will strive to converge on unanimous support for a candidate for the current year. The committee may seek advice from respected impartial senior figures in the field, such as previous recipients of the award.
  7. Only one award will be given per year. The committee may choose not to select a recipient in a given year. The first recipient will be awarded in 2019.
  8. The selection of the committee will be submitted for formal approval to the ACL Executive Committee, providing whatever explanations and supporting documentation the Executive Committee requires.
  9. The role of the Executive Committee is to ensure consistency and clarity in the decision process; they should not overrule the committee’s proposal or advance alternative candidates after the decision is made.
  10. The deadline for nominations from the general membership each year is February 1.

Process for Nominations

A nomination package should include the following material:

  • Nominee information: name, email address, and current affiliation, if applicable
  • A nomination letter (maximum 1500 words; 500 words is the recommended length)
  • Two additional letters of endorsement (maximum 500 words)
  • Optionally, two additional pages of supporting documentation

All letter writers should be members of the ACL community, ideally from different institutions and relatively independent of the nominee. The nomination letter should describe the specific service contributions of the nominee that merit the ACL Distinguished Service award, describe their impact, and provide a proposed award citation of 30 words or fewer. Self-nominations are not accepted. The letters of endorsement should provide first-hand knowledge that supports the statements in the nomination but does not merely repeat them.

The nominator should compile the nomination package and submit the complete package by February 1 of the nomination year to secretary@aclweb.org. Nomination packages that arrive after the deadline will not be considered. The nominating committee will acknowledge receipt of the nominations but will not contact the nominees (to keep the nominations confidential). The award will be conferred at the upcoming ACL conference, which the award winner is expected to attend.

Nominators will be informed of the result of the decision for any nominations they made. A nominator will have the choice of withdrawing an unsuccessful nomination to wait for a more appropriate time, updating the nomination for the following year to strengthen the case, or leaving the nomination unchanged for consideration for next year. Unsuccessful nominations that are not explicitly withdrawn by the nominator will be automatically reconsidered for up to two additional years and then withdrawn.

In case of questions, please contact the secretary of the ACL, secretary@aclweb.org.

Publicizing the Award

The ACL President will call the awardee to convey the news.

The Award will be formally presented at the ACL conference following notification of the selection of the recipient. The recipient is not expected to make a speech nor write a paper.

All parties are required to keep the winner of the Distinguished Service Award confidential until it is formally announced at the ACL conference.