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Symposium “NLP for the Vaccination Debate”

June 27, 2018 @ 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm


The symposium takes place on Wednesday 27 June 2018 and is organised by Piek Vossen, Roser Morante and Chantal van Son (CLTL), in collocation with the PhD defense of Isa Maks. It discusses some of the recent developments in Natural Language processing and their application to the online vaccination debate. The invited speakers are Sabine Bergler and Antal van den Bosch.


The symposium will take place in room Agora 2 at the 3rd floor in the main building of the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam.


13:00 - 13:05Introduction -- Piek Vossen
13:05 - 13:35Extracting perspectives from the vaccination debate -- Roser Morante, Chantal van Son
13:35 - 14:10Robust versus volatile vs transient textual features -- Sabine Bergler
14:10 - 14:45Monitoring stance towards vaccination in Twitter messages -- Antal van den Bosch
14:45 - 15:00Discussion
15:00 - 15:30Coffee break
15:30 - 15:45Entrance to Aula
15:45 - 16:45PhD Defense of Isa Maks


Participation to the symposium is free. Nevertheless, a registration is required. Please fill in this form before 24 June 2018.


Sabine Bergler

Robust versus volatile vs transient textual features

Drawing on different data sources, I will demonstrate how the robust inherent language features help to localize volatile features that are specific to domain, task, or corpus annotation standards. I will argue that especially in the quickly expanding semi-automatic text based research between social sciences and humanities, where the discovery of volatile and transient phenomena is paramount, attention to well-known and established features/annotations can bring important gains for text analysis.

Sabine Bergler is Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering at Concordia University. She co-directs the CLaC Lab for computational Linguistics at Concordia. Recent work on negation, modality, speculative language in biomedical text, and sentiment analysis in tweets has been demonstrated effective being ranked first in various shared task challenges. This research leverages language's inherent structure to automatically annotate text for instance on vaccine avoidance or life story accounts if immigrants.
Antal van den Bosch

Monitoring stance towards vaccination in Twitter messages

As part of a collaboration between the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the Centre for Language and Speech Technology at Radboud University, Nijmegen, we developed a system for automatically predicting the stance towards vaccination from Twitter messages, with a focus on messages with a negative stance. Such a system facilitates monitoring the ongoing stream of messages on social media, enabling swift insight into potential public discontent towards vaccination. We collected Dutch Twitter messages that mention vaccination-related key terms, and annotated them for relevance to the topic, stance towards vaccination, and sentiment. We trained machine learning classifiers to distinguish messages with a negative stance from differently categorized messages. The outcomes indicate that stance prediction is a challenging task to be dealt with by an automated system only. We see the potential of a practical setting in which a human-in-the-loop feeds the system with feedback on its predictions.

Antal van den Bosch (MA, Computational Linguistics, 1992; Ph.D., Computer Science, 1997) is director of the Meertens Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy for Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam, and professor of Language and Speech Technology in the Faculty of Arts at Radboud University, Nijmegen. His work is in the cross‐section of artificial intelligence, language technology, and digital humanities. He held research positions at Tilburg University, the Netherlands and the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium (1992-1994), Universiteit Maastricht, the Netherlands (1994-1997) and Tilburg University (1997-2011). He is guest professor at the Computational Linguistics and Psycholinguistics Research Centre at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, a member of the Netherlands Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences, an NWO Vici laureate, and fellow of the European Association for Artificial Intelligence.

PhD Defense – Isa Maks

After the symposium, Isa Maks will defend her thesis “The automatic acquisition of a Dutch lexicon for opinion mining” starting at 15:45 in the Aula of the Vrije Universiteit.

Read her thesis here: http://dare.ubvu.vu.nl/handle/1871/55714 


June 27, 2018
1:00 pm - 5:00 pm


Computational Lexicology and Terminology Lab (CLTL)


Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
De Boelelaan 1105
Amsterdam, 1081 HV Netherlands
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