Awards and Lectures

Awards and Lectures

by Academy Admin

This is an annual public lecture delivered by the winner of the Roger Needham award.

The 2016 lecture will be held on the 21st November 2016 



2016 lecture - Sharon Goldwater


Language learning in humans and machines: making connections to make progress


Computer processing of speech and language has advanced enormously in the last decade, with many people now using applications such as automatic translation, voice-activated search, and even language-enabled personal assistants. Yet these systems still lag far behind human capabilities, and the success they do have relies on machine learning methods that learn from very large quantities of human-annotated data (for example speech data with transcriptions or text labelled with syntactic parse trees). These resource-intensive methods mean that effective technology is available for only a tiny fraction of the world's 5000 or more languages, mainly those spoken in large rich countries.

This talk will argue that in order to solve this problem, we need a better understanding of how humans learn and represent language in our minds, and we need to consider how human-like learning biases can be built into computational systems. I will illustrate these ideas using examples from my own research. I will discuss why language is such a difficult problem, say a bit about what we know about human language learning, and then show how my own work has taken inspiration from that to develop better methods for computational language learning. 

Changes from previous years

The Roger Needham award is made for a distinguished research contribution in computer science by a UK-based researcher who has completed up to 10 years post-doctoral research. Microsoft Research sponsors this award. The only change is that candidates nominated will automatically be considered for three years, as for the Lovelace medal.

The aim of these changes is to simplify the application process, to encourage more people to be nominated, and to give each application the best chance to succeed.

Past lectures

2015 Professor Niloy J.Mitra 'Linking Form and Function, Computationally' 

2014 Dr Natasa Przulj 'Mining biological networks' 

2013 Dr Boris Motik 'Theory and Practice: The Yin and Yang of Intelligent Information Systems' 

2012 Professor Dino Distefano 'Memory Safety Proofs for the Masses' 

2011 Professor Maja Pantic 'Machine Understanding of Human Behaviour'. 

2010 Dr Joël Ouaknine 'Timing is Everything'. 

2009 Dr Byron Cook 'Proving that programs eventually do something good'. 

2008 Professor Wenfei Fan 'A Revival of Data Dependencies for Improving Data Quality'. 

2007 Professor Mark Handley 'Evolving the Internet: Challenges, Opportunities and Consequences'. 

2006 Dr. Andrew Fitzgibbon 'Computer Vision & the Geometry of Nature'. 

2005 Professor Ian Horrocks 'Ontologies and the Semantic Web'. 

2004 Dr Jane Hillston 'Tuning Systems: From Composition to Performance'.