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Minutes of ESCA General Assembly - Budapest, 1999

1. Opening Remarks - Minutes of the Previous General Assembly

The president of ESCA, Roger Moore (UK), opens the meeting and welcomes the about 100 members present at this General Assembly. He displays the legal basis of the General Assembly (GA) to be held every two years according to the ESCA statutes. He then explains the agenda. There are no wishes for modifying the agenda.

The minutes of the previous GA held during Eurospeech-97 in Rhodes, Greece, are read out by the president. They have also been displayed on the ESCA website for a long time.

The minutes are unanimously approved by the General Assembly.

2. President's Report

In his report, Roger Moore outlines ESCA's main activities in the last two years. He first introduces the members of the current ESCA Board. Due to the implementation of the statute changes [beschlossen] in 1997 Mária Gósy (Hungary) could become a full member of the Board. Christian Benoît (France), ESCA Secretary since 1993, suddenly died in April 1998 at the age of 41. His untimely death was a shock to the Association. To his memory ESCA established the Christian Benoît Mentoring Scheme which is targeted at young and inexperienced researchers to help them in preparing good submissions and good presentations at conferences and workshops. ESCA also supports the Christian Benoît Award initiated by the Institut de Communication Parlée in Grenoble.

As a consequence of Christian Benoît's death the ESCA Secretariat had to move away from Grenoble. Wolfgang Hess (Germany) was appointed ESCA's secretary, and in August 1998 the secretariat was transferred from Grenoble to Bonn. ESCA expresses its heartfelt thanks to the ICP and to Pierre Escudier, its director, for their steadfast support over many years. Membership administration and finance has stayed in the hands of ESCA's administrative secretary Emmanuelle Petchot-Gardia and was relocated from Grenoble to Perpignan.

Formal advice from a French tax adviser caused ESCA to implement a new membership scheme which has been applied since autumn 1998. As a non-profit organization with its legal seat in France, ESCA's purpose is to serve its members. As ESCA-sponsored conferences and workshops contribute to ESCA's income, each participant of such event - including Eurospeech'99 - will automatically become a member at the time of the event unless she/he explicitly denies membership. To make the [Laufzeit] of this membership independent from the date of the event, membership is decoupled from a calendar year and is synchronized with the respective workshop or conference. As there has been some confusion among the members about when their membership expires, a mail will be sent out to all members during September giving them this information. All new members who entered ESCA via Eurospeech'99 will be members until August 2000, those having registered for the two years' special package will be members until August 2001.

The Advisory Council was constituted in 1997 consisting of twenty colleagues. Its duty is to give advice to the Board on request or of its own will.

ESCA's publications comprise: the ESCA website (www.esca-speech.org) which was professionally redesigned in autumn 1998, workshop and conference proceedings, and the journal Speech Communication published by Elsevier (Amsterdam). ESCA members are entitled to subscribe to Speech Communication at a much reduced rate.

ESCA's publications comprise: the ESCA website (www.esca-speech.org) which was professionally redesigned in autumn 1998, workshop and conference proceedings, and the journal Speech Communication published by Elsevier (Amsterdam). ESCA members are entitled to subscribe to Speech Communication at a much reduced rate.

Many workshops (ESCA Tutorial and Research Workshop, ETRW) were carried out. They are popular and give good results. For the future more ETRWs and workshops are encouraged. SIGs will play a major role in such workshops.

The development of the major speech conferences since 1989 (Eurospeech and ICSLP) shows an always increasing number of submissions. It is time to question the form of these international conferences which otherwise become bigger and bigger and thus [unüberschaubar]. Alternative presentation forms, such as the Education Arena at Eurospeech'99, are desirable and will be looked for as one of the options at future Eurospeech conferences, especially Eurospeech 2001.

The 1999 ESCA Medal for outstanding scientific achievement was awarded to Fred Jelinek (USA) "for outstanding contributions to the development of automatic speech recognition". A unique award, the Special Service Medal, was given to Joseph Mariani (France) "for his key role as the first President of the Association and for the establishment of the Eurospeech series of conferences".

The President's report is unanimously approved by the General Assembly.

3. Treasurer's Report

ESCA's treasurer, Paul Dalsgaard (Denmark), explains ESCA's financial situation. ESCA's income comes from regular membership fees, membership fees resulting from Eurospeech conferences and ETRWs, and from the sale of ESCA conference proceedings. Due to the biannual Eurospeech conference there is a strong two-year fluctuation in membership and income. The figures for 1997 and 1998 are: In 1997 income 92,000 EUR, expenses 36,000 EUR; in 1998 income 33,000 EUR, expenses 40,700 EUR. Part of the extra expenses in 1998 was due to the relocation of the secretariat and for opening a new office in Perpignan. The balance of the account is roughly twice as high as the expenses for one year. This means that the Association is able to survive for at least two years without income.

There are some questions from the audience [J. Mariani (France), M. Wagner(Australia)]. It is made clear that ESCA does not intend to make profit. The fact that there is money on the bank account is not dangerous with respect to taxes as long as ESCA continues spending the money to serve its members. ESCA's money is deposited on special interest accounts [Festgeld]

The Treasurer's report is unanimously approved by the General Assembly.

4. Internationalization

In the eleven years of its existence, ESCA has changed from a small EEC-supported European organization to a fully independent, European-based international association. Now 35% of its members come from outside Europe (23% from the USA). Its major conference, Eurospeech, was a great success from the beginning on, and the fact that Eurospeech was sponsored by an association which assured continuity was very beneficial to the development of this conference series. The other big speech conference, International Conference on Spoken Language Processing (ICSLP), does not have a supporting association like ESCA. Therefore the ESCA Board wondered in 1998 if the Permanent Council of ICSLP (PC-ICSLP) would be open to ESCA providing itself as the sponsoring organization to ICSLP.

Roger Moore drafts the chronology of the events that led to today's proposal to internationalize ESCA, and if the principal decision by the General Assembly is positive, to make the appropriate changes in the statutes (see Topic 5 of this agenda). After a positive decision of the Board in September 1998, Roger Moore sent a letter to the PC-ICSLP asking if the PC-ICSLP could accept ESCA being the sponsoring association for ICSLP some time in the future. The PC-ICSLP discussed this during ICSLP-98 in December 1998 and wrote back to the ESCA Board that the strong European flavor of ESCA is seen as a major obstacle to negotiations about this point, and that an internationalization of ESCA would be a pre-condition for further negotiations. The ESCA Board discussed this in February 1999 and performed plans for internationalization. Besides the strategic relationships with related international organizations and events, (especially with ICSLP) the Board found that an internationalization would increase the stability and size of ESCA's membership base In March the Advisory Council was asked; the great majority of the responses was very positive. In July the members were informed by the ESCA president via ESCAPad #15. If the General Assembly's decision is positive, the modified statutes can be deposited at the Prefecture in Grenoble (ESCA's official seat) during October, and the new scheme can be applied from January 2000 on. - Roger Moore then displays the core of the proposal containing the following four points.

  1. To change our name to the "International Speech Communication Association" (ISCA) or to the "International Spoken Language Association" (ISLA);
  2. Each Board position to be open to any Full Member of the Association.
  3. The number of Board positions to be extended from ten to fourteen posts;
  4. A maximum of two Board members from any one country.

Roger Moore then proposes to first discuss Proposals 2 through 4 and to proceed to the question of the future name of the Association thereafter.

In the following discussion, N. Campbell (Japan) asks for negative comments from the Advisory Council. There were no negative comments, but some points of concern were raised: a) the future name of the Association, b) status of and relationship to the journal Speech Communication, c) questions about the expanded board (which led to Proposal 4), practicality of holding Board meetings with Board members from all over the world (at least one two-day meeting per year in conjunction with Eurospeech and ICSLP regardless of ICSLP's status end increase of e-mail exchange which is already very efficient), e) regional grouping which would lead to new opportunities; f) possible competition with the IEEE. As to this last point, competition between ICASSP and ICSLP or Eurospeech is already avoided by holding ICASSP in the first and the other conferences in the second half of the year.

There are some comments from the audience [A. Eriksson (Sweden) and others] expressing their concern about weakening the European position. - H. Fujisaki (Japan) emphasizes that ICSLP is healthy even without a mother organization behind it as the PC-ICSLP has a truly international composition, and that ESCA's internationalization and its relationship to the PC-ICSLP should be kept separate. The most important aspect in the process of internationalization, however, is the question of regional representation, a point which is then explained in further detail by Lin-Shan Lee (Taiwan) who summarizes recent discussions among colleagues from East Asia and Australia. 1) It is believed that the general direction to have a world-wide organization in the domain is very good; 2) the proposal made in this General Assembly is only a first step which has to be followed by many more; 3) mechanisms must be developed to really serve the members in all areas of the world. There are countries where prospective members are not able to pay additional membership fees or to travel abroad. Lee therefore proposes to set up regional associations, for instance in Asia, which can establish co-sponsored events and mutual promotion; ISCA could be advertised in regional publication and vice versa. There could be some kind of dual membership within ISCA and an Asian society; in this way ISCA could develop its membership in Asia, and the Asian societies could globalize themselves via ISCA. There could be mutual journal subscriptions at reduced rates. Finally, a regional society could provide a voice which is better heard in Asia than that of ISCA in the proposed form. H. Fujisaki adds that subordinate regional societies would not compete but work together. Different membership fees for different countries could be established.

R. Moore congratulates the colleagues to their deep thinking about this planning. The current structure of ESCA allows all these proposals to be implemented because almost nothing is fixed in the statutes. Associate membership is possible and already thought of; differentiated membership rates are possible. The Board encourages regional branching and provides the framework for such managements, but is strongly against a forced division into regions.

A. Eriksson repeats his concern about the European position within an internationalized ESCA and claims a European regional representation to be needed besides others. J. Mariani emphasizes that going international does not mean uniformity; on the contrary regional diversity of cultures and countries must be preserved; however, a truly international (umbrella) association in the domain is needed. Better than creating a new association, one should take an existing one, such as ESCA, give it an international shape, and allow for establishing regional chapters just as and where they would like to be established. The discussions leads to a formal motion to the Assembly which is formulated by M. Wagner: "That the Board be charged with conducting discussions and negotiations with regional speech and language science and technology bodies with a view to establish a truly international structure which will serve both regional and global needs."

This motion is accepted unanimously by the General Assembly and added as Proposal #5 to the above list of proposals.

R. Moore emphasizes that support of disadvantaged colleagues has already been established within ESCA. More resources would enable ESCA to give more support. As to the composition of the Board, R. Moore makes clear that with the expansion of the Board (which is not a minor change but would go without changing the statutes) five new positions (including that of Roberto Billi who resigns from the Board) would be immediately open, and another election must be held in 2001 when four members of the current Board have to resign because their term is over. L. Pols (Netherlands) draws the discussion back to the spirit of internationalization; the new, enlarged Board should come up with solutions.

It is also asked if the vote should be done by a ballot, and if there is a quorum for the General Assembly to make decisions. ESCA's statutes do not specify a quorum but they specify that statutes changed must be decided upon by the General Assembly. This forces the present General Assembly to vote here and now or to delay the whole issue until the next General Assembly at Eurospeech 2001.

As there is no motion for adjourning the issue, R. Moore starts the voting procedure. The General Assembly agrees not to vote by secret ballot. The first vote goes for Proposals 2, 3 and 4 of the above list.

Result: 46 votes in favor, 1 against, 4 abstentions. Proposals 2 through 4 are thus accepted by the General Assembly.

Without further discussion the General Assembly votes, as a consequence of this decision, if the name of the Association should be changed or not. This does not imply any decision of what the new name of the Association would be.

Result: 35 votes in favor of a name change, 10 against, 13 abstentions. The General Assembly thus decides that ESCA's name will be changed.

There is no further discussion about the two proposals made by the board (ISCA and ISLA), and no further alternatives are proposed. The General Assembly thus votes for one of these two alternatives.

Result: 45 votes for ISCA, 5 votes for ISLA. The General Assembly thus decides that the future name of the Association be ISCA (International Speech Communication Association).

M. Wagner gives the exact wording of his motion to the General Assembly (see above) which is unanimously accepted.

5. Statute Changes

With one exception (Article A6.3) all the changes proposed are due to ESCA's internationalization. Roger Moore points out that the version of the statutes to be deposited in Grenoble have to be in French. The General Assembly agrees to voting on the English translation. Correct re-translation of the modified articles into French is assured. The proposed modifications are as follows (new wordings in boldface, deleted wordings in italics and strikethrough).

Statutes of the Association "E ISCA"