Workshop on Insights from Negative Results in NLP

November 19 2020
(co-located with EMNLP)


Insightful paper examples


Call for papers


Call for papers

Call For Papers: Insights from Negative Results Workshop (Nov 19 2020, co-located with EMNLP 2020)


Publication of negative results is difficult in most fields, but in NLP the problem is exacerbated by the near-universal focus on improvements in benchmarks. This situation implicitly discourages hypothesis-driven research, and it turns creation and fine-tuning of NLP models into art rather than science. Furthermore, it increases the time, effort, and carbon emissions spent on developing and tuning models, as the researchers have no opportunity to learn what has already been tried and failed.

This workshop invites both practical and theoretical unexpected or negative results that have important implications for future research, highlight methodological issues with existing approaches, and/or point out pervasive misunderstandings or bad practices. In particular, the most successful NLP models currently rely on different kinds of pretrained meaning representations (from word embeddings to Transformer-based models like BERT). To complement all the success stories, it would be insightful to see where and possibly why they fail. Any NLP tasks are welcome: sequence labeling, question answering, inference, dialogue, machine translation - you name it.

A successful negative results paper would contribute one of the following:

Some examples of insightful negative results papers are listed on the workshop website: https://insights-workshop.github.io/papers

Important Dates

All deadlines are 11.59 pm UTC -12h (“anywhere on Earth”).


Submission is electronic, using the Softconf START conference management system.

Submission link: https://www.softconf.com/emnlp2020/insights2020/

The workshop will accept short papers (up to 4 pages, excluding references), as well as 1-2 page non-archival abstract submissions for papers published elsewhere (e.g. in one of the main conferences or in non-NLP venues). The goal of this event is to stimulate a meaningful community-wide discussion of the deep issues in NLP methodology, and the authors of both types of submissions will be welcome to take part in our virtual get-togethers.

Both research papers and abstracts must follow the EMNLP 2020 two-column format. Official style sheets: https://2020.emnlp.org/files/emnlp2020-templates.zip

Please do not modify these style files, nor should you use templates designed for other conferences. Submissions that do not conform to the required styles, including paper size, margin width, and font size restrictions, will be rejected without review.


The author list for submissions should include all (and only) individuals who made substantial contributions to the work presented. No changes to the order or composition of authorship may be made after the paper submission deadline.

Citation and Comparison

You are expected to cite all refereed publications relevant to your submission, but you may be excused for not knowing about all unpublished work (especially work that has been recently posted and/or is not widely cited).

In cases where a preprint has been superseded by a refereed publication, the refereed publication should be cited instead of the preprint version.

Papers (whether refereed or not) appearing less than 3 months before the submission deadline are considered contemporaneous to your submission, and you are therefore not obliged to make detailed comparisons that require additional experimentation and/or in-depth analysis.

For more information, see the ACL Policies for Submission, Review, and Citation.

Multiple Submission Policy and Fast-Tracking

We welcome dual submissions, as long as they are specified at the time of submission time.

The authors submitting a paper that is under review for EMNLP 2020 should specify that in the submission form. The organizers would then be able to access the reviews and may decide to fast-track the paper to the workshop without additional reviews, if the paper is rejected from the main conference.

If the paper has been rejected from another venue, the authors will have the option to provide the original reviews and the author response. The new reviewers will not have access to this information, but the AC will be able to take into account the fact that the paper has already been revised and improved.

NEW: Ethics Policy

EMNLP workshops follow the conference guidelines for honouring the ACM Code of Ethics. Per conference guidelines, a paper that may raise ethical issues needs to explicitly discuss them, and that discussion will be taken into account in the review process. Specific to the topic of negative results is the problem of revisiting published papers that cannot be reproduced. In most cases irreproducibility comes down to general methodological problems, but if you have reason to believe the unreproducible result was deliberately fabricated, that should be discussed.


Publishing negative results is not easy, partly because the author has the burden of proof that something truly does not work, rather than is caused by a bug.

We encourage the authors to link code repositories in the camera-ready versions. At submission time, each submission can be accompanied by one PDF appendix for the paper, one PDF for prior reviews and author response, one .tgz or .zip archive containing software, and one.tgz or .zip archive containing data (all fully anonymized). The appendix can document preprocessing decisions, model parameters, feature templates, lengthy proofs or derivations, pseudocode, sample system inputs/outputs, and other details that are necessary for the exact replication of the work (see the official EMNLP reproducibility guidelines). However, the paper submissions need to remain fully self-contained, as these supplementary materials are completely optional, and reviewers are not even asked to review or download them.

Anonymity Period

We follow EMNLP anonymity policy. The anonymity period runs from 1 month before the submission deadline (starting July 15, 2020) up to the date when your paper is accepted or rejected (September 29, 2020). The papers should be properly anonymized and not publicized up until the acceptance notifications come out.


All accepted papers must be presented at the workshop to appear in the proceedings. Authors of accepted papers must notify the program chairs by the camera-ready deadline if they wish to withdraw the paper. At least one author of each accepted paper must register for the workshop. Previous presentations of the work (e.g. preprints on arXiv.org) should be noted in a footnote in the camera-ready version (but not in the anonymized version of the paper).

The workshop will take place online on November 19 2020, incorporating the best practices from other online conferences this year (such as ICLR and ACL). For now we are expecting to have pre-recorded oral presentations of the papers, live Q&A sessions (in which more than one author for each paper can take part), and also community discussion sessions and/or panels.

Contact info

You can reach us at insights-workshop-organizers@googlegroups.com.