Odette Scharenborg new chair of ISCA
Odette Scharenborg has been appointed the new chair of the International Speech Communication Association (ISCA). ISCA is a multi-disciplinary and international organization that brings together experts in language and speech from all over the world, ranging from linguistics and psychology to computer engineering. With over 3000 members from both academia and business, including major tech organizations, ISCA plays a crucial role at the forefront of research into speech and speech technologies. Vital research without which Siri for instance wouldn't function.
Research into speech and speech technologies is vital in our technological world. It forms the foundation for voice recognition software, with applications in human-computer interactions, accessibility, and home automation. Consider, for instance, applications like Google Home – but there are also efforts to develop applications like a digital consultation with a physician assistant, which can help reduce the growing strain on healthcare. Scharenborg's personal focus is on making these digital applications accessible for everyone, even for people with a speech impairment or an accent.
Scharenborg's appointment is for a term of two years. During this period, Scharenborg is determined to work towards further professionalizing the organization, especially now that ISCA is growing rapidly due to the increasing relevance of speech technology and its many applications. Scharenborg: “I am excited to serve this amazing community and am pleasantly surprised by the amount of support I've received, both within and outside the ISCA board.”
A second key focus of her presidency is to encourage community building, with a special focus on diversity and inclusion. For instance, Scharenborg has initiated a project where senior researchers within the organization are paired with junior researchers. With this, she aims primarily to support young women and other young researchers from minority groups in their professional growth. She wants to support and eventually see more of such grassroots initiatives flourish.
“In 2001, I attended an ISCA conference for the first time,” Scharenborg recalls. “I immediately felt at home. The broad organization, with researchers from various fields, fits me like a glove. I too try to connect multiple disciplines in my research. After all, I have a background as a linguist, psycholinguist, and computer scientist. But still: as a young researcher back then, I would never have dared to dream that I would ultimately become president of this organization!”