After a long heated debate, organizers of the 'NIPS' (Neural Information Systems Processing) Conference finally agreed to change the event's name to 'NeurIPS'.
In all started back in April, when over 120 academics from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, signed a letter calling on NIPS to be changed following reports of inappropriate behavior. The letter stated that the "acronym of the conference is prone to unwelcome puns."
This was followed by a long protest, which was all about whether 'NIPS' is an offensive name or not. Over the years, the conference's name has been the acronym to the word nipples, with even Elon Musk reportedly made a joke about “tits” to a crowd of attendees.
in 2017 the conference was even preceded by an unofficial pre-conference named "TITS" which made things worse.
Besides being a sexualized slang for women's nipples, NIPS was also regarded as a disparaging slur for Japanese people.
This prompted the organizers to ask people via a poll in August, whether they thought 'NIPS' should be rebranded to something like 'NILS' (Neural Information and Learning Systems) or 'SNIPS' (Synthetic and Neural Information Processing Systems).
After surveying 2,270 conference participants: 13 percent identified as women, 82 percent as men, and the rest were another gender or disclosed no gender, some 44 percent of women who filled out the form were in favor of changing the name, along with 28 percent of the men. Of those who were another gender or no disclosed gender, 14 percent were in favor of changing the name.
Overall, 16.6 percent of respondents expressed no preference, 29.7 percent were in favor of changing the name, and 53.7 percent were against the idea.
Here, the board said that the "polling conducted by the Team did not yield a clear consensus, and no significantly better alternative name emerged."
But after receiving numerous complaints, including from the #ProtestNIPS movement and Change.org petition, the board finally reversed the decision. This time, only the acronym changes, as the board agrees with the name 'NeurIPS'.
According to a message on the conference website, posted on November 16th:
Something remarkable has happened in our community. The name NeurIPS has sprung up organically as an alternative acronym, and we’re delighted to see it being adopted. Indeed, one forward-thinking member of the community purchased neurips.com and described the site’s purpose as “...host[ing] the conference content under a different acronym... until the board catches up.”
We’ve caught up! We were considering alternative acronyms when the community support for NeurIPS became apparent. We ask all attendees this year to respect this solution from the community and to use the new acronym in order that the conference focus can be on science and ideas.
We have taken several actions to support this acronym. First, all signage and the program booklet for the 2018 meeting will refer either to the full conference name or to NeurIPS. Second, we’ve asked sponsors to do the same in their materials and publicity, to the extent possible at this late date. Third, we will hire a branding company to design a new logo for the conference. Fourth, we’ve moved the conference site to neurips.cc, and the owner of neurips.com, Peter Henderson, has graciously donated the domain name to the Foundation.
Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to share thoughts and concerns regarding this important issue. The Neural Information Processing Systems community has a lot of people working very hard, and with much passion, to make the conference the best it can be. We look forward to continuing this conversation at the Town Hall during the conference.
The Neural Information Processing Systems Foundation Board of Trustees"
The conference which is largely attended by white males, is one of the biggest artificial intelligence (AI) conferences in the world.
NIPS began in 1987. Founded by information theorist Ed Posner, the conference was for covering a wide range of topics to solve engineering problems, as well as the uses of computer models. But since AI became one of the most studied field in technology, the conference has also included AI into its list of topics.
Giant tech companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and DeepMind are all attendants to the conference's annual meeting.