Natural language processing (NLP) algorithms have become very successful, but they still struggle when applied to out-of-distribution examples. In this paper we propose a controllable generation approach in order to deal with this domain adaptation (DA) challenge. Given an input text example, our DoCoGen algorithm generates a domain-counterfactual textual example (D-con) - that is similar to the original in all aspects, including the task label, but its domain is changed to a desired one. Importantly, DoCoGen is trained using only unlabeled examples from multiple domains - no NLP task labels or parallel pairs of textual examples and their domain-counterfactuals are required. We show that DoCoGen can generate coherent counterfactuals consisting of multiple sentences. We use the D-cons generated by DoCoGen to augment a sentiment classifier and a multi-label intent classifier in 20 and 78 DA setups, respectively, where source-domain labeled data is scarce. Our model outperforms strong baselines and improves the accuracy of a state-of-the-art unsupervised DA algorithm.
A fundamental goal of scientific research is to learn about causal relationships. However, despite its critical role in the life and social sciences, causality has not had the same importance in Natural Language Processing (NLP), which has traditionally placed more emphasis on predictive tasks. This distinction is beginning to fade, with an emerging area of interdisciplinary research at the convergence of causal inference and language processing. Still, research on causality in NLP remains scattered across domains without unified definitions, benchmark datasets and clear articulations of the challenges and opportunities in the application of causal inference to the textual domain, with its unique properties. In this survey, we consolidate research across academic areas and situate it in the broader NLP landscape. We introduce the statistical challenge of estimating causal effects with text, encompassing settings where text is used as an outcome, treatment, or to address confounding. In addition, we explore potential uses of causal inference to improve the robustness, fairness, and interpretability of NLP models. We thus provide a unified overview of causal inference for the NLP community.1
Clinical notes are the backbone of electronic health records, often containing vital information not observed in other structured data. Unfortunately, the unstructured nature of clinical notes can lead to critical patient-related information being lost. Algorithms that organize clinical notes into distinct sections are often proposed in order to allow medical professionals to better access information in a given note. These algorithms, however, often assume a given partition over the note, and classify section types given this information. In this paper, we propose a multi-task solution for note sectioning, where a single model identifies context changes and labels each section with its medically-relevant title. Results on in-distribution (MIMIC-III) and out-of-distribution (private held-out) datasets reveal that our approach successfully identifies note sections across different hospital systems.
Clinical notes often contain useful information not documented in structured data, but their unstructured nature can lead to critical patient-related information being missed. To increase the likelihood that this valuable information is utilized for patient care, algorithms that summarize notes into a problem list have been proposed. Focused on identifying medically-relevant entities in the free-form text, these solutions are often detached from a canonical ontology and do not allow downstream use of the detected text-spans. Mitigating these issues, we present here a system for generating a canonical problem list from medical notes, consisting of two major stages. At the first stage, annotation, we use a transformer model to detect all clinical conditions which are mentioned in a single note. These clinical conditions are then grounded to a predefined ontology, and are linked to spans in the text. At the second stage, summarization, we develop a novel algorithm that aggregates over the set of clinical conditions detected on all of the patient’s notes, and produce a concise patient summary that organizes their most important conditions.
Causal inference is becoming an increasingly important topic in deep learning, with the potential to help with critical deep learning problems such as model robustness, interpretability, and fairness. In addition, causality is naturally widely used in various disciplines of science, to discover causal relationships among variables and estimate causal effects of interest. In this tutorial, we introduce the fundamentals of causal discovery and causal effect estimation to the natural language processing (NLP) audience, provide an overview of causal perspectives to NLP problems, and aim to inspire novel approaches to NLP further. This tutorial is inclusive to a variety of audiences and is expected to facilitate the community’s developments in formulating and addressing new, important NLP problems in light of emerging causal principles and methodologies.
Abstract Understanding predictions made by deep neural networks is notoriously difficult, but also crucial to their dissemination. As all machine learning–based methods, they are as good as their training data, and can also capture unwanted biases. While there are tools that can help understand whether such biases exist, they do not distinguish between correlation and causation, and might be ill-suited for text-based models and for reasoning about high-level language concepts. A key problem of estimating the causal effect of a concept of interest on a given model is that this estimation requires the generation of counterfactual examples, which is challenging with existing generation technology. To bridge that gap, we propose CausaLM, a framework for producing causal model explanations using counterfactual language representation models. Our approach is based on fine-tuning of deep contextualized embedding models with auxiliary adversarial tasks derived from the causal graph of the problem. Concretely, we show that by carefully choosing auxiliary adversarial pre-training tasks, language representation models such as BERT can effectively learn a counterfactual representation for a given concept of interest, and be used to estimate its true causal effect on model performance. A byproduct of our method is a language representation model that is unaffected by the tested concept, which can be useful in mitigating unwanted bias ingrained in the data.1
Deep learning algorithms have shown promising results in visual question answering (VQA) tasks, but a more careful look reveals that they often do not understand the rich signal they are being fed with. To understand and better measure the generalization capabilities of VQA systems, we look at their robustness to counterfactually augmented data. Our proposed augmentations are designed to make a focused intervention on a specific property of the question such that the answer changes. Using these augmentations, we propose a new robustness measure, Robustness to Augmented Data (RAD), which measures the consistency of model predictions between original and augmented examples. Through extensive experimentation, we show that RAD, unlike classical accuracy measures, can quantify when state-of-the-art systems are not robust to counterfactuals. We find substantial failure cases which reveal that current VQA systems are still brittle. Finally, we connect between robustness and generalization, demonstrating the predictive power of RAD for performance on unseen augmentations.
Abstract Recent improvements in the predictive quality of natural language processing systems are often dependent on a substantial increase in the number of model parameters. This has led to various attempts of compressing such models, but existing methods have not considered the differences in the predictive power of various model components or in the generalizability of the compressed models. To understand the connection between model compression and out-of-distribution generalization, we define the task of compressing language representation models such that they perform best in a domain adaptation setting. We choose to address this problem from a causal perspective, attempting to estimate the average treatment effect (ATE) of a model component, such as a single layer, on the model’s predictions. Our proposed ATE-guided Model Compression scheme (AMoC), generates many model candidates, differing by the model components that were removed. Then, we select the best candidate through a stepwise regression model that utilizes the ATE to predict the expected performance on the target domain. AMoC outperforms strong baselines on dozens of domain pairs across three text classification and sequence tagging tasks.1
Contextual language models have led to significantly better results on a plethora of language understanding tasks, especially when pre-trained on the same data as the downstream task. While this additional pre-training usually improves performance, it can lead to information leakage and therefore risks the privacy of individuals mentioned in the training data. One method to guarantee the privacy of such individuals is to train a differentially-private model, but this usually comes at the expense of model performance. Moreover, it is hard to tell given a privacy parameter 𝜖 what was the effect on the trained representation. In this work we aim to guide future practitioners and researchers on how to improve privacy while maintaining good model performance. We demonstrate how to train a differentially-private pre-trained language model (i.e., BERT) with a privacy guarantee of 𝜖=1 and with only a small degradation in performance. We experiment on a dataset of clinical notes with a model trained on a target entity extraction task, and compare it to a similar model trained without differential privacy. Finally, we present experiments showing how to interpret the differentially-private representation and understand the information lost and maintained in this process.
Contextual language models have led to significantly better results, especially when pre-trained on the same data as the downstream task. While this additional pre-training usually improves performance, it can lead to information leakage and therefore risks the privacy of individuals mentioned in the training data. One method to guarantee the privacy of such individuals is to train a differentially-private language model, but this usually comes at the expense of model performance. Also, in the absence of a differentially private vocabulary training, it is not possible to modify the vocabulary to fit the new data, which might further degrade results. In this work we bridge these gaps, and provide guidance to future researchers and practitioners on how to improve privacy while maintaining good model performance. We introduce a novel differentially private word-piece algorithm, which allows training a tailored domain-specific vocabulary while maintaining privacy. We then experiment with entity extraction tasks from clinical notes, and demonstrate how to train a differentially private pre-trained language model (i.e., BERT) with a privacy guarantee of 𝜖=1.1 and with only a small degradation in performance. Finally, as it is hard to tell given a privacy parameter 𝜖 what was the effect on the trained representation, we present experiments showing that the trained model does not memorize private information.
Sports competitions are widely researched in computer and social science, with the goal of understanding how players act under uncertainty. Although there is an abundance of computational work on player metrics prediction based on past performance, very few attempts to incorporate out-of-game signals have been made. Specifically, it was previously unclear whether linguistic signals gathered from players’ interviews can add information that does not appear in performance metrics. To bridge that gap, we define text classification tasks of predicting deviations from mean in NBA players’ in-game actions, which are associated with strategic choices, player behavior, and risk, using their choice of language prior to the game. We collected a data set of transcripts from key NBA players’ pre-game interviews and their in-game performance metrics, totalling 5,226 interview-metric pairs. We design neural models for players’ action prediction based on increasingly more complex aspects of the language signals in their open-ended interviews. Our models can make their predictions based on the textual signal alone, or on a combination of that signal with signals from past-performance metrics. Our text-based models outperform strong baselines trained on performance metrics only, demonstrating the importance of language usage for action prediction. Moreover, the models that utilize both textual input and past-performance metrics produced the best results. Finally, as neural networks are notoriously difficult to interpret, we propose a method for gaining further insight into what our models have learned. Particularly, we present a latent Dirichlet allocation–based analysis, where we interpret model predictions in terms of correlated topics. We find that our best performing textual model is most associated with topics that are intuitively related to each prediction task and that better models yield higher correlation with more informative topics.1