Building general reading comprehension systems, capable of solving multiple datasets at the same time, is a recent aspirational goal in the research community. Prior work has focused on model architecture or generalization to held out datasets, and largely passed over the particulars of the multi-task learning set up. We show that a simple dynamic sampling strategy, selecting instances for training proportional to the multi-task model’s current performance on a dataset relative to its single task performance, gives substantive gains over prior multi-task sampling strategies, mitigating the catastrophic forgetting that is common in multi-task learning. We also demonstrate that allowing instances of different tasks to be interleaved as much as possible between each epoch and batch has a clear benefit in multitask performance over forcing task homogeneity at the epoch or batch level. Our final model shows greatly increased performance over the best model on ORB, a recently-released multitask reading comprehension benchmark.
Standard test sets for supervised learning evaluate in-distribution generalization. Unfortunately, when a dataset has systematic gaps (e.g., annotation artifacts), these evaluations are misleading: a model can learn simple decision rules that perform well on the test set but do not capture the abilities a dataset is intended to test. We propose a more rigorous annotation paradigm for NLP that helps to close systematic gaps in the test data. In particular, after a dataset is constructed, we recommend that the dataset authors manually perturb the test instances in small but meaningful ways that (typically) change the gold label, creating contrast sets. Contrast sets provide a local view of a model’s decision boundary, which can be used to more accurately evaluate a model’s true linguistic capabilities. We demonstrate the efficacy of contrast sets by creating them for 10 diverse NLP datasets (e.g., DROP reading comprehension, UD parsing, and IMDb sentiment analysis). Although our contrast sets are not explicitly adversarial, model performance is significantly lower on them than on the original test sets—up to 25% in some cases. We release our contrast sets as new evaluation benchmarks and encourage future dataset construction efforts to follow similar annotation processes.
Reading comprehension is one of the crucial tasks for furthering research in natural language understanding. A lot of diverse reading comprehension datasets have recently been introduced to study various phenomena in natural language, ranging from simple paraphrase matching and entity typing to entity tracking and understanding the implications of the context. Given the availability of many such datasets, comprehensive and reliable evaluation is tedious and time-consuming for researchers working on this problem. We present an evaluation server, ORB, that reports performance on seven diverse reading comprehension datasets, encouraging and facilitating testing a single model’s capability in understanding a wide variety of reading phenomena. The evaluation server places no restrictions on how models are trained, so it is a suitable test bed for exploring training paradigms and representation learning for general reading facility. As more suitable datasets are released, they will be added to the evaluation server. We also collect and include synthetic augmentations for these datasets, testing how well models can handle out-of-domain questions.