Traditional data augmentation aims to increase the coverage of the input distribution by generating augmented examples that strongly resemble original samples in an online fashion where augmented examples dominate training. In this paper, we propose an alternative perspective—a multi-task view (MTV) of data augmentation—in which the primary task trains on original examples and the auxiliary task trains on augmented examples. In MTV data augmentation, both original and augmented samples are weighted substantively during training, relaxing the constraint that augmented examples must resemble original data and thereby allowing us to apply stronger augmentation functions. In empirical experiments using four common data augmentation techniques on three benchmark text classification datasets, we find that using the MTV leads to higher and more robust performance than traditional augmentation.
Few-shot text classification is a fundamental NLP task in which a model aims to classify text into a large number of categories, given only a few training examples per category. This paper explores data augmentation—a technique particularly suitable for training with limited data—for this few-shot, highly-multiclass text classification setting. On four diverse text classification tasks, we find that common data augmentation techniques can improve the performance of triplet networks by up to 3.0% on average. To further boost performance, we present a simple training strategy called curriculum data augmentation, which leverages curriculum learning by first training on only original examples and then introducing augmented data as training progresses. We explore a two-stage and a gradual schedule, and find that, compared with standard single-stage training, curriculum data augmentation trains faster, improves performance, and remains robust to high amounts of noising from augmentation.
We present COVID-Q, a set of 1,690 questions about COVID-19 from 13 sources, which we annotate into 15 question categories and 207 question clusters. The most common questions in our dataset asked about transmission, prevention, and societal effects of COVID, and we found that many questions that appeared in multiple sources were not answered by any FAQ websites of reputable organizations such as the CDC and FDA. We post our dataset publicly at https://github.com/JerryWei03/COVID-Q. For classifying questions into 15 categories, a BERT baseline scored 58.1% accuracy when trained on 20 examples per category, and for a question clustering task, a BERT + triplet loss baseline achieved 49.5% accuracy. We hope COVID-Q can help either for direct use in developing applied systems or as a domain-specific resource for model evaluation.