Dheeraj Mekala


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DOCMASTER: A Unified Platform for Annotation, Training, & Inference in Document Question-Answering
Alex Nguyen | Zilong Wang | Jingbo Shang | Dheeraj Mekala
Proceedings of the 2024 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies (Volume 3: System Demonstrations)

The application of natural language processing models to PDF documents is pivotal for various business applications yet the challenge of training models for this purpose persists in businesses due to specific hurdles. These include the complexity of working with PDF formats that necessitate parsing text and layout information for curating training data and the lack of privacy-preserving annotation tools. This paper introduces DOCMASTER, a unified platform designed for annotating PDF documents, model training, and inference, tailored to document question-answering. The annotation interface enables users to input questions and highlight text spans within the PDF file as answers, saving layout information and text spans accordingly. Furthermore, DOCMASTER supports both state-of-the-art layout-aware and text models for comprehensive training purposes. Importantly, as annotations, training, and inference occur on-device, it also safeguards privacy. The platform has been instrumental in driving several research prototypes concerning document analysis such as the AI assistant utilized by University of California San Diego’s (UCSD) International Services and Engagement Office (ISEO) for processing a substantial volume of PDF documents.


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A Benchmark on Extremely Weakly Supervised Text Classification: Reconcile Seed Matching and Prompting Approaches
Zihan Wang | Tianle Wang | Dheeraj Mekala | Jingbo Shang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2023

Extremely Weakly Supervised Text Classification (XWS-TC) refers to text classification based on minimal high-level human guidance, such as a few label-indicative seed words or classification instructions. There are two mainstream approaches for XWS-TC, however, never being rigorously compared: (1) training classifiers based on pseudo-labels generated by (softly) matching seed words (Seed) and (2) prompting (and calibrating) language models using classification instruction (and raw texts) to decode label words (Prompt). This paper presents the first XWS-TC benchmark to compare the two approaches on fair grounds, where the datasets, supervisions, and hyperparameter choices are standardized across methods. Our benchmarking results suggest that (1) Both Seed and Prompt approaches are competitive and there is no clear winner; (2) Seed is empirically more tolerant than Prompt to human guidance (e.g., seed words, classification instructions, and label words) changes; (3) Seed is empirically more selective than Prompt to the pre-trained language models; (4) Recent Seed and Prompt methods have close connections and a clustering post-processing step based on raw in-domain texts is a strong performance booster to both. We hope this benchmark serves as a guideline in selecting XWS-TC methods in different scenarios and stimulate interest in developing guidance- and model-robust XWS-TC methods.

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SELFOOD: Self-Supervised Out-Of-Distribution Detection via Learning to Rank
Dheeraj Mekala | Adithya Samavedhi | Chengyu Dong | Jingbo Shang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Deep neural classifiers trained with cross-entropy loss (CE loss) often suffer from poor calibration, necessitating the task of out-of-distribution (OOD) detection. Traditional supervised OOD detection methods require expensive manual annotation of in-distribution and OOD samples. To address the annotation bottleneck, we introduce SELFOOD, a self-supervised OOD detection method that requires only in-distribution samples as supervision. We cast OOD detection as an inter-document intra-label (IDIL) ranking problem and train the classifier with our pairwise ranking loss, referred to as IDIL loss. Specifically, given a set of in-distribution documents and their labels, for each label, we train the classifier to rank the softmax scores of documents belonging to that label to be higher than the scores of documents that belong to other labels. Unlike CE loss, our IDIL loss function reaches zero when the desired confidence ranking is achieved and gradients are backpropagated to decrease probabilities associated with incorrect labels rather than continuously increasing the probability of the correct label. Extensive experiments with several classifiers on multiple classification datasets demonstrate the effectiveness of our method in both coarse- and fine-grained settings.

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ZEROTOP: Zero-Shot Task-Oriented Semantic Parsing using Large Language Models
Dheeraj Mekala | Jason Wolfe | Subhro Roy
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

We explore the use of large language models (LLMs) for zero-shot semantic parsing. Semantic parsing involves mapping natural language utterances to task-specific meaning representations. LLMs are generally trained on publicly available text and code and cannot be expected to directly generalize to domain-specific parsing tasks in a zero-shot setting. In this work, we propose ZEROTOP, a zero-shot task-oriented parsing method that decomposes semantic parsing problem into a set of abstractive and extractive question-answering (QA) problems. For each utterance, we prompt the LLM with questions corresponding to its top-level intent and a set of slots and use the LLM generations to construct the target meaning representation. We observe that current LLMs fail to detect unanswerable questions; and as a result, cannot handle questions corresponding to missing slots. We address this by fine-tuning a language model on public QA datasets using synthetic negative samples. Experimental results show that our QA-based decomposition paired with the fine-tuned LLM can zero-shot parse 16% of utterances in the MTOP dataset.


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Progressive Sentiment Analysis for Code-Switched Text Data
Sudhanshu Ranjan | Dheeraj Mekala | Jingbo Shang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Multilingual transformer language models have recently attracted much attention from researchers and are used in cross-lingual transfer learning for many NLP tasks such as text classification and named entity recognition.However, similar methods for transfer learning from monolingual text to code-switched text have not been extensively explored mainly due to the following challenges:(1) Code-switched corpus, unlike monolingual corpus, consists of more than one language and existing methods can’t be applied efficiently,(2) Code-switched corpus is usually made of resource-rich and low-resource languages and upon using multilingual pre-trained language models, the final model might bias towards resource-rich language. In this paper, we focus on code-switched sentiment analysis where we have a labelled resource-rich language dataset and unlabelled code-switched data. We propose a framework that takes the distinction between resource-rich and low-resource language into account.Instead of training on the entire code-switched corpus at once, we create buckets based on the fraction of words in the resource-rich language and progressively train from resource-rich language dominated samples to low-resource language dominated samples. Extensive experiments across multiple language pairs demonstrate that progressive training helps low-resource language dominated samples.

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LOPS: Learning Order Inspired Pseudo-Label Selection for Weakly Supervised Text Classification
Dheeraj Mekala | Chengyu Dong | Jingbo Shang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Weakly supervised text classification methods typically train a deep neural classifier based on pseudo-labels. The quality of pseudo-labels is crucial to final performance but they are inevitably noisy due to their heuristic nature, so selecting the correct ones has a huge potential for performance boost. One straightforward solution is to select samples based on the softmax probability scores in the neural classifier corresponding to their pseudo-labels. However, we show through our experiments that such solutions are ineffective and unstable due to the erroneously high-confidence predictions from poorly calibrated models. Recent studies on the memorization effects of deep neural models suggest that these models first memorize training samples with clean labels and then those with noisy labels. Inspired by this observation, we propose a novel pseudo-label selection method LOPS that takes learning order of samples into consideration. We hypothesize that the learning order reflects the probability of wrong annotation in terms of ranking, and therefore, propose to select the samples that are learnt earlier. LOPS can be viewed as a strong performance-boost plug-in to most existing weakly-supervised text classification methods, as confirmed in extensive experiments on four real-world datasets.

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Leveraging QA Datasets to Improve Generative Data Augmentation
Dheeraj Mekala | Tu Vu | Timo Schick | Jingbo Shang
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

The ability of generative language models (GLMs) to generate text has improved considerably in the last few years, enabling their use for generative data augmentation. In this work, we propose CONDA, an approach to further improve GLM’s ability to generate synthetic data by reformulating data generation as context generation for a given question-answer (QA) pair and leveraging QA datasets for training context generators. Then, we cast downstream tasks into the same question answering format and adapt the fine-tuned context generators to the target task domain. Finally, we use the fine-tuned GLM to generate relevant contexts, which are in turn used as synthetic training data for their corresponding tasks. We perform extensive experiments on multiple classification datasets and demonstrate substantial improvements in performance for both few- and zero-shot settings. Our analysis reveals that QA datasets that require high-level reasoning abilities (e.g., abstractive and common-sense QA datasets) tend to give the best boost in performance in both few-shot and zero-shot settings.


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X-Class: Text Classification with Extremely Weak Supervision
Zihan Wang | Dheeraj Mekala | Jingbo Shang
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

In this paper, we explore text classification with extremely weak supervision, i.e., only relying on the surface text of class names. This is a more challenging setting than the seed-driven weak supervision, which allows a few seed words per class. We opt to attack this problem from a representation learning perspective—ideal document representations should lead to nearly the same results between clustering and the desired classification. In particular, one can classify the same corpus differently (e.g., based on topics and locations), so document representations should be adaptive to the given class names. We propose a novel framework X-Class to realize the adaptive representations. Specifically, we first estimate class representations by incrementally adding the most similar word to each class until inconsistency arises. Following a tailored mixture of class attention mechanisms, we obtain the document representation via a weighted average of contextualized word representations. With the prior of each document assigned to its nearest class, we then cluster and align the documents to classes. Finally, we pick the most confident documents from each cluster to train a text classifier. Extensive experiments demonstrate that X-Class can rival and even outperform seed-driven weakly supervised methods on 7 benchmark datasets.

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Coarse2Fine: Fine-grained Text Classification on Coarsely-grained Annotated Data
Dheeraj Mekala | Varun Gangal | Jingbo Shang
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Existing text classification methods mainly focus on a fixed label set, whereas many real-world applications require extending to new fine-grained classes as the number of samples per label increases. To accommodate such requirements, we introduce a new problem called coarse-to-fine grained classification, which aims to perform fine-grained classification on coarsely annotated data. Instead of asking for new fine-grained human annotations, we opt to leverage label surface names as the only human guidance and weave in rich pre-trained generative language models into the iterative weak supervision strategy. Specifically, we first propose a label-conditioned fine-tuning formulation to attune these generators for our task. Furthermore, we devise a regularization objective based on the coarse-fine label constraints derived from our problem setting, giving us even further improvements over the prior formulation. Our framework uses the fine-tuned generative models to sample pseudo-training data for training the classifier, and bootstraps on real unlabeled data for model refinement. Extensive experiments and case studies on two real-world datasets demonstrate superior performance over SOTA zero-shot classification baselines.

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BFClass: A Backdoor-free Text Classification Framework
Zichao Li | Dheeraj Mekala | Chengyu Dong | Jingbo Shang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Backdoor attack introduces artificial vulnerabilities into the model by poisoning a subset of the training data via injecting triggers and modifying labels. Various trigger design strategies have been explored to attack text classifiers, however, defending such attacks remains an open problem. In this work, we propose BFClass, a novel efficient backdoor-free training framework for text classification. The backbone of BFClass is a pre-trained discriminator that predicts whether each token in the corrupted input was replaced by a masked language model. To identify triggers, we utilize this discriminator to locate the most suspicious token from each training sample and then distill a concise set by considering their association strengths with particular labels. To recognize the poisoned subset, we examine the training samples with these identified triggers as the most suspicious token, and check if removing the trigger will change the poisoned model’s prediction. Extensive experiments demonstrate that BFClass can identify all the triggers, remove 95% poisoned training samples with very limited false alarms, and achieve almost the same performance as the models trained on the benign training data.


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Contextualized Weak Supervision for Text Classification
Dheeraj Mekala | Jingbo Shang
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Weakly supervised text classification based on a few user-provided seed words has recently attracted much attention from researchers. Existing methods mainly generate pseudo-labels in a context-free manner (e.g., string matching), therefore, the ambiguous, context-dependent nature of human language has been long overlooked. In this paper, we propose a novel framework ConWea, providing contextualized weak supervision for text classification. Specifically, we leverage contextualized representations of word occurrences and seed word information to automatically differentiate multiple interpretations of the same word, and thus create a contextualized corpus. This contextualized corpus is further utilized to train the classifier and expand seed words in an iterative manner. This process not only adds new contextualized, highly label-indicative keywords but also disambiguates initial seed words, making our weak supervision fully contextualized. Extensive experiments and case studies on real-world datasets demonstrate the necessity and significant advantages of using contextualized weak supervision, especially when the class labels are fine-grained.

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META: Metadata-Empowered Weak Supervision for Text Classification
Dheeraj Mekala | Xinyang Zhang | Jingbo Shang
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Recent advances in weakly supervised learning enable training high-quality text classifiers by only providing a few user-provided seed words. Existing methods mainly use text data alone to generate pseudo-labels despite the fact that metadata information (e.g., author and timestamp) is widely available across various domains. Strong label indicators exist in the metadata and it has been long overlooked mainly due to the following challenges: (1) metadata is multi-typed, requiring systematic modeling of different types and their combinations, (2) metadata is noisy, some metadata entities (e.g., authors, venues) are more compelling label indicators than others. In this paper, we propose a novel framework, META, which goes beyond the existing paradigm and leverages metadata as an additional source of weak supervision. Specifically, we organize the text data and metadata together into a text-rich network and adopt network motifs to capture appropriate combinations of metadata. Based on seed words, we rank and filter motif instances to distill highly label-indicative ones as “seed motifs”, which provide additional weak supervision. Following a bootstrapping manner, we train the classifier and expand the seed words and seed motifs iteratively. Extensive experiments and case studies on real-world datasets demonstrate superior performance and significant advantages of leveraging metadata as weak supervision.


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SCDV : Sparse Composite Document Vectors using soft clustering over distributional representations
Dheeraj Mekala | Vivek Gupta | Bhargavi Paranjape | Harish Karnick
Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

We present a feature vector formation technique for documents - Sparse Composite Document Vector (SCDV) - which overcomes several shortcomings of the current distributional paragraph vector representations that are widely used for text representation. In SCDV, word embeddings are clustered to capture multiple semantic contexts in which words occur. They are then chained together to form document topic-vectors that can express complex, multi-topic documents. Through extensive experiments on multi-class and multi-label classification tasks, we outperform the previous state-of-the-art method, NTSG. We also show that SCDV embeddings perform well on heterogeneous tasks like Topic Coherence, context-sensitive Learning and Information Retrieval. Moreover, we achieve a significant reduction in training and prediction times compared to other representation methods. SCDV achieves best of both worlds - better performance with lower time and space complexity.