Hao Cheng


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Language Models as Inductive Reasoners
Zonglin Yang | Li Dong | Xinya Du | Hao Cheng | Erik Cambria | Xiaodong Liu | Jianfeng Gao | Furu Wei
Proceedings of the 18th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Inductive reasoning is a core component of human intelligence. In the past research of inductive reasoning within computer science, formal language is used as representations of knowledge (facts and rules, more specifically). However, formal language can cause systematic problems for inductive reasoning such as disability of handling raw input such as natural language, sensitiveness to mislabeled data, and incapacity to handle ambiguous input. To this end, we propose a new paradigm (task) for inductive reasoning, which is to induce natural language rules from natural language facts, and create a dataset termed DEER containing 1.2k rule-fact pairs for the task, where rules and facts are written in natural language. New automatic metrics are also proposed and analysed for the evaluation of this task. With DEER, we investigate a modern approach for inductive reasoning where we use natural language as representation for knowledge instead of formal language and use pretrained language models as ”reasoners”. Moreover, we provide the first and comprehensive analysis of how well pretrained language models can induce natural language rules from natural language facts. We also propose a new framework drawing insights from philosophy literature for this task, which we show in the experiment section that surpasses baselines in both automatic and human evaluations. We discuss about our future perspectives for inductive reasoning in Section 7. Dataset and code are available at https://github.com/ZonglinY/Inductive_Reasoning.


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Pre-training Multi-task Contrastive Learning Models for Scientific Literature Understanding
Yu Zhang | Hao Cheng | Zhihong Shen | Xiaodong Liu | Ye-Yi Wang | Jianfeng Gao
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Scientific literature understanding tasks have gained significant attention due to their potential to accelerate scientific discovery. Pre-trained language models (LMs) have shown effectiveness in these tasks, especially when tuned via contrastive learning. However, jointly utilizing pre-training data across multiple heterogeneous tasks (e.g., extreme multi-label paper classification, citation prediction, and literature search) remains largely unexplored. To bridge this gap, we propose a multi-task contrastive learning framework, SciMult, with a focus on facilitating common knowledge sharing across different scientific literature understanding tasks while preventing task-specific skills from interfering with each other. To be specific, we explore two techniques – task-aware specialization and instruction tuning. The former adopts a Mixture-of-Experts Transformer architecture with task-aware sub-layers; the latter prepends task-specific instructions to the input text so as to produce task-aware outputs. Extensive experiments on a comprehensive collection of benchmark datasets verify the effectiveness of our task-aware specialization strategy, where we outperform state-of-the-art scientific pre-trained LMs. Code, datasets, and pre-trained models can be found at https://scimult.github.io/.

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InSCIt: Information-Seeking Conversations with Mixed-Initiative Interactions
Zeqiu Wu | Ryu Parish | Hao Cheng | Sewon Min | Prithviraj Ammanabrolu | Mari Ostendorf | Hannaneh Hajishirzi
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 11

In an information-seeking conversation, a user may ask questions that are under-specified or unanswerable. An ideal agent would interact by initiating different response types according to the available knowledge sources. However, most current studies either fail to or artificially incorporate such agent-side initiative. This work presents InSCIt, a dataset for Information-Seeking Conversations with mixed-initiative Interactions. It contains 4.7K user-agent turns from 805 human-human conversations where the agent searches over Wikipedia and either directly answers, asks for clarification, or provides relevant information to address user queries. The data supports two subtasks, evidence passage identification and response generation, as well as a human evaluation protocol to assess model performance. We report results of two systems based on state-of-the-art models of conversational knowledge identification and open-domain question answering. Both systems significantly underperform humans, suggesting ample room for improvement in future studies.1

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Explainable Recommendation with Personalized Review Retrieval and Aspect Learning
Hao Cheng | Shuo Wang | Wensheng Lu | Wei Zhang | Mingyang Zhou | Kezhong Lu | Hao Liao
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Explainable recommendation is a technique that combines prediction and generation tasks to produce more persuasive results. Among these tasks, textual generation demands large amounts of data to achieve satisfactory accuracy. However, historical user reviews of items are often insufficient, making it challenging to ensure the precision of generated explanation text. To address this issue, we propose a novel model, ERRA (Explainable Recommendation by personalized Review retrieval and Aspect learning). With retrieval enhancement, ERRA can obtain additional information from the training sets. With this additional information, we can generate more accurate and informative explanations. Furthermore, to better capture users’ preferences, we incorporate an aspect enhancement component into our model. By selecting the top-n aspects that users are most concerned about for different items, we can model user representation with more relevant details, making the explanation more persuasive. To verify the effectiveness of our model, extensive experiments on three datasets show that our model outperforms state-of-the-art baselines (for example, 3.4% improvement in prediction and 15.8% improvement in explanation for TripAdvisor).

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Chain-of-Skills: A Configurable Model for Open-Domain Question Answering
Kaixin Ma | Hao Cheng | Yu Zhang | Xiaodong Liu | Eric Nyberg | Jianfeng Gao
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

The retrieval model is an indispensable component for real-world knowledge-intensive tasks, e.g., open-domain question answering (ODQA). As separate retrieval skills are annotated for different datasets, recent work focuses on customized methods, limiting the model transfer- ability and scalability. In this work, we propose a modular retriever where individual modules correspond to key skills that can be reused across datasets. Our approach supports flexible skill configurations based on the target domain to boost performance. To mitigate task interference, we design a novel modularization parameterization inspired by sparse Transformer. We demonstrate that our model can benefit from self-supervised pretraining on Wikipedia and fine-tuning using multiple ODQA datasets, both in a multi-task fashion. Our approach outperforms recent self-supervised retrievers in zero-shot evaluations and achieves state-of-the-art fine-tuned retrieval performance on NQ, HotpotQA and OTT-QA.

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Task-Aware Specialization for Efficient and Robust Dense Retrieval for Open-Domain Question Answering
Hao Cheng | Hao Fang | Xiaodong Liu | Jianfeng Gao
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Given its effectiveness on knowledge-intensive natural language processing tasks, dense retrieval models have become increasingly popular. Specifically, the de-facto architecture for open-domain question answering uses two isomorphic encoders that are initialized from the same pretrained model but separately parameterized for questions and passages. This biencoder architecture is parameter-inefficient in that there is no parameter sharing between encoders. Further, recent studies show that such dense retrievers underperform BM25 in various settings. We thus propose a new architecture, Task-Aware Specialization for dEnse Retrieval (TASER), which enables parameter sharing by interleaving shared and specialized blocks in a single encoder. Our experiments on five question answering datasets show that TASER can achieve superior accuracy, surpassing BM25, while using about 60% of the parameters as bi-encoder dense retrievers. In out-of-domain evaluations, TASER is also empirically more robust than bi-encoder dense retrievers. Our code is available at https://github.com/microsoft/taser.


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Open Domain Question Answering with A Unified Knowledge Interface
Kaixin Ma | Hao Cheng | Xiaodong Liu | Eric Nyberg | Jianfeng Gao
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

The retriever-reader framework is popular for open-domain question answering (ODQA) due to its ability to use explicit knowledge. Although prior work has sought to increase the knowledge coverage by incorporating structured knowledge beyond text, accessing heterogeneous knowledge sources through a unified interface remains an open question. While data-to-text generation has the potential to serve as a universal interface for data and text, its feasibility for downstream tasks remains largely unknown. In this work, we bridge this gap and use the data-to-text method as a means for encoding structured knowledge for open-domain question answering. Specifically, we propose a verbalizer-retriever-reader framework for ODQA over data and text where verbalized tables from Wikipedia and graphs from Wikidata are used as augmented knowledge sources. We show that our Unified Data and Text QA, UDT-QA, can effectively benefit from the expanded knowledge index, leading to large gains over text-only baselines. Notably, our approach sets the single-model state-of-the-art on Natural Questions. Furthermore, our analyses indicate that verbalized knowledge is preferred for answer reasoning for both adapted and hot-swap settings.

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MR-P: A Parallel Decoding Algorithm for Iterative Refinement Non-Autoregressive Translation
Hao Cheng | Zhihua Zhang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

Non-autoregressive translation (NAT) predicts all the target tokens in parallel and significantly speeds up the inference process. The Conditional Masked Language Model (CMLM) is a strong baseline of NAT. It decodes with the Mask-Predict algorithm which iteratively refines the output. Most works about CMLM focus on the model structure and the training objective. However, the decoding algorithm is equally important. We propose a simple, effective, and easy-to-implement decoding algorithm that we call MaskRepeat-Predict (MR-P). The MR-P algorithm gives higher priority to consecutive repeated tokens when selecting tokens to mask for the next iteration and stops the iteration after target tokens converge. We conduct extensive experiments on six translation directions with varying data sizes. The results show that MR-P significantly improves the performance with the same model parameters. Specifically, we achieve a BLEU increase of 1.39 points in the WMT’14 En-De translation task.

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Knowledge-Rich Self-Supervision for Biomedical Entity Linking
Sheng Zhang | Hao Cheng | Shikhar Vashishth | Cliff Wong | Jinfeng Xiao | Xiaodong Liu | Tristan Naumann | Jianfeng Gao | Hoifung Poon
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Entity linking faces significant challenges such as prolific variations and prevalent ambiguities, especially in high-value domains with myriad entities. Standard classification approaches suffer from the annotation bottleneck and cannot effectively handle unseen entities. Zero-shot entity linking has emerged as a promising direction for generalizing to new entities, but it still requires example gold entity mentions during training and canonical descriptions for all entities, both of which are rarely available outside of Wikipedia. In this paper, we explore Knowledge-RIch Self-Supervision (KRISS) for biomedical entity linking, by leveraging readily available domain knowledge. In training, it generates self-supervised mention examples on unlabeled text using a domain ontology and trains a contextual encoder using contrastive learning. For inference, it samples self-supervised mentions as prototypes for each entity and conducts linking by mapping the test mention to the most similar prototype. Our approach can easily incorporate entity descriptions and gold mention labels if available. We conducted extensive experiments on seven standard datasets spanning biomedical literature and clinical notes. Without using any labeled information, our method produces KRISSBERT, a universal entity linker for four million UMLS entities that attains new state of the art, outperforming prior self-supervised methods by as much as 20 absolute points in accuracy. We released KRISSBERT at https://aka.ms/krissbert.

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Open-domain Question Answering via Chain of Reasoning over Heterogeneous Knowledge
Kaixin Ma | Hao Cheng | Xiaodong Liu | Eric Nyberg | Jianfeng Gao
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

We propose a novel open-domain question answering (ODQA) framework for answering single/multi-hop questions across heterogeneous knowledge sources.The key novelty of our method is the introduction of the intermediary modules into the current retriever-reader pipeline.Unlike previous methods that solely rely on the retriever for gathering all evidence in isolation,our intermediary performs a chain of reasoning over the retrieved set.Specifically, our method links the retrieved evidence with its related global context into graphs and organizes them into a candidate list of evidence chains.Built upon pretrained language models, our system achieves competitive performance on two ODQA datasets, OTT-QA and NQ, against tables and passages from Wikipedia.In particular, our model substantially outperforms the previous state-of-the-art on OTT-QA with an exact match score of 47.3 (45% relative gain).

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Unsupervised Learning of Hierarchical Conversation Structure
Bo-Ru Lu | Yushi Hu | Hao Cheng | Noah A. Smith | Mari Ostendorf
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Human conversations can evolve in many different ways, creating challenges for automatic understanding and summarization. Goal-oriented conversations often have meaningful sub-dialogue structure, but it can be highly domain-dependent. This work introduces an unsupervised approach to learning hierarchical conversation structure, including turn and sub-dialogue segment labels, corresponding roughly to dialogue acts and sub-tasks, respectively. The decoded structure is shown to be useful in enhancing neural models of language for three conversation-level understanding tasks. Further, the learned finite-state sub-dialogue network is made interpretable through automatic summarization.

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Con-NAT: Contrastive Non-autoregressive Neural Machine Translation
Hao Cheng | Zhihua Zhang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Inspired by the success of contrastive learning in natural language processing, we incorporate contrastive learning into the conditional masked language model which is extensively used in non-autoregressive neural machine translation (NAT). Accordingly, we propose a Contrastive Non-autoregressive Neural Machine Translation (Con-NAT) model. Con-NAT optimizes the similarity of several different representations of the same token in the same sentence. We propose two methods to obtain various representations: Contrastive Common Mask and Contrastive Dropout. Positive pairs are various different representations of the same token, while negative pairs are representations of different tokens. In the feature space, the model with contrastive loss pulls positive pairs together and pushes negative pairs away. We conduct extensive experiments on six translation directions with different data sizes. The results demonstrate that Con-NAT showed a consistent and significant improvement in fully and iterative NAT. Con-NAT is state-of-the-art on WMT’16 Ro-En (34.18 BLEU).


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Posterior Differential Regularization with f-divergence for Improving Model Robustness
Hao Cheng | Xiaodong Liu | Lis Pereira | Yaoliang Yu | Jianfeng Gao
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

We address the problem of enhancing model robustness through regularization. Specifically, we focus on methods that regularize the model posterior difference between clean and noisy inputs. Theoretically, we provide a connection of two recent methods, Jacobian Regularization and Virtual Adversarial Training, under this framework. Additionally, we generalize the posterior differential regularization to the family of f-divergences and characterize the overall framework in terms of the Jacobian matrix. Empirically, we compare those regularizations and standard BERT training on a diverse set of tasks to provide a comprehensive profile of their effect on model generalization. For both fully supervised and semi-supervised settings, we show that regularizing the posterior difference with f-divergence can result in well-improved model robustness. In particular, with a proper f-divergence, a BERT-base model can achieve comparable generalization as its BERT-large counterpart for in-domain, adversarial and domain shift scenarios, indicating the great potential of the proposed framework for enhancing NLP model robustness.

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Targeted Adversarial Training for Natural Language Understanding
Lis Pereira | Xiaodong Liu | Hao Cheng | Hoifung Poon | Jianfeng Gao | Ichiro Kobayashi
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

We present a simple yet effective Targeted Adversarial Training (TAT) algorithm to improve adversarial training for natural language understanding. The key idea is to introspect current mistakes and prioritize adversarial training steps to where the model errs the most. Experiments show that TAT can significantly improve accuracy over standard adversarial training on GLUE and attain new state-of-the-art zero-shot results on XNLI. Our code will be released upon acceptance of the paper.

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Dialogue State Tracking with a Language Model using Schema-Driven Prompting
Chia-Hsuan Lee | Hao Cheng | Mari Ostendorf
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Task-oriented conversational systems often use dialogue state tracking to represent the user’s intentions, which involves filling in values of pre-defined slots. Many approaches have been proposed, often using task-specific architectures with special-purpose classifiers. Recently, good results have been obtained using more general architectures based on pretrained language models. Here, we introduce a new variation of the language modeling approach that uses schema-driven prompting to provide task-aware history encoding that is used for both categorical and non-categorical slots. We further improve performance by augmenting the prompting with schema descriptions, a naturally occurring source of in-domain knowledge. Our purely generative system achieves state-of-the-art performance on MultiWOZ 2.2 and achieves competitive performance on two other benchmarks: MultiWOZ 2.1 and M2M. The data and code will be available at https://github.com/chiahsuan156/DST-as-Prompting.

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UnitedQA: A Hybrid Approach for Open Domain Question Answering
Hao Cheng | Yelong Shen | Xiaodong Liu | Pengcheng He | Weizhu Chen | Jianfeng Gao
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

To date, most of recent work under the retrieval-reader framework for open-domain QA focuses on either extractive or generative reader exclusively. In this paper, we study a hybrid approach for leveraging the strengths of both models. We apply novel techniques to enhance both extractive and generative readers built upon recent pretrained neural language models, and find that proper training methods can provide large improvement over previous state-of-the-art models. We demonstrate that a simple hybrid approach by combining answers from both readers can efficiently take advantages of extractive and generative answer inference strategies and outperforms single models as well as homogeneous ensembles. Our approach outperforms previous state-of-the-art models by 3.3 and 2.7 points in exact match on NaturalQuestions and TriviaQA respectively.


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Probabilistic Assumptions Matter: Improved Models for Distantly-Supervised Document-Level Question Answering
Hao Cheng | Ming-Wei Chang | Kenton Lee | Kristina Toutanova
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

We address the problem of extractive question answering using document-level distant super-vision, pairing questions and relevant documents with answer strings. We compare previously used probability space and distant supervision assumptions (assumptions on the correspondence between the weak answer string labels and possible answer mention spans). We show that these assumptions interact, and that different configurations provide complementary benefits. We demonstrate that a multi-objective model can efficiently combine the advantages of multiple assumptions and outperform the best individual formulation. Our approach outperforms previous state-of-the-art models by 4.3 points in F1 on TriviaQA-Wiki and 1.7 points in Rouge-L on NarrativeQA summaries.

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The Microsoft Toolkit of Multi-Task Deep Neural Networks for Natural Language Understanding
Xiaodong Liu | Yu Wang | Jianshu Ji | Hao Cheng | Xueyun Zhu | Emmanuel Awa | Pengcheng He | Weizhu Chen | Hoifung Poon | Guihong Cao | Jianfeng Gao
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics: System Demonstrations

We present MT-DNN, an open-source natural language understanding (NLU) toolkit that makes it easy for researchers and developers to train customized deep learning models. Built upon PyTorch and Transformers, MT-DNN is designed to facilitate rapid customization for a broad spectrum of NLU tasks, using a variety of objectives (classification, regression, structured prediction) and text encoders (e.g., RNNs, BERT, RoBERTa, UniLM). A unique feature of MT-DNN is its built-in support for robust and transferable learning using the adversarial multi-task learning paradigm. To enable efficient production deployment, MT-DNN supports multi-task knowledge distillation, which can substantially compress a deep neural model without significant performance drop. We demonstrate the effectiveness of MT-DNN on a wide range of NLU applications across general and biomedical domains. The software and pre-trained models will be publicly available at https://github.com/namisan/mt-dnn.

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Train Once, and Decode As You Like
Chao Tian | Yifei Wang | Hao Cheng | Yijiang Lian | Zhihua Zhang
Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics

In this paper we propose a unified approach for supporting different generation manners of machine translation, including autoregressive, semi-autoregressive, and refinement-based non-autoregressive models. Our approach works by repeatedly selecting positions and generating tokens at these selected positions. After being trained once, our approach achieves better or competitive translation performance compared with some strong task-specific baseline models in all the settings. This generalization ability benefits mainly from the new training objective that we propose. We validate our approach on the WMT’14 English-German and IWSLT’14 German-English translation tasks. The experimental results are encouraging.


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A Dynamic Speaker Model for Conversational Interactions
Hao Cheng | Hao Fang | Mari Ostendorf
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Volume 1 (Long and Short Papers)

Individual differences in speakers are reflected in their language use as well as in their interests and opinions. Characterizing these differences can be useful in human-computer interaction, as well as analysis of human-human conversations. In this work, we introduce a neural model for learning a dynamically updated speaker embedding in a conversational context. Initial model training is unsupervised, using context-sensitive language generation as an objective, with the context being the conversation history. Further fine-tuning can leverage task-dependent supervised training. The learned neural representation of speakers is shown to be useful for content ranking in a socialbot and dialog act prediction in human-human conversations.


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Sounding Board: A User-Centric and Content-Driven Social Chatbot
Hao Fang | Hao Cheng | Maarten Sap | Elizabeth Clark | Ari Holtzman | Yejin Choi | Noah A. Smith | Mari Ostendorf
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Demonstrations

We present Sounding Board, a social chatbot that won the 2017 Amazon Alexa Prize. The system architecture consists of several components including spoken language processing, dialogue management, language generation, and content management, with emphasis on user-centric and content-driven design. We also share insights gained from large-scale online logs based on 160,000 conversations with real-world users.


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A Factored Neural Network Model for Characterizing Online Discussions in Vector Space
Hao Cheng | Hao Fang | Mari Ostendorf
Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

We develop a novel factored neural model that learns comment embeddings in an unsupervised way leveraging the structure of distributional context in online discussion forums. The model links different context with related language factors in the embedding space, providing a way to interpret the factored embeddings. Evaluated on a community endorsement prediction task using a large collection of topic-varying Reddit discussions, the factored embeddings consistently achieve improvement over other text representations. Qualitative analysis shows that the model captures community style and topic, as well as response trigger patterns.


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Learning Latent Local Conversation Modes for Predicting Comment Endorsement in Online Discussions
Hao Fang | Hao Cheng | Mari Ostendorf
Proceedings of the Fourth International Workshop on Natural Language Processing for Social Media

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Bi-directional Attention with Agreement for Dependency Parsing
Hao Cheng | Hao Fang | Xiaodong He | Jianfeng Gao | Li Deng
Proceedings of the 2016 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing


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Open-Domain Name Error Detection using a Multi-Task RNN
Hao Cheng | Hao Fang | Mari Ostendorf
Proceedings of the 2015 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

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Language Models for Image Captioning: The Quirks and What Works
Jacob Devlin | Hao Cheng | Hao Fang | Saurabh Gupta | Li Deng | Xiaodong He | Geoffrey Zweig | Margaret Mitchell
Proceedings of the 53rd Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 7th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 2: Short Papers)