Harm de Vries


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The StatCan Dialogue Dataset: Retrieving Data Tables through Conversations with Genuine Intents
Xing Han Lu | Siva Reddy | Harm de Vries
Proceedings of the 17th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics

We introduce the StatCan Dialogue Dataset consisting of 19,379 conversation turns between agents working at Statistics Canada and online users looking for published data tables. The conversations stem from genuine intents, are held in English or French, and lead to agents retrieving one of over 5000 complex data tables. Based on this dataset, we propose two tasks: (1) automatic retrieval of relevant tables based on a on-going conversation, and (2) automatic generation of appropriate agent responses at each turn. We investigate the difficulty of each task by establishing strong baselines. Our experiments on a temporal data split reveal that all models struggle to generalize to future conversations, as we observe a significant drop in performance across both tasks when we move from the validation to the test set. In addition, we find that response generation models struggle to decide when to return a table. Considering that the tasks pose significant challenges to existing models, we encourage the community to develop models for our task, which can be directly used to help knowledge workers find relevant tables for live chat users.


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The Power of Prompt Tuning for Low-Resource Semantic Parsing
Nathan Schucher | Siva Reddy | Harm de Vries
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Prompt tuning has recently emerged as an effective method for adapting pre-trained language models to a number of language understanding and generation tasks. In this paper, we investigate prompt tuning for semantic parsing—the task of mapping natural language utterances onto formal meaning representations. On the low-resource splits of Overnight and TOPv2, we find that a prompt tuned T5-xl significantly outperforms its fine-tuned counterpart, as well as strong GPT-3 and BART baselines. We also conduct ablation studies across different model scales and target representations, finding that, with increasing model scale, prompt tuned T5 models improve at generating target representations that are far from the pre-training distribution.

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TopiOCQA: Open-domain Conversational Question Answering with Topic Switching
Vaibhav Adlakha | Shehzaad Dhuliawala | Kaheer Suleman | Harm de Vries | Siva Reddy
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 10

In a conversational question answering scenario, a questioner seeks to extract information about a topic through a series of interdependent questions and answers. As the conversation progresses, they may switch to related topics, a phenomenon commonly observed in information-seeking search sessions. However, current datasets for conversational question answering are limiting in two ways: 1) they do not contain topic switches; and 2) they assume the reference text for the conversation is given, that is, the setting is not open-domain. We introduce TopiOCQA (pronounced Tapioca), an open-domain conversational dataset with topic switches based on Wikipedia. TopiOCQA contains 3,920 conversations with information-seeking questions and free-form answers. On average, a conversation in our dataset spans 13 question-answer turns and involves four topics (documents). TopiOCQA poses a challenging test-bed for models, where efficient retrieval is required on multiple turns of the same conversation, in conjunction with constructing valid responses using conversational history. We evaluate several baselines, by combining state-of-the-art document retrieval methods with neural reader models. Our best model achieves F1 of 55.8, falling short of human performance by 14.2 points, indicating the difficulty of our dataset. Our dataset and code are available at https://mcgill-nlp.github.io/topiocqa.


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DuoRAT: Towards Simpler Text-to-SQL Models
Torsten Scholak | Raymond Li | Dzmitry Bahdanau | Harm de Vries | Chris Pal
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Recent neural text-to-SQL models can effectively translate natural language questions to corresponding SQL queries on unseen databases. Working mostly on the Spider dataset, researchers have proposed increasingly sophisticated solutions to the problem. Contrary to this trend, in this paper we focus on simplifications. We begin by building DuoRAT, a re-implementation of the state-of-the-art RAT-SQL model that unlike RAT-SQL is using only relation-aware or vanilla transformers as the building blocks. We perform several ablation experiments using DuoRAT as the baseline model. Our experiments confirm the usefulness of some techniques and point out the redundancy of others, including structural SQL features and features that link the question with the schema.