In this work, we introduce back-training, an alternative to self-training for unsupervised domain adaptation (UDA). While self-training generates synthetic training data where natural inputs are aligned with noisy outputs, back-training results in natural outputs aligned with noisy inputs. This significantly reduces the gap between target domain and synthetic data distribution, and reduces model overfitting to source domain. We run UDA experiments on question generation and passage retrieval from the Natural Questions domain to machine learning and biomedical domains. We find that back-training vastly outperforms self-training by a mean improvement of 7.8 BLEU-4 points on generation, and 17.6% top-20 retrieval accuracy across both domains. We further propose consistency filters to remove low-quality synthetic data before training. We also release a new domain-adaptation dataset - MLQuestions containing 35K unaligned questions, 50K unaligned passages, and 3K aligned question-passage pairs.

Advances in neural variational inference have facilitated the learning of powerful directed graphical models with continuous latent variables, such as variational autoencoders. The hope is that such models will learn to represent rich, multi-modal latent factors in real-world data, such as natural language text. However, current models often assume simplistic priors on the latent variables - such as the uni-modal Gaussian distribution - which are incapable of representing complex latent factors efficiently. To overcome this restriction, we propose the simple, but highly flexible, piecewise constant distribution. This distribution has the capacity to represent an exponential number of modes of a latent target distribution, while remaining mathematically tractable. Our results demonstrate that incorporating this new latent distribution into different models yields substantial improvements in natural language processing tasks such as document modeling and natural language generation for dialogue.

Advances in neural variational inference have facilitated the learning of powerful directed graphical models with continuous latent variables, such as variational autoencoders. The hope is that such models will learn to represent rich, multi-modal latent factors in real-world data, such as natural language text. However, current models often assume simplistic priors on the latent variables - such as the uni-modal Gaussian distribution - which are incapable of representing complex latent factors efficiently. To overcome this restriction, we propose the simple, but highly flexible, piecewise constant distribution. This distribution has the capacity to represent an exponential number of modes of a latent target distribution, while remaining mathematically tractable. Our results demonstrate that incorporating this new latent distribution into different models yields substantial improvements in natural language processing tasks such as document modeling and natural language generation for dialogue.

Automatically evaluating the quality of dialogue responses for unstructured domains is a challenging problem. Unfortunately, existing automatic evaluation metrics are biased and correlate very poorly with human judgements of response quality (Liu et al., 2016). Yet having an accurate automatic evaluation procedure is crucial for dialogue research, as it allows rapid prototyping and testing of new models with fewer expensive human evaluations. In response to this challenge, we formulate automatic dialogue evaluation as a learning problem. We present an evaluation model (ADEM)that learns to predict human-like scores to input responses, using a new dataset of human response scores. We show that the ADEM model’s predictions correlate significantly, and at a level much higher than word-overlap metrics such as BLEU, with human judgements at both the utterance and system-level. We also show that ADEM can generalize to evaluating dialogue mod-els unseen during training, an important step for automatic dialogue evaluation.