Jeff Dalton


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Controllable Chest X-Ray Report Generation from Longitudinal Representations
Francesco Dalla Serra | Chaoyang Wang | Fani Deligianni | Jeff Dalton | Alison O’Neil
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Radiology reports are detailed text descriptions of the content of medical scans. Each report describes the presence/absence and location of relevant clinical findings, commonly including comparison with prior exams of the same patient to describe how they evolved. Radiology reporting is a time-consuming process, and scan results are often subject to delays. One strategy to speed up reporting is to integrate automated reporting systems, however clinical deployment requires high accuracy and interpretability. Previous approaches to automated radiology reporting generally do not provide the prior study as input, precluding comparison which is required for clinical accuracy in some types of scans, and offer only unreliable methods of interpretability. Therefore, leveraging an existing visual input format of anatomical tokens, we introduce two novel aspects: (1) longitudinal representation learning – we input the prior scan as an additional input, proposing a method to align, concatenate and fuse the current and prior visual information into a joint longitudinal representation which can be provided to the multimodal report generation model; (2) sentence-anatomy dropout – a training strategy for controllability in which the report generator model is trained to predict only sentences from the original report which correspond to the subset of anatomical regions given as input. We show through in-depth experiments on the MIMIC-CXR dataset how the proposed approach achieves state-of-the-art results while enabling anatomy-wise controllable report generation.

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ToolWriter: Question Specific Tool Synthesis for Tabular Data
Carlos Gemmell | Jeff Dalton
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Tabular question answering (TQA) presents a challenging setting for neural systems by requiring joint reasoning of natural language with large amounts of semi-structured data. Unlike humans who use programmatic tools like filters to transform data before processing, language models in TQA process tables directly, resulting in information loss as table size increases. In this paper we propose ToolWriter to generate query specific programs and detect when to apply them to transform tables and align them with the TQA model’s capabilities. Focusing Toolwriter to generate row-filtering tools improves the state-of-the-art for WikiTableQuestions and WikiSQL with the most performance gained on long tables. By investigating headroom, our work highlights the broader potential for programmatic tools combined with neural components to manipulate large amounts of structured data.


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Multimodal Generation of Radiology Reports using Knowledge-Grounded Extraction of Entities and Relations
Francesco Dalla Serra | William Clackett | Hamish MacKinnon | Chaoyang Wang | Fani Deligianni | Jeff Dalton | Alison Q. O’Neil
Proceedings of the 2nd Conference of the Asia-Pacific Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 12th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Automated reporting has the potential to assist radiologists with the time-consuming procedure of generating text radiology reports. Most existing approaches generate the report directly from the radiology image, however we observe that the resulting reports exhibit realistic style but lack clinical accuracy. Therefore, we propose a two-step pipeline that subdivides the problem into factual triple extraction followed by free-text report generation. The first step comprises supervised extraction of clinically relevant structured information from the image, expressed as triples of the form (entity1, relation, entity2). In the second step, these triples are input to condition the generation of the radiology report. In particular, we focus our work on Chest X-Ray (CXR) radiology report generation. The proposed framework shows state-of-the-art results on the MIMIC-CXR dataset according to most of the standard text generation metrics that we employ (BLEU, METEOR, ROUGE) and to clinical accuracy metrics (recall, precision and F1 assessed using the CheXpert labeler), also giving a 23% reduction in the total number of errors and a 29% reduction in critical clinical errors as assessed by expert human evaluation. In future, this solution can easily integrate more advanced model architectures - to both improve the triple extraction and the report generation - and can be applied to other complex image captioning tasks, such as those found in the medical domain.

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GRILLBot: A multi-modal conversational agent for complex real-world tasks
Carlos Gemmell | Federico Rossetto | Iain Mackie | Paul Owoicho | Sophie Fischer | Jeff Dalton
Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Special Interest Group on Discourse and Dialogue

We present GRILLBot, an open-source multi-modal task-oriented voice assistant to help users perform complex tasks, focusing on the domains of cooking and home improvement. GRILLBot curates and leverages web information extraction to build coverage over a broad range of tasks for which a user can receive guidance. To represent each task, we propose TaskGraphs as a dynamic graph unifying steps, requirements, and curated domain knowledge enabling contextual question answering, and detailed explanations. Multi-modal elements play a key role in GRILLBot both helping the user navigate through the task and enriching the experience with helpful videos and images that are automatically linked throughout the task. We leverage a contextual neural semantic parser to enable flexible navigation when interacting with the system by jointly encoding stateful information with the conversation history. GRILLBot enables dynamic and adaptable task planning and assistance for complex tasks by combining elements of task representations that incorporate text and structure, combined with neural models for search, question answering, and dialogue state management. GRILLBot competed in the Alexa prize TaskBot Challenge as one of the finalists.

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Induced Natural Language Rationales and Interleaved Markup Tokens Enable Extrapolation in Large Language Models
Mirelle Candida Bueno | Carlos Gemmell | Jeff Dalton | Roberto Lotufo | Rodrigo Nogueira
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Mathematical Natural Language Processing (MathNLP)

The ability to extrapolate, i.e., to make predictions on sequences that are longer than those presented as training examples, is a challenging problem for current deep learning models. Recent work shows that this limitation persists in state-of-the-art Transformer-based models. Most solutions to this problem use specific architectures or training methods that do not generalize to other tasks. We demonstrate that large language models can succeed in extrapolation without modifying their architecture or training procedure. Our experimental results show that generating step-by-step rationales and introducing marker tokens are both required for effective extrapolation. First, we induce a language model to produce step-by-step rationales before outputting the answer to effectively communicate the task to the model. However, as sequences become longer, we find that current models struggle to keep track of token positions. To address this issue, we interleave output tokens with markup tokens that act as explicit positional and counting symbols. Our findings show how these two complementary approaches enable remarkable sequence extrapolation and highlight a limitation of current architectures to effectively generalize without explicit surface form guidance. Code available at


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Building and Evaluating Open-Domain Dialogue Corpora with Clarifying Questions
Mohammad Aliannejadi | Julia Kiseleva | Aleksandr Chuklin | Jeff Dalton | Mikhail Burtsev
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Enabling open-domain dialogue systems to ask clarifying questions when appropriate is an important direction for improving the quality of the system response. Namely, for cases when a user request is not specific enough for a conversation system to provide an answer right away, it is desirable to ask a clarifying question to increase the chances of retrieving a satisfying answer. To address the problem of ‘asking clarifying questions in open-domain dialogues’: (1) we collect and release a new dataset focused on open-domain single- and multi-turn conversations, (2) we benchmark several state-of-the-art neural baselines, and (3) we propose a pipeline consisting of offline and online steps for evaluating the quality of clarifying questions in various dialogues. These contributions are suitable as a foundation for further research.

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Improving Dialogue State Tracking with Turn-based Loss Function and Sequential Data Augmentation
Jarana Manotumruksa | Jeff Dalton | Edgar Meij | Emine Yilmaz
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

While state-of-the-art Dialogue State Tracking (DST) models show promising results, all of them rely on a traditional cross-entropy loss function during the training process, which may not be optimal for improving the joint goal accuracy. Although several approaches recently propose augmenting the training set by copying user utterances and replacing the real slot values with other possible or even similar values, they are not effective at improving the performance of existing DST models. To address these challenges, we propose a Turn-based Loss Function (TLF) that penalises the model if it inaccurately predicts a slot value at the early turns more so than in later turns in order to improve joint goal accuracy. We also propose a simple but effective Sequential Data Augmentation (SDA) algorithm to generate more complex user utterances and system responses to effectively train existing DST models. Experimental results on two standard DST benchmark collections demonstrate that our proposed TLF and SDA techniques significantly improve the effectiveness of the state-of-the-art DST model by approximately 7-8% relative reduction in error and achieves a new state-of-the-art joint goal accuracy with 59.50 and 54.90 on MultiWOZ2.1 and MultiWOZ2.2, respectively.


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Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop on Search-Oriented Conversational AI (SCAI)
Jeff Dalton | Aleksandr Chuklin | Julia Kiseleva | Mikhail Burtsev
Proceedings of the 5th International Workshop on Search-Oriented Conversational AI (SCAI)

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MusicBERT - learning multi-modal representations for music and text
Federico Rossetto | Jeff Dalton
Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on NLP for Music and Audio (NLP4MusA)


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Proceedings of the 2018 EMNLP Workshop SCAI: The 2nd International Workshop on Search-Oriented Conversational AI
Aleksandr Chuklin | Jeff Dalton | Julia Kiseleva | Alexey Borisov | Mikhail Burtsev
Proceedings of the 2018 EMNLP Workshop SCAI: The 2nd International Workshop on Search-Oriented Conversational AI


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Relation Extraction from Community Generated Question-Answer Pairs
Denis Savenkov | Wei-Lwun Lu | Jeff Dalton | Eugene Agichtein
Proceedings of the 2015 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Student Research Workshop