Jianmo Ni


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Sentence-T5: Scalable Sentence Encoders from Pre-trained Text-to-Text Models
Jianmo Ni | Gustavo Hernandez Abrego | Noah Constant | Ji Ma | Keith Hall | Daniel Cer | Yinfei Yang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: ACL 2022

We provide the first exploration of sentence embeddings from text-to-text transformers (T5) including the effects of scaling up sentence encoders to 11B parameters. Sentence embeddings are broadly useful for language processing tasks. While T5 achieves impressive performance on language tasks, it is unclear how to produce sentence embeddings from encoder-decoder models. We investigate three methods to construct Sentence-T5 (ST5) models: two utilize only the T5 encoder and one using the full T5 encoder-decoder. We establish a new sentence representation transfer benchmark, SentGLUE, which extends the SentEval toolkit to nine tasks from the GLUE benchmark. Our encoder-only models outperform the previous best models on both SentEval and SentGLUE transfer tasks, including semantic textual similarity (STS). Scaling up ST5 from millions to billions of parameters shown to consistently improve performance. Finally, our encoder-decoder method achieves a new state-of-the-art on STS when using sentence embeddings.


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Multi-stage Training with Improved Negative Contrast for Neural Passage Retrieval
Jing Lu | Gustavo Hernandez Abrego | Ji Ma | Jianmo Ni | Yinfei Yang
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

In the context of neural passage retrieval, we study three promising techniques: synthetic data generation, negative sampling, and fusion. We systematically investigate how these techniques contribute to the performance of the retrieval system and how they complement each other. We propose a multi-stage framework comprising of pre-training with synthetic data, fine-tuning with labeled data, and negative sampling at both stages. We study six negative sampling strategies and apply them to the fine-tuning stage and, as a noteworthy novelty, to the synthetic data that we use for pre-training. Also, we explore fusion methods that combine negatives from different strategies. We evaluate our system using two passage retrieval tasks for open-domain QA and using MS MARCO. Our experiments show that augmenting the negative contrast in both stages is effective to improve passage retrieval accuracy and, importantly, they also show that synthetic data generation and negative sampling have additive benefits. Moreover, using the fusion of different kinds allows us to reach performance that establishes a new state-of-the-art level in two of the tasks we evaluated.


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Interview: Large-scale Modeling of Media Dialog with Discourse Patterns and Knowledge Grounding
Bodhisattwa Prasad Majumder | Shuyang Li | Jianmo Ni | Julian McAuley
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

In this work, we perform the first large-scale analysis of discourse in media dialog and its impact on generative modeling of dialog turns, with a focus on interrogative patterns and use of external knowledge. Discourse analysis can help us understand modes of persuasion, entertainment, and information elicitation in such settings, but has been limited to manual review of small corpora. We introduce **Interview**—a large-scale (105K conversations) media dialog dataset collected from news interview transcripts—which allows us to investigate such patterns at scale. We present a dialog model that leverages external knowledge as well as dialog acts via auxiliary losses and demonstrate that our model quantitatively and qualitatively outperforms strong discourse-agnostic baselines for dialog modeling—generating more specific and topical responses in interview-style conversations.

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Learning Visual-Semantic Embeddings for Reporting Abnormal Findings on Chest X-rays
Jianmo Ni | Chun-Nan Hsu | Amilcare Gentili | Julian McAuley
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

Automatic medical image report generation has drawn growing attention due to its potential to alleviate radiologists’ workload. Existing work on report generation often trains encoder-decoder networks to generate complete reports. However, such models are affected by data bias (e.g. label imbalance) and face common issues inherent in text generation models (e.g. repetition). In this work, we focus on reporting abnormal findings on radiology images; instead of training on complete radiology reports, we propose a method to identify abnormal findings from the reports in addition to grouping them with unsupervised clustering and minimal rules. We formulate the task as cross-modal retrieval and propose Conditional Visual-Semantic Embeddings to align images and fine-grained abnormal findings in a joint embedding space. We demonstrate that our method is able to retrieve abnormal findings and outperforms existing generation models on both clinical correctness and text generation metrics.


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Justifying Recommendations using Distantly-Labeled Reviews and Fine-Grained Aspects
Jianmo Ni | Jiacheng Li | Julian McAuley
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Several recent works have considered the problem of generating reviews (or ‘tips’) as a form of explanation as to why a recommendation might match a customer’s interests. While promising, we demonstrate that existing approaches struggle (in terms of both quality and content) to generate justifications that are relevant to users’ decision-making process. We seek to introduce new datasets and methods to address the recommendation justification task. In terms of data, we first propose an ‘extractive’ approach to identify review segments which justify users’ intentions; this approach is then used to distantly label massive review corpora and construct large-scale personalized recommendation justification datasets. In terms of generation, we are able to design two personalized generation models with this data: (1) a reference-based Seq2Seq model with aspect-planning which can generate justifications covering different aspects, and (2) an aspect-conditional masked language model which can generate diverse justifications based on templates extracted from justification histories. We conduct experiments on two real-world datasets which show that our model is capable of generating convincing and diverse justifications.

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Scalable and Accurate Dialogue State Tracking via Hierarchical Sequence Generation
Liliang Ren | Jianmo Ni | Julian McAuley
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Existing approaches to dialogue state tracking rely on pre-defined ontologies consisting of a set of all possible slot types and values. Though such approaches exhibit promising performance on single-domain benchmarks, they suffer from computational complexity that increases proportionally to the number of pre-defined slots that need tracking. This issue becomes more severe when it comes to multi-domain dialogues which include larger numbers of slots. In this paper, we investigate how to approach DST using a generation framework without the pre-defined ontology list. Given each turn of user utterance and system response, we directly generate a sequence of belief states by applying a hierarchical encoder-decoder structure. In this way, the computational complexity of our model will be a constant regardless of the number of pre-defined slots. Experiments on both the multi-domain and the single domain dialogue state tracking dataset show that our model not only scales easily with the increasing number of pre-defined domains and slots but also reaches the state-of-the-art performance.

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Generating Personalized Recipes from Historical User Preferences
Bodhisattwa Prasad Majumder | Shuyang Li | Jianmo Ni | Julian McAuley
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Existing approaches to recipe generation are unable to create recipes for users with culinary preferences but incomplete knowledge of ingredients in specific dishes. We propose a new task of personalized recipe generation to help these users: expanding a name and incomplete ingredient details into complete natural-text instructions aligned with the user’s historical preferences. We attend on technique- and recipe-level representations of a user’s previously consumed recipes, fusing these ‘user-aware’ representations in an attention fusion layer to control recipe text generation. Experiments on a new dataset of 180K recipes and 700K interactions show our model’s ability to generate plausible and personalized recipes compared to non-personalized baselines.

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Learning to Attend On Essential Terms: An Enhanced Retriever-Reader Model for Open-domain Question Answering
Jianmo Ni | Chenguang Zhu | Weizhu Chen | Julian McAuley
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)

Open-domain question answering remains a challenging task as it requires models that are capable of understanding questions and answers, collecting useful information, and reasoning over evidence. Previous work typically formulates this task as a reading comprehension or entailment problem given evidence retrieved from search engines. However, existing techniques struggle to retrieve indirectly related evidence when no directly related evidence is provided, especially for complex questions where it is hard to parse precisely what the question asks. In this paper we propose a retriever-reader model that learns to attend on essential terms during the question answering process. We build (1) an essential term selector which first identifies the most important words in a question, then reformulates the query and searches for related evidence; and (2) an enhanced reader that distinguishes between essential terms and distracting words to predict the answer. We evaluate our model on multiple open-domain QA datasets, notably achieving the level of the state-of-the-art on the AI2 Reasoning Challenge (ARC) dataset.


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Personalized Review Generation By Expanding Phrases and Attending on Aspect-Aware Representations
Jianmo Ni | Julian McAuley
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

In this paper, we focus on the problem of building assistive systems that can help users to write reviews. We cast this problem using an encoder-decoder framework that generates personalized reviews by expanding short phrases (e.g. review summaries, product titles) provided as input to the system. We incorporate aspect-level information via an aspect encoder that learns aspect-aware user and item representations. An attention fusion layer is applied to control generation by attending on the outputs of multiple encoders. Experimental results show that our model successfully learns representations capable of generating coherent and diverse reviews. In addition, the learned aspect-aware representations discover those aspects that users are more inclined to discuss and bias the generated text toward their personalized aspect preferences.


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Estimating Reactions and Recommending Products with Generative Models of Reviews
Jianmo Ni | Zachary C. Lipton | Sharad Vikram | Julian McAuley
Proceedings of the Eighth International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Traditional approaches to recommendation focus on learning from large volumes of historical feedback to estimate simple numerical quantities (Will a user click on a product? Make a purchase? etc.). Natural language approaches that model information like product reviews have proved to be incredibly useful in improving the performance of such methods, as reviews provide valuable auxiliary information that can be used to better estimate latent user preferences and item properties. In this paper, rather than using reviews as an inputs to a recommender system, we focus on generating reviews as the model’s output. This requires us to efficiently model text (at the character level) to capture the preferences of the user, the properties of the item being consumed, and the interaction between them (i.e., the user’s preference). We show that this can model can be used to (a) generate plausible reviews and estimate nuanced reactions; (b) provide personalized rankings of existing reviews; and (c) recommend existing products more effectively.