Meng Fang


2023

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NLG Evaluation Metrics Beyond Correlation Analysis: An Empirical Metric Preference Checklist
Iftitahu Nimah | Meng Fang | Vlado Menkovski | Mykola Pechenizkiy
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

In this study, we analyze automatic evaluation metrics for Natural Language Generation (NLG), specifically task-agnostic metrics and human-aligned metrics. Task-agnostic metrics, such as Perplexity, BLEU, BERTScore, are cost-effective and highly adaptable to diverse NLG tasks, yet they have a weak correlation with human. Human-aligned metrics (CTC, CtrlEval, UniEval) improves correlation level by incorporating desirable human-like qualities as training objective. However, their effectiveness at discerning system-level performance and quality of system outputs remain unclear. We present metric preference checklist as a framework to assess the effectiveness of automatic metrics in three NLG tasks: Text Summarization, Dialogue Response Generation, and Controlled Generation. Our proposed framework provides access: (i) for verifying whether automatic metrics are faithful to human preference, regardless of their correlation level to human; and (ii) for inspecting the strengths and limitations of NLG systems via pairwise evaluation. We show that automatic metrics provide a better guidance than human on discriminating system-level performance in Text Summarization and Controlled Generation tasks. We also show that multi-aspect human-aligned metric (UniEval) is not necessarily dominant over single-aspect human-aligned metrics (CTC, CtrlEval) and task-agnostic metrics (BLEU, BERTScore), particularly in Controlled Generation tasks.

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CHBias: Bias Evaluation and Mitigation of Chinese Conversational Language Models
Jiaxu Zhao | Meng Fang | Zijing Shi | Yitong Li | Ling Chen | Mykola Pechenizkiy
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

redWarning: This paper contains content that may be offensive or upsetting.Pretrained conversational agents have been exposed to safety issues, exhibiting a range of stereotypical human biases such as gender bias. However, there are still limited bias categories in current research, and most of them only focus on English. In this paper, we introduce a new Chinese dataset, CHBias, for bias evaluation and mitigation of Chinese conversational language models.Apart from those previous well-explored bias categories, CHBias includes under-explored bias categories, such as ageism and appearance biases, which received less attention. We evaluate two popular pretrained Chinese conversational models, CDial-GPT and EVA2.0, using CHBias. Furthermore, to mitigate different biases, we apply several debiasing methods to the Chinese pretrained models. Experimental results show that these Chinese pretrained models are potentially risky for generating texts that contain social biases, and debiasing methods using the proposed dataset can make response generation less biased while preserving the models’ conversational capabilities.

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A Survey for Efficient Open Domain Question Answering
Qin Zhang | Shangsi Chen | Dongkuan Xu | Qingqing Cao | Xiaojun Chen | Trevor Cohn | Meng Fang
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Open domain question answering (ODQA) is a longstanding task aimed at answering factual questions from a large knowledge corpus without any explicit evidence in natural language processing (NLP). Recent works have predominantly focused on improving the answering accuracy and have achieved promising progress. However, higher accuracy often requires more memory consumption and inference latency, which might not necessarily be efficient enough for direct deployment in the real world. Thus, a trade-off between accuracy, memory consumption and processing speed is pursued. In this paper, we will survey recent advancements in the efficiency of ODQA models and conclude core techniques for achieving efficiency. Additionally, we will provide a quantitative analysis of memory cost, query speed, accuracy, and overall performance comparison. Our goal is to keep scholars informed of the latest advancements and open challenges in ODQA efficiency research and contribute to the further development of ODQA efficiency.

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Enhancing Conversational Search: Large Language Model-Aided Informative Query Rewriting
Fanghua Ye | Meng Fang | Shenghui Li | Emine Yilmaz
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Query rewriting plays a vital role in enhancing conversational search by transforming context-dependent user queries into standalone forms. Existing approaches primarily leverage human-rewritten queries as labels to train query rewriting models. However, human rewrites may lack sufficient information for optimal retrieval performance. To overcome this limitation, we propose utilizing large language models (LLMs) as query rewriters, enabling the generation of informative query rewrites through well-designed instructions. We define four essential properties for well-formed rewrites and incorporate all of them into the instruction. In addition, we introduce the role of rewrite editors for LLMs when initial query rewrites are available, forming a “rewrite-then-edit” process. Furthermore, we propose distilling the rewriting capabilities of LLMs into smaller models to reduce rewriting latency. Our experimental evaluation on the QReCC dataset demonstrates that informative query rewrites can yield substantially improved retrieval performance compared to human rewrites, especially with sparse retrievers.

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CITB: A Benchmark for Continual Instruction Tuning
Zihan Zhang | Meng Fang | Ling Chen | Mohammad-Reza Namazi-Rad
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2023

Continual learning (CL) is a paradigm that aims to replicate the human ability to learn and accumulate knowledge continually without forgetting previous knowledge and transferring it to new tasks. Recent instruction tuning (IT) involves fine-tuning models to make them more adaptable to solving NLP tasks in general. However, it is still uncertain how instruction tuning works in the context of CL tasks. This challenging yet practical problem is formulated as Continual Instruction Tuning (CIT). In this work, we establish a CIT benchmark consisting of learning and evaluation protocols. We curate two long dialogue task streams of different types, InstrDialog and InstrDialog++, to study various CL methods systematically. Our experiments show that existing CL methods do not effectively leverage the rich natural language instructions, and fine-tuning an instruction-tuned model sequentially can yield similar or better results. We further explore different aspects that might affect the learning of CIT. We hope this benchmark will facilitate more research in this direction.

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Turn-Level Active Learning for Dialogue State Tracking
Zihan Zhang | Meng Fang | Fanghua Ye | Ling Chen | Mohammad-Reza Namazi-Rad
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Dialogue state tracking (DST) plays an important role in task-oriented dialogue systems. However, collecting a large amount of turn-by-turn annotated dialogue data is costly and inefficient. In this paper, we propose a novel turn-level active learning framework for DST to actively select turns in dialogues to annotate. Given the limited labelling budget, experimental results demonstrate the effectiveness of selective annotation of dialogue turns. Additionally, our approach can effectively achieve comparable DST performance to traditional training approaches with significantly less annotated data, which provides a more efficient way to annotate new dialogue data.

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How Do Large Language Models Capture the Ever-changing World Knowledge? A Review of Recent Advances
Zihan Zhang | Meng Fang | Ling Chen | Mohammad-Reza Namazi-Rad | Jun Wang
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Although large language models (LLMs) are impressive in solving various tasks, they can quickly be outdated after deployment. Maintaining their up-to-date status is a pressing concern in the current era. This paper provides a comprehensive review of recent advances in aligning deployed LLMs with the ever-changing world knowledge. We categorize research works systemically and provide in-depth comparisons and discussions. We also discuss existing challenges and highlight future directions to facilitate research in this field.

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A Minimal Approach for Natural Language Action Space in Text-based Games
Dongwon Ryu | Meng Fang | Gholamreza Haffari | Shirui Pan | Ehsan Shareghi
Proceedings of the 27th Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning (CoNLL)

Text-based games (TGs) are language-based interactive environments for reinforcement learning. While language models (LMs) and knowledge graphs (KGs) are commonly used for handling large action space in TGs, it is unclear whether these techniques are necessary or overused. In this paper, we revisit the challenge of exploring the action space in TGs and propose 𝜖-admissible exploration, a minimal approach of utilizing admissible actions, for training phase. Additionally, we present a text-based actor-critic (TAC) agent that produces textual commands for game, solely from game observations, without requiring any KG or LM. Our method, on average across 10 games from Jericho, outperforms strong baselines and state-of-the-art agents that use LM and KG. Our approach highlights that a much lighter model design, with a fresh perspective on utilizing the information within the environments, suffices for an effective exploration of exponentially large action spaces.

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Self-imitation Learning for Action Generation in Text-based Games
Zijing Shi | Yunqiu Xu | Meng Fang | Ling Chen
Proceedings of the 17th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics

In this work, we study reinforcement learning (RL) in solving text-based games. We address the challenge of combinatorial action space, by proposing a confidence-based self-imitation model to generate action candidates for the RL agent. Firstly, we leverage the self-imitation learning to rank and exploit past valuable trajectories to adapt a pre-trained language model (LM) towards a target game. Then, we devise a confidence-based strategy to measure the LM’s confidence with respect to a state, thus adaptively pruning the generated actions to yield a more compact set of action candidates. In multiple challenging games, our model demonstrates promising performance in comparison to the baselines.

2022

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Perceiving the World: Question-guided Reinforcement Learning for Text-based Games
Yunqiu Xu | Meng Fang | Ling Chen | Yali Du | Joey Zhou | Chengqi Zhang
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Text-based games provide an interactive way to study natural language processing. While deep reinforcement learning has shown effectiveness in developing the game playing agent, the low sample efficiency and the large action space remain to be the two major challenges that hinder the DRL from being applied in the real world. In this paper, we address the challenges by introducing world-perceiving modules, which automatically decompose tasks and prune actions by answering questions about the environment. We then propose a two-phase training framework to decouple language learning from reinforcement learning, which further improves the sample efficiency. The experimental results show that the proposed method significantly improves the performance and sample efficiency. Besides, it shows robustness against compound error and limited pre-training data.

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A Model-agnostic Data Manipulation Method for Persona-based Dialogue Generation
Yu Cao | Wei Bi | Meng Fang | Shuming Shi | Dacheng Tao
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Towards building intelligent dialogue agents, there has been a growing interest in introducing explicit personas in generation models. However, with limited persona-based dialogue data at hand, it may be difficult to train a dialogue generation model well. We point out that the data challenges of this generation task lie in two aspects: first, it is expensive to scale up current persona-based dialogue datasets; second, each data sample in this task is more complex to learn with than conventional dialogue data. To alleviate the above data issues, we propose a data manipulation method, which is model-agnostic to be packed with any persona-based dialogue generation model to improve their performance. The original training samples will first be distilled and thus expected to be fitted more easily. Next, we show various effective ways that can diversify such easier distilled data. A given base model will then be trained via the constructed data curricula, i.e. first on augmented distilled samples and then on original ones. Experiments illustrate the superiority of our method with two strong base dialogue models (Transformer encoder-decoder and GPT2).

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Fire Burns, Sword Cuts: Commonsense Inductive Bias for Exploration in Text-based Games
Dongwon Ryu | Ehsan Shareghi | Meng Fang | Yunqiu Xu | Shirui Pan | Reza Haf
Proceedings of the 60th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Text-based games (TGs) are exciting testbeds for developing deep reinforcement learning techniques due to their partially observed environments and large action spaces. In these games, the agent learns to explore the environment via natural language interactions with the game simulator. A fundamental challenge in TGs is the efficient exploration of the large action space when the agent has not yet acquired enough knowledge about the environment. We propose CommExpl, an exploration technique that injects external commonsense knowledge, via a pretrained language model (LM), into the agent during training when the agent is the most uncertain about its next action. Our method exhibits improvement on the collected game scores during the training in four out of nine games from Jericho. Additionally, the produced trajectory of actions exhibit lower perplexity, when tested with a pretrained LM, indicating better closeness to human language.

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TASA: Deceiving Question Answering Models by Twin Answer Sentences Attack
Yu Cao | Dianqi Li | Meng Fang | Tianyi Zhou | Jun Gao | Yibing Zhan | Dacheng Tao
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

We present Twin Answer Sentences Attack (TASA), an adversarial attack method for question answering (QA) models that produces fluent and grammatical adversarial contexts while maintaining gold answers. Despite phenomenal progress on general adversarial attacks, few works have investigated the vulnerability and attack specifically for QA models. In this work, we first explore the biases in the existing models and discover that they mainly rely on keyword matching between the question and context, and ignore the relevant contextual relations for answer prediction. Based on two biases above, TASA attacks the target model in two folds: (1) lowering the model’s confidence on the gold answer with a perturbed answer sentence; (2) misguiding the model towards a wrong answer with a distracting answer sentence. Equipped with designed beam search and filtering methods, TASA can generate more effective attacks than existing textual attack methods while sustaining the quality of contexts, in extensive experiments on five QA datasets and human evaluations.

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Phrase-level Textual Adversarial Attack with Label Preservation
Yibin Lei | Yu Cao | Dianqi Li | Tianyi Zhou | Meng Fang | Mykola Pechenizkiy
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: NAACL 2022

Generating high-quality textual adversarial examples is critical for investigating the pitfalls of natural language processing (NLP) models and further promoting their robustness. Existing attacks are usually realized through word-level or sentence-level perturbations, which either limit the perturbation space or sacrifice fluency and textual quality, both affecting the attack effectiveness. In this paper, we propose Phrase-Level Textual Adversarial ATtack (PLAT) that generates adversarial samples through phrase-level perturbations. PLAT first extracts the vulnerable phrases as attack targets by a syntactic parser, and then perturbs them by a pre-trained blank-infilling model. Such flexible perturbation design substantially expands the search space for more effective attacks without introducing too many modifications, and meanwhile maintaining the textual fluency and grammaticality via contextualized generation using surrounding texts. Moreover, we develop a label preservation filter leveraging the likelihoods of language models fine-tuned on each class, rather than textual similarity, to rule out those perturbations that potentially alter the original class label for humans. Extensive experiments and human evaluation demonstrate that PLAT has a superior attack effectiveness as well as a better label consistency than strong baselines.

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Is Neural Topic Modelling Better than Clustering? An Empirical Study on Clustering with Contextual Embeddings for Topics
Zihan Zhang | Meng Fang | Ling Chen | Mohammad Reza Namazi Rad
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Recent work incorporates pre-trained word embeddings such as BERT embeddings into Neural Topic Models (NTMs), generating highly coherent topics. However, with high-quality contextualized document representations, do we really need sophisticated neural models to obtain coherent and interpretable topics? In this paper, we conduct thorough experiments showing that directly clustering high-quality sentence embeddings with an appropriate word selecting method can generate more coherent and diverse topics than NTMs, achieving also higher efficiency and simplicity.

2021

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DAGN: Discourse-Aware Graph Network for Logical Reasoning
Yinya Huang | Meng Fang | Yu Cao | Liwei Wang | Xiaodan Liang
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Recent QA with logical reasoning questions requires passage-level relations among the sentences. However, current approaches still focus on sentence-level relations interacting among tokens. In this work, we explore aggregating passage-level clues for solving logical reasoning QA by using discourse-based information. We propose a discourse-aware graph network (DAGN) that reasons relying on the discourse structure of the texts. The model encodes discourse information as a graph with elementary discourse units (EDUs) and discourse relations, and learns the discourse-aware features via a graph network for downstream QA tasks. Experiments are conducted on two logical reasoning QA datasets, ReClor and LogiQA, and our proposed DAGN achieves competitive results. The source code is available at https://github.com/Eleanor-H/DAGN.

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Generalization in Text-based Games via Hierarchical Reinforcement Learning
Yunqiu Xu | Meng Fang | Ling Chen | Yali Du | Chengqi Zhang
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Deep reinforcement learning provides a promising approach for text-based games in studying natural language communication between humans and artificial agents. However, the generalization still remains a big challenge as the agents depend critically on the complexity and variety of training tasks. In this paper, we address this problem by introducing a hierarchical framework built upon the knowledge graph-based RL agent. In the high level, a meta-policy is executed to decompose the whole game into a set of subtasks specified by textual goals, and select one of them based on the KG. Then a sub-policy in the low level is executed to conduct goal-conditioned reinforcement learning. We carry out experiments on games with various difficulty levels and show that the proposed method enjoys favorable generalizability.

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ProtoInfoMax: Prototypical Networks with Mutual Information Maximization for Out-of-Domain Detection
Iftitahu Nimah | Meng Fang | Vlado Menkovski | Mykola Pechenizkiy
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

The ability to detect Out-of-Domain (OOD) inputs has been a critical requirement in many real-world NLP applications. For example, intent classification in dialogue systems. The reason is that the inclusion of unsupported OOD inputs may lead to catastrophic failure of systems. However, it remains an empirical question whether current methods can tackle such problems reliably in a realistic scenario where zero OOD training data is available. In this study, we propose ProtoInfoMax, a new architecture that extends Prototypical Networks to simultaneously process in-domain and OOD sentences via Mutual Information Maximization (InfoMax) objective. Experimental results show that our proposed method can substantially improve performance up to 20% for OOD detection in low resource settings of text classification. We also show that ProtoInfoMax is less prone to typical overconfidence errors of Neural Networks, leading to more reliable prediction results.

2020

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Pretrained Language Models for Dialogue Generation with Multiple Input Sources
Yu Cao | Wei Bi | Meng Fang | Dacheng Tao
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

Large-scale pretrained language models have achieved outstanding performance on natural language understanding tasks. However, it is still under investigating how to apply them to dialogue generation tasks, especially those with responses conditioned on multiple sources. Previous work simply concatenates all input sources or averages information from different input sources. In this work, we study dialogue models with multiple input sources adapted from the pretrained language model GPT2. We explore various methods to fuse multiple separate attention information corresponding to different sources. Our experimental results show that proper fusion methods deliver higher relevance with dialogue history than simple fusion baselines.

2019

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Dual Adversarial Neural Transfer for Low-Resource Named Entity Recognition
Joey Tianyi Zhou | Hao Zhang | Di Jin | Hongyuan Zhu | Meng Fang | Rick Siow Mong Goh | Kenneth Kwok
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

We propose a new neural transfer method termed Dual Adversarial Transfer Network (DATNet) for addressing low-resource Named Entity Recognition (NER). Specifically, two variants of DATNet, i.e., DATNet-F and DATNet-P, are investigated to explore effective feature fusion between high and low resource. To address the noisy and imbalanced training data, we propose a novel Generalized Resource-Adversarial Discriminator (GRAD). Additionally, adversarial training is adopted to boost model generalization. In experiments, we examine the effects of different components in DATNet across domains and languages and show that significant improvement can be obtained especially for low-resource data, without augmenting any additional hand-crafted features and pre-trained language model.

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Bridging the Gap: Improve Part-of-speech Tagging for Chinese Social Media Texts with Foreign Words
Dingmin Wang | Meng Fang | Yan Song | Juntao Li
Proceedings of the 5th Workshop on Semantic Deep Learning (SemDeep-5)

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BAG: Bi-directional Attention Entity Graph Convolutional Network for Multi-hop Reasoning Question Answering
Yu Cao | Meng Fang | Dacheng Tao
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)

Multi-hop reasoning question answering requires deep comprehension of relationships between various documents and queries. We propose a Bi-directional Attention Entity Graph Convolutional Network (BAG), leveraging relationships between nodes in an entity graph and attention information between a query and the entity graph, to solve this task. Graph convolutional networks are used to obtain a relation-aware representation of nodes for entity graphs built from documents with multi-level features. Bidirectional attention is then applied on graphs and queries to generate a query-aware nodes representation, which will be used for the final prediction. Experimental evaluation shows BAG achieves state-of-the-art accuracy performance on the QAngaroo WIKIHOP dataset.

2017

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Model Transfer for Tagging Low-resource Languages using a Bilingual Dictionary
Meng Fang | Trevor Cohn
Proceedings of the 55th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

Cross-lingual model transfer is a compelling and popular method for predicting annotations in a low-resource language, whereby parallel corpora provide a bridge to a high-resource language, and its associated annotated corpora. However, parallel data is not readily available for many languages, limiting the applicability of these approaches. We address these drawbacks in our framework which takes advantage of cross-lingual word embeddings trained solely on a high coverage dictionary. We propose a novel neural network model for joint training from both sources of data based on cross-lingual word embeddings, and show substantial empirical improvements over baseline techniques. We also propose several active learning heuristics, which result in improvements over competitive benchmark methods.

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Learning how to Active Learn: A Deep Reinforcement Learning Approach
Meng Fang | Yuan Li | Trevor Cohn
Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Active learning aims to select a small subset of data for annotation such that a classifier learned on the data is highly accurate. This is usually done using heuristic selection methods, however the effectiveness of such methods is limited and moreover, the performance of heuristics varies between datasets. To address these shortcomings, we introduce a novel formulation by reframing the active learning as a reinforcement learning problem and explicitly learning a data selection policy, where the policy takes the role of the active learning heuristic. Importantly, our method allows the selection policy learned using simulation to one language to be transferred to other languages. We demonstrate our method using cross-lingual named entity recognition, observing uniform improvements over traditional active learning algorithms.

2016

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Learning when to trust distant supervision: An application to low-resource POS tagging using cross-lingual projection
Meng Fang | Trevor Cohn
Proceedings of the 20th SIGNLL Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning