Dense retrieval approaches can overcome the lexical gap and lead to significantly improved search results. However, they require large amounts of training data which is not available for most domains. As shown in previous work (Thakur et al., 2021b), the performance of dense retrievers severely degrades under a domain shift. This limits the usage of dense retrieval approaches to only a few domains with large training datasets. In this paper, we propose the novel unsupervised domain adaptation method Generative Pseudo Labeling (GPL), which combines a query generator with pseudo labeling from a cross-encoder. On six representative domain-specialized datasets, we find the proposed GPL can outperform an out-of-the-box state-of-the-art dense retrieval approach by up to 9.3 points nDCG@10. GPL requires less (unlabeled) data from the target domain and is more robust in its training than previous methods. We further investigate the role of six recent pre-training methods in the scenario of domain adaptation for retrieval tasks, where only three could yield improved results. The best approach, TSDAE (Wang et al., 2021) can be combined with GPL, yielding another average improvement of 1.4 points nDCG@10 across the six tasks. The code and the models are available at https://github.com/UKPLab/gpl.
There are two approaches for pairwise sentence scoring: Cross-encoders, which perform full-attention over the input pair, and Bi-encoders, which map each input independently to a dense vector space. While cross-encoders often achieve higher performance, they are too slow for many practical use cases. Bi-encoders, on the other hand, require substantial training data and fine-tuning over the target task to achieve competitive performance. We present a simple yet efficient data augmentation strategy called Augmented SBERT, where we use the cross-encoder to label a larger set of input pairs to augment the training data for the bi-encoder. We show that, in this process, selecting the sentence pairs is non-trivial and crucial for the success of the method. We evaluate our approach on multiple tasks (in-domain) as well as on a domain adaptation task. Augmented SBERT achieves an improvement of up to 6 points for in-domain and of up to 37 points for domain adaptation tasks compared to the original bi-encoder performance.