Learning embedding layers (for classes, words, items, etc.) is a key component of lots of applications, ranging from natural language processing, recommendation systems to electronic health records, etc.However, the frequency of real-world items follows a long-tail distribution in these applications, causing naive training methods perform poorly on the rare items. A line of previous works address this problem by transferring the knowledge from the frequent items to rare items by introducing an auxiliary transfer loss. However, when defined improperly, the transfer loss may introduce harmful biases and deteriorate the performance.In this work, we propose a harmless transfer learning framework that limits the impact of the potential biases in both the definition and optimization of the transfer loss. On the definition side, we reduce the bias in transfer loss by focusing on the items to which information from high-frequency items can be efficiently transferred. On the optimization side, we leverage a lexicographic optimization framework to efficiently incorporate the information of the transfer loss without hurting the minimization of the main prediction loss function. Our method serves as a plug-in module and significantly boosts the performance on a variety of NLP and recommendation system tasks.
State-of-the-art NLP models can often be fooled by human-unaware transformations such as synonymous word substitution. For security reasons, it is of critical importance to develop models with certified robustness that can provably guarantee that the prediction is can not be altered by any possible synonymous word substitution. In this work, we propose a certified robust method based on a new randomized smoothing technique, which constructs a stochastic ensemble by applying random word substitutions on the input sentences, and leverage the statistical properties of the ensemble to provably certify the robustness. Our method is simple and structure-free in that it only requires the black-box queries of the model outputs, and hence can be applied to any pre-trained models (such as BERT) and any types of models (world-level or subword-level). Our method significantly outperforms recent state-of-the-art methods for certified robustness on both IMDB and Amazon text classification tasks. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first work to achieve certified robustness on large systems such as BERT with practically meaningful certified accuracy.
In this work we addressed the problem of capturing sequential information contained in longitudinal electronic health records (EHRs). Clinical notes, which is a particular type of EHR data, are a rich source of information and practitioners often develop clever solutions how to maximise the sequential information contained in free-texts. We proposed a systematic methodology for learning from chronological events available in clinical notes. The proposed methodological path signature framework creates a non-parametric hierarchical representation of sequential events of any type and can be used as features for downstream statistical learning tasks. The methodology was developed and externally validated using the largest in the UK secondary care mental health EHR data on a specific task of predicting survival risk of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The signature-based model was compared to a common survival random forest model. Our results showed a 15.4% increase of risk prediction AUC at the time point of 20 months after the first admission to a specialist memory clinic and the signature method outperformed the baseline mixed-effects model by 13.2 %.