Qiang Ning


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Foreseeing the Benefits of Incidental Supervision
Hangfeng He | Mingyuan Zhang | Qiang Ning | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Real-world applications often require improved models by leveraging *a range of cheap incidental supervision signals*. These could include partial labels, noisy labels, knowledge-based constraints, and cross-domain or cross-task annotations – all having statistical associations with gold annotations but not exactly the same. However, we currently lack a principled way to measure the benefits of these signals to a given target task, and the common practice of evaluating these benefits is through exhaustive experiments with various models and hyperparameters. This paper studies whether we can, *in a single framework, quantify the benefits of various types of incidental signals for a given target task without going through combinatorial experiments*. We propose a unified PAC-Bayesian motivated informativeness measure, PABI, that characterizes the uncertainty reduction provided by incidental supervision signals. We demonstrate PABI’s effectiveness by quantifying the value added by various types of incidental signals to sequence tagging tasks. Experiments on named entity recognition (NER) and question answering (QA) show that PABI’s predictions correlate well with learning performance, providing a promising way to determine, ahead of learning, which supervision signals would be beneficial.

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ESTER: A Machine Reading Comprehension Dataset for Reasoning about Event Semantic Relations
Rujun Han | I-Hung Hsu | Jiao Sun | Julia Baylon | Qiang Ning | Dan Roth | Nanyun Peng
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Understanding how events are semantically related to each other is the essence of reading comprehension. Recent event-centric reading comprehension datasets focus mostly on event arguments or temporal relations. While these tasks partially evaluate machines’ ability of narrative understanding, human-like reading comprehension requires the capability to process event-based information beyond arguments and temporal reasoning. For example, to understand causality between events, we need to infer motivation or purpose; to establish event hierarchy, we need to understand the composition of events. To facilitate these tasks, we introduce **ESTER**, a comprehensive machine reading comprehension (MRC) dataset for Event Semantic Relation Reasoning. The dataset leverages natural language queries to reason about the five most common event semantic relations, provides more than 6K questions, and captures 10.1K event relation pairs. Experimental results show that the current SOTA systems achieve 22.1%, 63.3% and 83.5% for token-based exact-match (**EM**), **F1** and event-based **HIT@1** scores, which are all significantly below human performances (36.0%, 79.6%, 100% respectively), highlighting our dataset as a challenging benchmark.

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Event Time Extraction and Propagation via Graph Attention Networks
Haoyang Wen | Yanru Qu | Heng Ji | Qiang Ning | Jiawei Han | Avi Sil | Hanghang Tong | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Grounding events into a precise timeline is important for natural language understanding but has received limited attention in recent work. This problem is challenging due to the inherent ambiguity of language and the requirement for information propagation over inter-related events. This paper first formulates this problem based on a 4-tuple temporal representation used in entity slot filling, which allows us to represent fuzzy time spans more conveniently. We then propose a graph attention network-based approach to propagate temporal information over document-level event graphs constructed by shared entity arguments and temporal relations. To better evaluate our approach, we present a challenging new benchmark on the ACE2005 corpus, where more than 78% of events do not have time spans mentioned explicitly in their local contexts. The proposed approach yields an absolute gain of 7.0% in match rate over contextualized embedding approaches, and 16.3% higher match rate compared to sentence-level manual event time argument annotation.

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Temporal Reasoning on Implicit Events from Distant Supervision
Ben Zhou | Kyle Richardson | Qiang Ning | Tushar Khot | Ashish Sabharwal | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

We propose TRACIE, a novel temporal reasoning dataset that evaluates the degree to which systems understand implicit events—events that are not mentioned explicitly in natural language text but can be inferred from it. This introduces a new challenge in temporal reasoning research, where prior work has focused on explicitly mentioned events. Human readers can infer implicit events via commonsense reasoning, resulting in a more comprehensive understanding of the situation and, consequently, better reasoning about time. We find, however, that state-of-the-art models struggle when predicting temporal relationships between implicit and explicit events. To address this, we propose a neuro-symbolic temporal reasoning model, SymTime, which exploits distant supervision signals from large-scale text and uses temporal rules to combine start times and durations to infer end times. SymTime outperforms strong baseline systems on TRACIE by 5%, and by 11% in a zero prior knowledge training setting. Our approach also generalizes to other temporal reasoning tasks, as evidenced by a gain of 1%-9% on MATRES, an explicit event benchmark.

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SPARTQA: A Textual Question Answering Benchmark for Spatial Reasoning
Roshanak Mirzaee | Hossein Rajaby Faghihi | Qiang Ning | Parisa Kordjamshidi
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

This paper proposes a question-answering (QA) benchmark for spatial reasoning on natural language text which contains more realistic spatial phenomena not covered by prior work and is challenging for state-of-the-art language models (LM). We propose a distant supervision method to improve on this task. Specifically, we design grammar and reasoning rules to automatically generate a spatial description of visual scenes and corresponding QA pairs. Experiments show that further pretraining LMs on these automatically generated data significantly improves LMs’ capability on spatial understanding, which in turn helps to better solve two external datasets, bAbI, and boolQ. We hope that this work can foster investigations into more sophisticated models for spatial reasoning over text.

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Event-Centric Natural Language Processing
Muhao Chen | Hongming Zhang | Qiang Ning | Manling Li | Heng Ji | Kathleen McKeown | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 59th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics and the 11th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing: Tutorial Abstracts

This tutorial targets researchers and practitioners who are interested in AI technologies that help machines understand natural language text, particularly real-world events described in the text. These include methods to extract the internal structures of an event regarding its protagonist(s), participant(s) and properties, as well as external structures concerning memberships, temporal and causal relations of multiple events. This tutorial will provide audience with a systematic introduction of (i) knowledge representations of events, (ii) various methods for automated extraction, conceptualization and prediction of events and their relations, (iii) induction of event processes and properties, and (iv) a wide range of NLU and commonsense understanding tasks that benefit from aforementioned techniques. We will conclude the tutorial by outlining emerging research problems in this area.


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TORQUE: A Reading Comprehension Dataset of Temporal Ordering Questions
Qiang Ning | Hao Wu | Rujun Han | Nanyun Peng | Matt Gardner | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

A critical part of reading is being able to understand the temporal relationships between events described in a passage of text, even when those relationships are not explicitly stated. However, current machine reading comprehension benchmarks have practically no questions that test temporal phenomena, so systems trained on these benchmarks have no capacity to answer questions such as “what happened before/after [some event]?” We introduce TORQUE, a new English reading comprehension benchmark built on 3.2k news snippets with 21k human-generated questions querying temporal relationships. Results show that RoBERTa-large achieves an exact-match score of 51% on the test set of TORQUE, about 30% behind human performance.

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Easy, Reproducible and Quality-Controlled Data Collection with CROWDAQ
Qiang Ning | Hao Wu | Pradeep Dasigi | Dheeru Dua | Matt Gardner | Robert L. Logan IV | Ana Marasović | Zhen Nie
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing: System Demonstrations

High-quality and large-scale data are key to success for AI systems. However, large-scale data annotation efforts are often confronted with a set of common challenges: (1) designing a user-friendly annotation interface; (2) training enough annotators efficiently; and (3) reproducibility. To address these problems, we introduce CROWDAQ, an open-source platform that standardizes the data collection pipeline with customizable user-interface components, automated annotator qualification, and saved pipelines in a re-usable format. We show that CROWDAQ simplifies data annotation significantly on a diverse set of data collection use cases and we hope it will be a convenient tool for the community.

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Temporal Common Sense Acquisition with Minimal Supervision
Ben Zhou | Qiang Ning | Daniel Khashabi | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Temporal common sense (e.g., duration and frequency of events) is crucial for understanding natural language. However, its acquisition is challenging, partly because such information is often not expressed explicitly in text, and human annotation on such concepts is costly. This work proposes a novel sequence modeling approach that exploits explicit and implicit mentions of temporal common sense, extracted from a large corpus, to build TacoLM, a temporal common sense language model. Our method is shown to give quality predictions of various dimensions of temporal common sense (on UDST and a newly collected dataset from RealNews). It also produces representations of events for relevant tasks such as duration comparison, parent-child relations, event coreference and temporal QA (on TimeBank, HiEVE and MCTACO) that are better than using the standard BERT. Thus, it will be an important component of temporal NLP.

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QuASE: Question-Answer Driven Sentence Encoding
Hangfeng He | Qiang Ning | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Question-answering (QA) data often encodes essential information in many facets. This paper studies a natural question: Can we get supervision from QA data for other tasks (typically, non-QA ones)? For example, can we use QAMR (Michael et al., 2017) to improve named entity recognition? We suggest that simply further pre-training BERT is often not the best option, and propose the question-answer driven sentence encoding (QuASE) framework. QuASE learns representations from QA data, using BERT or other state-of-the-art contextual language models. In particular, we observe the need to distinguish between two types of sentence encodings, depending on whether the target task is a single- or multi-sentence input; in both cases, the resulting encoding is shown to be an easy-to-use plugin for many downstream tasks. This work may point out an alternative way to supervise NLP tasks.

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Evaluating Models’ Local Decision Boundaries via Contrast Sets
Matt Gardner | Yoav Artzi | Victoria Basmov | Jonathan Berant | Ben Bogin | Sihao Chen | Pradeep Dasigi | Dheeru Dua | Yanai Elazar | Ananth Gottumukkala | Nitish Gupta | Hannaneh Hajishirzi | Gabriel Ilharco | Daniel Khashabi | Kevin Lin | Jiangming Liu | Nelson F. Liu | Phoebe Mulcaire | Qiang Ning | Sameer Singh | Noah A. Smith | Sanjay Subramanian | Reut Tsarfaty | Eric Wallace | Ally Zhang | Ben Zhou
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

Standard test sets for supervised learning evaluate in-distribution generalization. Unfortunately, when a dataset has systematic gaps (e.g., annotation artifacts), these evaluations are misleading: a model can learn simple decision rules that perform well on the test set but do not capture the abilities a dataset is intended to test. We propose a more rigorous annotation paradigm for NLP that helps to close systematic gaps in the test data. In particular, after a dataset is constructed, we recommend that the dataset authors manually perturb the test instances in small but meaningful ways that (typically) change the gold label, creating contrast sets. Contrast sets provide a local view of a model’s decision boundary, which can be used to more accurately evaluate a model’s true linguistic capabilities. We demonstrate the efficacy of contrast sets by creating them for 10 diverse NLP datasets (e.g., DROP reading comprehension, UD parsing, and IMDb sentiment analysis). Although our contrast sets are not explicitly adversarial, model performance is significantly lower on them than on the original test sets—up to 25% in some cases. We release our contrast sets as new evaluation benchmarks and encourage future dataset construction efforts to follow similar annotation processes.


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Joint Event and Temporal Relation Extraction with Shared Representations and Structured Prediction
Rujun Han | Qiang Ning | Nanyun Peng
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

We propose a joint event and temporal relation extraction model with shared representation learning and structured prediction. The proposed method has two advantages over existing work. First, it improves event representation by allowing the event and relation modules to share the same contextualized embeddings and neural representation learner. Second, it avoids error propagation in the conventional pipeline systems by leveraging structured inference and learning methods to assign both the event labels and the temporal relation labels jointly. Experiments show that the proposed method can improve both event extraction and temporal relation extraction over state-of-the-art systems, with the end-to-end F1 improved by 10% and 6.8% on two benchmark datasets respectively.

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“Going on a vacation” takes longer than “Going for a walk”: A Study of Temporal Commonsense Understanding
Ben Zhou | Daniel Khashabi | Qiang Ning | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Understanding time is crucial for understanding events expressed in natural language. Because people rarely say the obvious, it is often necessary to have commonsense knowledge about various temporal aspects of events, such as duration, frequency, and temporal order. However, this important problem has so far received limited attention. This paper systematically studies this temporal commonsense problem. Specifically, we define five classes of temporal commonsense, and use crowdsourcing to develop a new dataset, MCTACO, that serves as a test set for this task. We find that the best current methods used on MCTACO are still far behind human performance, by about 20%, and discuss several directions for improvement. We hope that the new dataset and our study here can foster more future research on this topic.

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An Improved Neural Baseline for Temporal Relation Extraction
Qiang Ning | Sanjay Subramanian | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP)

Determining temporal relations (e.g., before or after) between events has been a challenging natural language understanding task, partly due to the difficulty to generate large amounts of high-quality training data. Consequently, neural approaches have not been widely used on it, or showed only moderate improvements. This paper proposes a new neural system that achieves about 10% absolute improvement in accuracy over the previous best system (25% error reduction) on two benchmark datasets. The proposed system is trained on the state-of-the-art MATRES dataset and applies contextualized word embeddings, a Siamese encoder of a temporal common sense knowledge base, and global inference via integer linear programming (ILP). We suggest that the new approach could serve as a strong baseline for future research in this area.

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Partial Or Complete, That’s The Question
Qiang Ning | Hangfeng He | Chuchu Fan | Dan Roth
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)

For many structured learning tasks, the data annotation process is complex and costly. Existing annotation schemes usually aim at acquiring completely annotated structures, under the common perception that partial structures are of low quality and could hurt the learning process. This paper questions this common perception, motivated by the fact that structures consist of interdependent sets of variables. Thus, given a fixed budget, partly annotating each structure may provide the same level of supervision, while allowing for more structures to be annotated. We provide an information theoretic formulation for this perspective and use it, in the context of three diverse structured learning tasks, to show that learning from partial structures can sometimes outperform learning from complete ones. Our findings may provide important insights into structured data annotation schemes and could support progress in learning protocols for structured tasks.

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KnowSemLM: A Knowledge Infused Semantic Language Model
Haoruo Peng | Qiang Ning | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 23rd Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning (CoNLL)

Story understanding requires developing expectations of what events come next in text. Prior knowledge – both statistical and declarative – is essential in guiding such expectations. While existing semantic language models (SemLM) capture event co-occurrence information by modeling event sequences as semantic frames, entities, and other semantic units, this paper aims at augmenting them with causal knowledge (i.e., one event is likely to lead to another). Such knowledge is modeled at the frame and entity level, and can be obtained either statistically from text or stated declaratively. The proposed method, KnowSemLM, infuses this knowledge into a semantic LM by joint training and inference, and is shown to be effective on both the event cloze test and story/referent prediction tasks.


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Improving Temporal Relation Extraction with a Globally Acquired Statistical Resource
Qiang Ning | Hao Wu | Haoruo Peng | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Volume 1 (Long Papers)

Extracting temporal relations (before, after, overlapping, etc.) is a key aspect of understanding events described in natural language. We argue that this task would gain from the availability of a resource that provides prior knowledge in the form of the temporal order that events usually follow. This paper develops such a resource – a probabilistic knowledge base acquired in the news domain – by extracting temporal relations between events from the New York Times (NYT) articles over a 20-year span (1987–2007). We show that existing temporal extraction systems can be improved via this resource. As a byproduct, we also show that interesting statistics can be retrieved from this resource, which can potentially benefit other time-aware tasks. The proposed system and resource are both publicly available.

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A Multi-Axis Annotation Scheme for Event Temporal Relations
Qiang Ning | Hao Wu | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Existing temporal relation (TempRel) annotation schemes often have low inter-annotator agreements (IAA) even between experts, suggesting that the current annotation task needs a better definition. This paper proposes a new multi-axis modeling to better capture the temporal structure of events. In addition, we identify that event end-points are a major source of confusion in annotation, so we also propose to annotate TempRels based on start-points only. A pilot expert annotation effort using the proposed scheme shows significant improvement in IAA from the conventional 60’s to 80’s (Cohen’s Kappa). This better-defined annotation scheme further enables the use of crowdsourcing to alleviate the labor intensity for each annotator. We hope that this work can foster more interesting studies towards event understanding.

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Joint Reasoning for Temporal and Causal Relations
Qiang Ning | Zhili Feng | Hao Wu | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Understanding temporal and causal relations between events is a fundamental natural language understanding task. Because a cause must occur earlier than its effect, temporal and causal relations are closely related and one relation often dictates the value of the other. However, limited attention has been paid to studying these two relations jointly. This paper presents a joint inference framework for them using constrained conditional models (CCMs). Specifically, we formulate the joint problem as an integer linear programming (ILP) problem, enforcing constraints that are inherent in the nature of time and causality. We show that the joint inference framework results in statistically significant improvement in the extraction of both temporal and causal relations from text.

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CogCompTime: A Tool for Understanding Time in Natural Language
Qiang Ning | Ben Zhou | Zhili Feng | Haoruo Peng | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 2018 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing: System Demonstrations

Automatic extraction of temporal information is important for natural language understanding. It involves two basic tasks: (1) Understanding time expressions that are mentioned explicitly in text (e.g., February 27, 1998 or tomorrow), and (2) Understanding temporal information that is conveyed implicitly via relations. This paper introduces CogCompTime, a system that has these two important functionalities. It incorporates the most recent progress, achieves state-of-the-art performance, and is publicly available at http://cogcomp.org/page/publication_view/844.

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CogCompNLP: Your Swiss Army Knife for NLP
Daniel Khashabi | Mark Sammons | Ben Zhou | Tom Redman | Christos Christodoulopoulos | Vivek Srikumar | Nicholas Rizzolo | Lev Ratinov | Guanheng Luo | Quang Do | Chen-Tse Tsai | Subhro Roy | Stephen Mayhew | Zhili Feng | John Wieting | Xiaodong Yu | Yangqiu Song | Shashank Gupta | Shyam Upadhyay | Naveen Arivazhagan | Qiang Ning | Shaoshi Ling | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC 2018)

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Exploiting Partially Annotated Data in Temporal Relation Extraction
Qiang Ning | Zhongzhi Yu | Chuchu Fan | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the Seventh Joint Conference on Lexical and Computational Semantics

Annotating temporal relations (TempRel) between events described in natural language is known to be labor intensive, partly because the total number of TempRels is quadratic in the number of events. As a result, only a small number of documents are typically annotated, limiting the coverage of various lexical/semantic phenomena. In order to improve existing approaches, one possibility is to make use of the readily available, partially annotated data (P as in partial) that cover more documents. However, missing annotations in P are known to hurt, rather than help, existing systems. This work is a case study in exploring various usages of P for TempRel extraction. Results show that despite missing annotations, P is still a useful supervision signal for this task within a constrained bootstrapping learning framework. The system described in this system is publicly available.


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A Structured Learning Approach to Temporal Relation Extraction
Qiang Ning | Zhili Feng | Dan Roth
Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Identifying temporal relations between events is an essential step towards natural language understanding. However, the temporal relation between two events in a story depends on, and is often dictated by, relations among other events. Consequently, effectively identifying temporal relations between events is a challenging problem even for human annotators. This paper suggests that it is important to take these dependencies into account while learning to identify these relations and proposes a structured learning approach to address this challenge. As a byproduct, this provides a new perspective on handling missing relations, a known issue that hurts existing methods. As we show, the proposed approach results in significant improvements on the two commonly used data sets for this problem.