A key problem in multi-task learning (MTL) research is how to select high-quality auxiliary tasks automatically. This paper presents GradTS, an automatic auxiliary task selection method based on gradient calculation in Transformer-based models. Compared to AUTOSEM, a strong baseline method, GradTS improves the performance of MT-DNN with a bert-base-cased backend model, from 0.33% to 17.93% on 8 natural language understanding (NLU) tasks in the GLUE benchmarks. GradTS is also time-saving since (1) its gradient calculations are based on single-task experiments and (2) the gradients are re-used without additional experiments when the candidate task set changes. On the 8 GLUE classification tasks, for example, GradTS costs on average 21.32% less time than AUTOSEM with comparable GPU consumption. Further, we show the robustness of GradTS across various task settings and model selections, e.g. mixed objectives among candidate tasks. The efficiency and efficacy of GradTS in these case studies illustrate its general applicability in MTL research without requiring manual task filtering or costly parameter tuning.
This paper studies the relative importance of attention heads in Transformer-based models to aid their interpretability in cross-lingual and multi-lingual tasks. Prior research has found that only a few attention heads are important in each mono-lingual Natural Language Processing (NLP) task and pruning the remaining heads leads to comparable or improved performance of the model. However, the impact of pruning attention heads is not yet clear in cross-lingual and multi-lingual tasks. Through extensive experiments, we show that (1) pruning a number of attention heads in a multi-lingual Transformer-based model has, in general, positive effects on its performance in cross-lingual and multi-lingual tasks and (2) the attention heads to be pruned can be ranked using gradients and identified with a few trial experiments. Our experiments focus on sequence labeling tasks, with potential applicability on other cross-lingual and multi-lingual tasks. For comprehensiveness, we examine two pre-trained multi-lingual models, namely multi-lingual BERT (mBERT) and XLM-R, on three tasks across 9 languages each. We also discuss the validity of our findings and their extensibility to truly resource-scarce languages and other task settings.