Ross Sparks


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Demonstrating the Reliability of Self-Annotated Emotion Data
Anton Malko | Cecile Paris | Andreas Duenser | Maria Kangas | Diego Molla | Ross Sparks | Stephen Wan
Proceedings of the Seventh Workshop on Computational Linguistics and Clinical Psychology: Improving Access

Vent is a specialised iOS/Android social media platform with the stated goal to encourage people to post about their feelings and explicitly label them. In this paper, we study a snapshot of more than 100 million messages obtained from the developers of Vent, together with the labels assigned by the authors of the messages. We establish the quality of the self-annotated data by conducting a qualitative analysis, a vocabulary based analysis, and by training and testing an emotion classifier. We conclude that the self-annotated labels of our corpus are indeed indicative of the emotional contents expressed in the text and thus can support more detailed analyses of emotion expression on social media, such as emotion trajectories and factors influencing them.


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Assessing Social License to Operate from the Public Discourse on Social Media
Chang Xu | Cecile Paris | Ross Sparks | Surya Nepal | Keith VanderLinden
Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics: Industry Track

Organisations are monitoring their Social License to Operate (SLO) with increasing regularity. SLO, the level of support organisations gain from the public, is typically assessed through surveys or focus groups, which require expensive manual efforts and yield quickly-outdated results. In this paper, we present SIRTA (Social Insight via Real-Time Text Analytics), a novel real-time text analytics system for assessing and monitoring organisations’ SLO levels by analysing the public discourse from social posts. To assess SLO levels, our insight is to extract and transform peoples’ stances towards an organisation into SLO levels. SIRTA achieves this by performing a chain of three text classification tasks, where it identifies task-relevant social posts, discovers key SLO risks discussed in the posts, and infers stances specific to the SLO risks. We leverage recent language understanding techniques (e.g., BERT) for building our classifiers. To monitor SLO levels over time, SIRTA employs quality control mechanisms to reliably identify SLO trends and variations of multiple organisations in a market. These are derived from the smoothed time series of their SLO levels based on exponentially-weighted moving average (EWMA) calculation. Our experimental results show that SIRTA is highly effective in distilling stances from social posts for SLO level assessment, and that the continuous monitoring of SLO levels afforded by SIRTA enables the early detection of critical SLO changes.


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A Comparison of Word-based and Context-based Representations for Classification Problems in Health Informatics
Aditya Joshi | Sarvnaz Karimi | Ross Sparks | Cecile Paris | C Raina MacIntyre
Proceedings of the 18th BioNLP Workshop and Shared Task

Distributed representations of text can be used as features when training a statistical classifier. These representations may be created as a composition of word vectors or as context-based sentence vectors. We compare the two kinds of representations (word versus context) for three classification problems: influenza infection classification, drug usage classification and personal health mention classification. For statistical classifiers trained for each of these problems, context-based representations based on ELMo, Universal Sentence Encoder, Neural-Net Language Model and FLAIR are better than Word2Vec, GloVe and the two adapted using the MESH ontology. There is an improvement of 2-4% in the accuracy when these context-based representations are used instead of word-based representations.

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Does Multi-Task Learning Always Help?: An Evaluation on Health Informatics
Aditya Joshi | Sarvnaz Karimi | Ross Sparks | Cecile Paris | C Raina MacIntyre
Proceedings of the The 17th Annual Workshop of the Australasian Language Technology Association

Multi-Task Learning (MTL) has been an attractive approach to deal with limited labeled datasets or leverage related tasks, for a variety of NLP problems. We examine the benefit of MTL for three specific pairs of health informatics tasks that deal with: (a) overlapping symptoms for the same classification problem (personal health mention classification for influenza and for a set of symptoms); (b) overlapping medical concepts for related classification problems (vaccine usage and drug usage detection); and, (c) related classification problems (vaccination intent and vaccination relevance detection). We experiment with a simple neural architecture: a shared layer followed by task-specific dense layers. The novelty of this work is that it compares alternatives for shared layers for these pairs of tasks. While our observations agree with the promise of MTL as compared to single-task learning, for health informatics, we show that the benefit also comes with caveats in terms of the choice of shared layers and the relatedness between the participating tasks.

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Figurative Usage Detection of Symptom Words to Improve Personal Health Mention Detection
Adith Iyer | Aditya Joshi | Sarvnaz Karimi | Ross Sparks | Cecile Paris
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

Personal health mention detection deals with predicting whether or not a given sentence is a report of a health condition. Past work mentions errors in this prediction when symptom words, i.e., names of symptoms of interest, are used in a figurative sense. Therefore, we combine a state-of-the-art figurative usage detection with CNN-based personal health mention detection. To do so, we present two methods: a pipeline-based approach and a feature augmentation-based approach. The introduction of figurative usage detection results in an average improvement of 2.21% F-score of personal health mention detection, in the case of the feature augmentation-based approach. This paper demonstrates the promise of using figurative usage detection to improve personal health mention detection.

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Recognising Agreement and Disagreement between Stances with Reason Comparing Networks
Chang Xu | Cecile Paris | Surya Nepal | Ross Sparks
Proceedings of the 57th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

We identify agreement and disagreement between utterances that express stances towards a topic of discussion. Existing methods focus mainly on conversational settings, where dialogic features are used for (dis)agreement inference. We extend this scope and seek to detect stance (dis)agreement in a broader setting, where independent stance-bearing utterances, which prevail in many stance corpora and real-world scenarios, are compared. To cope with such non-dialogic utterances, we find that the reasons uttered to back up a specific stance can help predict stance (dis)agreements. We propose a reason comparing network (RCN) to leverage reason information for stance comparison. Empirical results on a well-known stance corpus show that our method can discover useful reason information, enabling it to outperform several baselines in stance (dis)agreement detection.


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Shot Or Not: Comparison of NLP Approaches for Vaccination Behaviour Detection
Aditya Joshi | Xiang Dai | Sarvnaz Karimi | Ross Sparks | Cécile Paris | C Raina MacIntyre
Proceedings of the 2018 EMNLP Workshop SMM4H: The 3rd Social Media Mining for Health Applications Workshop & Shared Task

Vaccination behaviour detection deals with predicting whether or not a person received/was about to receive a vaccine. We present our submission for vaccination behaviour detection shared task at the SMM4H workshop. Our findings are based on three prevalent text classification approaches: rule-based, statistical and deep learning-based. Our final submissions are: (1) an ensemble of statistical classifiers with task-specific features derived using lexicons, language processing tools and word embeddings; and, (2) a LSTM classifier with pre-trained language models.

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Cross-Target Stance Classification with Self-Attention Networks
Chang Xu | Cécile Paris | Surya Nepal | Ross Sparks
Proceedings of the 56th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 2: Short Papers)

In stance classification, the target on which the stance is made defines the boundary of the task, and a classifier is usually trained for prediction on the same target. In this work, we explore the potential for generalizing classifiers between different targets, and propose a neural model that can apply what has been learned from a source target to a destination target. We show that our model can find useful information shared between relevant targets which improves generalization in certain scenarios.