Pre-training on larger datasets with ever increasing model size isnow a proven recipe for increased performance across almost all NLP tasks.A notable exception is information retrieval, where additional pre-traininghas so far failed to produce convincing results. We show that, with theright pre-training setup, this barrier can be overcome. We demonstrate thisby pre-training large bi-encoder models on 1) a recently released set of 65 millionsynthetically generated questions, and 2) 200 million post-comment pairs from a preexisting dataset of Reddit conversations made available by pushshift.io.We evaluate on a set of information retrieval and dialogue retrieval benchmarks, showing substantial improvements over supervised baselines.
We study open-domain question answering with structured, unstructured and semi-structured knowledge sources, including text, tables, lists and knowledge bases. Departing from prior work, we propose a unifying approach that homogenizes all sources by reducing them to text and applies the retriever-reader model which has so far been limited to text sources only. Our approach greatly improves the results on knowledge-base QA tasks by 11 points, compared to latest graph-based methods. More importantly, we demonstrate that our unified knowledge (UniK-QA) model is a simple and yet effective way to combine heterogeneous sources of knowledge, advancing the state-of-the-art results on two popular question answering benchmarks, NaturalQuestions and WebQuestions, by 3.5 and 2.6 points, respectively.The code of UniK-QA is available at: https://github.com/facebookresearch/UniK-QA.
We propose a novel open-domain question-answering dataset based on the Common Crawl project. With a previously unseen number of around 130 million multilingual question-answer pairs (including about 60 million English data-points), we use our large-scale, natural, diverse and high-quality corpus to in-domain pre-train popular language models for the task of question-answering. In our experiments, we find that our Common Crawl Question Answering dataset (CCQA) achieves promising results in zero-shot, low resource and fine-tuned settings across multiple tasks, models and benchmarks.
Real-world natural language processing (NLP) models need to be continually updated to fix the prediction errors in out-of-distribution (OOD) data streams while overcoming catastrophic forgetting. However, existing continual learning (CL) problem setups cannot cover such a realistic and complex scenario. In response to this, we propose a new CL problem formulation dubbed continual model refinement (CMR). Compared to prior CL settings, CMR is more practical and introduces unique challenges (boundary-agnostic and non-stationary distribution shift, diverse mixtures of multiple OOD data clusters, error-centric streams, etc.). We extend several existing CL approaches to the CMR setting and evaluate them extensively. For benchmarking and analysis, we propose a general sampling algorithm to obtain dynamic OOD data streams with controllable non-stationarity, as well as a suite of metrics measuring various aspects of online performance. Our experiments and detailed analysis reveal the promise and challenges of the CMR problem, supporting that studying CMR in dynamic OOD streams can benefit the longevity of deployed NLP models in production.
Recent parameter-efficient language model tuning (PELT) methods manage to match the performance of fine-tuning with much fewer trainable parameters and perform especially well when training data is limited. However, different PELT methods may perform rather differently on the same task, making it nontrivial to select the most appropriate method for a specific task, especially considering the fast-growing number of new PELT methods and tasks. In light of model diversity and the difficulty of model selection, we propose a unified framework, UniPELT, which incorporates different PELT methods as submodules and learns to activate the ones that best suit the current data or task setup via gating mechanism. On the GLUE benchmark, UniPELT consistently achieves 1 4% gains compared to the best individual PELT method that it incorporates and even outperforms fine-tuning under different setups. Moreover, UniPELT generally surpasses the upper bound that takes the best performance of all its submodules used individually on each task, indicating that a mixture of multiple PELT methods may be inherently more effective than single methods.
Many NLP tasks require processing long contexts beyond the length limit of pretrained models. In order to scale these models to longer text sequences, many efficient long-range attention variants have been proposed. Despite the abundance of research along this direction, it is still difficult to gauge the relative effectiveness of these models in practical use cases, e.g., if we apply these models following the pretrain-and-finetune paradigm. In this work, we aim to conduct a thorough analysis of these emerging models with large-scale and controlled experiments. For each attention variant, we pretrain large-size models using the same long-doc corpus and then finetune these models for real-world long-context tasks. Our findings reveal pitfalls of an existing widely-used long-range benchmark and show none of the tested efficient attentions can beat a simple local window attention under standard pretraining paradigms. Further analysis on local attention variants suggests that even the commonly used attention-window overlap is not necessary to achieve good downstream results — using disjoint local attentions, we are able to build a simpler and more efficient long-doc QA model that matches the performance of Longformer with half of its pretraining compute.
We propose DrBoost, a dense retrieval ensemble inspired by boosting. DrBoost is trained in stages: each component model is learned sequentially and specialized by focusing only on retrieval mistakes made by the current ensemble. The final representation is the concatenation of the output vectors of all the component models, making it a drop-in replacement for standard dense retrievers at test time. DrBoost enjoys several advantages compared to standard dense retrieval models. It produces representations which are 4x more compact, while delivering comparable retrieval results. It also performs surprisingly well under approximate search with coarse quantization, reducing latency and bandwidth needs by another 4x. In practice, this can make the difference between serving indices from disk versus from memory, paving the way for much cheaper deployments.
We propose DiffCSE, an unsupervised contrastive learning framework for learning sentence embeddings. DiffCSE learns sentence embeddings that are sensitive to the difference between the original sentence and an edited sentence, where the edited sentence is obtained by stochastically masking out the original sentence and then sampling from a masked language model. We show that DiffSCE is an instance of equivariant contrastive learning, which generalizes contrastive learning and learns representations that are insensitive to certain types of augmentations and sensitive to other “harmful” types of augmentations. Our experiments show that DiffCSE achieves state-of-the-art results among unsupervised sentence representation learning methods, outperforming unsupervised SimCSE by 2.3 absolute points on semantic textual similarity tasks.
Natural language (NL) explanations of model predictions are gaining popularity as a means to understand and verify decisions made by large black-box pre-trained models, for tasks such as Question Answering (QA) and Fact Verification. Recently, pre-trained sequence to sequence (seq2seq) models have proven to be very effective in jointly making predictions, as well as generating NL explanations. However, these models have many shortcomings; they can fabricate explanations even for incorrect predictions, they are difficult to adapt to long input documents, and their training requires a large amount of labeled data. In this paper, we develop FiD-Ex, which addresses these shortcomings for seq2seq models by: 1) introducing sentence markers to eliminate explanation fabrication by encouraging extractive generation, 2) using the fusion-in-decoder architecture to handle long input contexts, and 3) intermediate fine-tuning on re-structured open domain QA datasets to improve few-shot performance. FiD-Ex significantly improves over prior work in terms of explanation metrics and task accuracy on five tasks from the ERASER explainability benchmark in both fully supervised and few-shot settings.