Recent advances in open-domain QA have led to strong models based on dense retrieval, but only focused on retrieving textual passages. In this work, we tackle open-domain QA over tables for the first time, and show that retrieval can be improved by a retriever designed to handle tabular context. We present an effective pre-training procedure for our retriever and improve retrieval quality with mined hard negatives. As relevant datasets are missing, we extract a subset of Natural Questions (Kwiatkowski et al., 2019) into a Table QA dataset. We find that our retriever improves retrieval results from 72.0 to 81.1 recall@10 and end-to-end QA results from 33.8 to 37.7 exact match, over a BERT based retriever.
We present the TAPAS contribution to the Shared Task on Statement Verification and Evidence Finding with Tables (SemEval 2021 Task 9, Wang et al. (2021)). SEM TAB FACT Task A is a classification task of recognizing if a statement is entailed, neutral or refuted by the content of a given table. We adopt the binary TAPAS model of Eisenschlos et al. (2020) to this task. We learn two binary classification models: A first model to predict if a statement is neutral or non-neutral and a second one to predict if it is entailed or refuted. As the shared task training set contains only entailed or refuted examples, we generate artificial neutral examples to train the first model. Both models are pre-trained using a MASKLM objective, intermediate counter-factual and synthetic data (Eisenschlos et al., 2020) and TABFACT (Chen et al., 2020), a large table entailment dataset. We find that the artificial neutral examples are somewhat effective at training the first model, achieving 68.03 test F1 versus the 60.47 of a majority baseline. For the second stage, we find that the pre-training on the intermediate data and TABFACT improves the results over MASKLM pre-training (68.03 vs 57.01).
Table entailment, the binary classification task of finding if a sentence is supported or refuted by the content of a table, requires parsing language and table structure as well as numerical and discrete reasoning. While there is extensive work on textual entailment, table entailment is less well studied. We adapt TAPAS (Herzig et al., 2020), a table-based BERT model, to recognize entailment. Motivated by the benefits of data augmentation, we create a balanced dataset of millions of automatically created training examples which are learned in an intermediate step prior to fine-tuning. This new data is not only useful for table entailment, but also for SQA (Iyyer et al., 2017), a sequential table QA task. To be able to use long examples as input of BERT models, we evaluate table pruning techniques as a pre-processing step to drastically improve the training and prediction efficiency at a moderate drop in accuracy. The different methods set the new state-of-the-art on the TabFact (Chen et al., 2020) and SQA datasets.