Vaishali Pal


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MultiTabQA: Generating Tabular Answers for Multi-Table Question Answering
Vaishali Pal | Andrew Yates | Evangelos Kanoulas | Maarten de Rijke
Proceedings of the 61st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Recent advances in tabular question answering (QA) with large language models are constrained in their coverage and only answer questions over a single table. However, real-world queries are complex in nature, often over multiple tables in a relational database or web page. Single table questions do not involve common table operations such as set operations, Cartesian products (joins), or nested queries. Furthermore, multi-table operations often result in a tabular output, which necessitates table generation capabilities of tabular QA models. To fill this gap, we propose a new task of answering questions over multiple tables. Our model, MultiTabQA, not only answers questions over multiple tables, but also generalizes to generate tabular answers. To enable effective training, we build a pre-training dataset comprising of 132,645 SQL queries and tabular answers. Further, we evaluate the generated tables by introducing table-specific metrics of varying strictness assessing various levels of granularity of the table structure. MultiTabQA outperforms state-of-the-art single table QA models adapted to a multi-table QA setting by finetuning on three datasets: Spider, Atis and GeoQuery.


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Parameter-Efficient Abstractive Question Answering over Tables or Text
Vaishali Pal | Evangelos Kanoulas | Maarten Rijke
Proceedings of the Second DialDoc Workshop on Document-grounded Dialogue and Conversational Question Answering

A long-term ambition of information seeking QA systems is to reason over multi-modal contexts and generate natural answers to user queries. Today, memory intensive pre-trained language models are adapted to downstream tasks such as QA by fine-tuning the model on QA data in a specific modality like unstructured text or structured tables. To avoid training such memory-hungry models while utilizing a uniform architecture for each modality, parameter-efficient adapters add and train small task-specific bottle-neck layers between transformer layers. In this work, we study parameter-efficient abstractive QA in encoder-decoder models over structured tabular data and unstructured textual data using only 1.5% additional parameters for each modality. We also ablate over adapter layers in both encoder and decoder modules to study the efficiency-performance trade-off and demonstrate that reducing additional trainable parameters down to 0.7%-1.0% leads to comparable results. Our models out-perform current state-of-the-art models on tabular QA datasets such as Tablesum and FeTaQA, and achieve comparable performance on a textual QA dataset such as NarrativeQA using significantly less trainable parameters than fine-tuning.


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Answering Naturally: Factoid to Full length Answer Generation
Vaishali Pal | Manish Shrivastava | Irshad Bhat
Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop on New Frontiers in Summarization

In recent years, the task of Question Answering over passages, also pitched as a reading comprehension, has evolved into a very active research area. A reading comprehension system extracts a span of text, comprising of named entities, dates, small phrases, etc., which serve as the answer to a given question. However, these spans of text would result in an unnatural reading experience in a conversational system. Usually, dialogue systems solve this issue by using template-based language generation. These systems, though adequate for a domain specific task, are too restrictive and predefined for a domain independent system. In order to present the user with a more conversational experience, we propose a pointer generator based full-length answer generator which can be used with most QA systems. Our system generates a full length answer given a question and the extracted factoid/span answer without relying on the passage from where the answer was extracted. We also present a dataset of 315000 question, factoid answer and full length answer triples. We have evaluated our system using ROUGE-1,2,L and BLEU and achieved 74.05 BLEU score and 86.25 Rogue-L score.