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Christopher Potts

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Multi-teacher Distillation for Multilingual Spelling Correction

Nov 20, 2023
Jingfen Zhang, Xuan Guo, Sravan Bodapati, Christopher Potts

Accurate spelling correction is a critical step in modern search interfaces, especially in an era of mobile devices and speech-to-text interfaces. For services that are deployed around the world, this poses a significant challenge for multilingual NLP: spelling errors need to be caught and corrected in all languages, and even in queries that use multiple languages. In this paper, we tackle this challenge using multi-teacher distillation. On our approach, a monolingual teacher model is trained for each language/locale, and these individual models are distilled into a single multilingual student model intended to serve all languages/locales. In experiments using open-source data as well as user data from a worldwide search service, we show that this leads to highly effective spelling correction models that can meet the tight latency requirements of deployed services.

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Flexible Model Interpretability through Natural Language Model Editing

Nov 17, 2023
Karel D'Oosterlinck, Thomas Demeester, Chris Develder, Christopher Potts

Model interpretability and model editing are crucial goals in the age of large language models. Interestingly, there exists a link between these two goals: if a method is able to systematically edit model behavior with regard to a human concept of interest, this editor method can help make internal representations more interpretable by pointing towards relevant representations and systematically manipulating them.

* Extended Abstract -- work in progress. BlackboxNLP2023 
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ARES: An Automated Evaluation Framework for Retrieval-Augmented Generation Systems

Nov 16, 2023
Jon Saad-Falcon, Omar Khattab, Christopher Potts, Matei Zaharia

Evaluating retrieval-augmented generation (RAG) systems traditionally relies on hand annotations for input queries, passages to retrieve, and responses to generate. We introduce ARES, an Automated RAG Evaluation System, for evaluating RAG systems along the dimensions of context relevance, answer faithfulness, and answer relevance. Using synthetic training data, ARES finetunes lightweight LM judges to assess the quality of individual RAG components. To mitigate potential prediction errors, ARES utilizes a small set of human-annotated datapoints for prediction-powered inference (PPI). Across six different knowledge-intensive tasks in KILT and SuperGLUE, ARES accurately evaluates RAG systems while using a few hundred human annotations during evaluation. Furthermore, ARES judges remain effective across domain shifts, proving accurate even after changing the type of queries and/or documents used in the evaluated RAG systems. We make our datasets and code for replication and deployment available at

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CAW-coref: Conjunction-Aware Word-level Coreference Resolution

Oct 19, 2023
Karel D'Oosterlinck, Semere Kiros Bitew, Brandon Papineau, Christopher Potts, Thomas Demeester, Chris Develder

State-of-the-art coreference resolutions systems depend on multiple LLM calls per document and are thus prohibitively expensive for many use cases (e.g., information extraction with large corpora). The leading word-level coreference system (WL-coref) attains 96.6% of these SOTA systems' performance while being much more efficient. In this work, we identify a routine yet important failure case of WL-coref: dealing with conjoined mentions such as 'Tom and Mary'. We offer a simple yet effective solution that improves the performance on the OntoNotes test set by 0.9% F1, shrinking the gap between efficient word-level coreference resolution and expensive SOTA approaches by 34.6%. Our Conjunction-Aware Word-level coreference model (CAW-coref) and code is available at

* Accepted at CRAC 2023 
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DSPy: Compiling Declarative Language Model Calls into Self-Improving Pipelines

Oct 05, 2023
Omar Khattab, Arnav Singhvi, Paridhi Maheshwari, Zhiyuan Zhang, Keshav Santhanam, Sri Vardhamanan, Saiful Haq, Ashutosh Sharma, Thomas T. Joshi, Hanna Moazam, Heather Miller, Matei Zaharia, Christopher Potts

The ML community is rapidly exploring techniques for prompting language models (LMs) and for stacking them into pipelines that solve complex tasks. Unfortunately, existing LM pipelines are typically implemented using hard-coded "prompt templates", i.e. lengthy strings discovered via trial and error. Toward a more systematic approach for developing and optimizing LM pipelines, we introduce DSPy, a programming model that abstracts LM pipelines as text transformation graphs, i.e. imperative computational graphs where LMs are invoked through declarative modules. DSPy modules are parameterized, meaning they can learn (by creating and collecting demonstrations) how to apply compositions of prompting, finetuning, augmentation, and reasoning techniques. We design a compiler that will optimize any DSPy pipeline to maximize a given metric. We conduct two case studies, showing that succinct DSPy programs can express and optimize sophisticated LM pipelines that reason about math word problems, tackle multi-hop retrieval, answer complex questions, and control agent loops. Within minutes of compiling, a few lines of DSPy allow GPT-3.5 and llama2-13b-chat to self-bootstrap pipelines that outperform standard few-shot prompting (generally by over 25% and 65%, respectively) and pipelines with expert-created demonstrations (by up to 5-46% and 16-40%, respectively). On top of that, DSPy programs compiled to open and relatively small LMs like 770M-parameter T5 and llama2-13b-chat are competitive with approaches that rely on expert-written prompt chains for proprietary GPT-3.5. DSPy is available at

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ContextRef: Evaluating Referenceless Metrics For Image Description Generation

Sep 21, 2023
Elisa Kreiss, Eric Zelikman, Christopher Potts, Nick Haber

Referenceless metrics (e.g., CLIPScore) use pretrained vision--language models to assess image descriptions directly without costly ground-truth reference texts. Such methods can facilitate rapid progress, but only if they truly align with human preference judgments. In this paper, we introduce ContextRef, a benchmark for assessing referenceless metrics for such alignment. ContextRef has two components: human ratings along a variety of established quality dimensions, and ten diverse robustness checks designed to uncover fundamental weaknesses. A crucial aspect of ContextRef is that images and descriptions are presented in context, reflecting prior work showing that context is important for description quality. Using ContextRef, we assess a variety of pretrained models, scoring functions, and techniques for incorporating context. None of the methods is successful with ContextRef, but we show that careful fine-tuning yields substantial improvements. ContextRef remains a challenging benchmark though, in large part due to the challenge of context dependence.

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Rigorously Assessing Natural Language Explanations of Neurons

Sep 19, 2023
Jing Huang, Atticus Geiger, Karel D'Oosterlinck, Zhengxuan Wu, Christopher Potts

Natural language is an appealing medium for explaining how large language models process and store information, but evaluating the faithfulness of such explanations is challenging. To help address this, we develop two modes of evaluation for natural language explanations that claim individual neurons represent a concept in a text input. In the observational mode, we evaluate claims that a neuron $a$ activates on all and only input strings that refer to a concept picked out by the proposed explanation $E$. In the intervention mode, we construe $E$ as a claim that the neuron $a$ is a causal mediator of the concept denoted by $E$. We apply our framework to the GPT-4-generated explanations of GPT-2 XL neurons of Bills et al. (2023) and show that even the most confident explanations have high error rates and little to no causal efficacy. We close the paper by critically assessing whether natural language is a good choice for explanations and whether neurons are the best level of analysis.

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Context-VQA: Towards Context-Aware and Purposeful Visual Question Answering

Jul 28, 2023
Nandita Naik, Christopher Potts, Elisa Kreiss

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Visual question answering (VQA) has the potential to make the Internet more accessible in an interactive way, allowing people who cannot see images to ask questions about them. However, multiple studies have shown that people who are blind or have low-vision prefer image explanations that incorporate the context in which an image appears, yet current VQA datasets focus on images in isolation. We argue that VQA models will not fully succeed at meeting people's needs unless they take context into account. To further motivate and analyze the distinction between different contexts, we introduce Context-VQA, a VQA dataset that pairs images with contexts, specifically types of websites (e.g., a shopping website). We find that the types of questions vary systematically across contexts. For example, images presented in a travel context garner 2 times more "Where?" questions, and images on social media and news garner 2.8 and 1.8 times more "Who?" questions than the average. We also find that context effects are especially important when participants can't see the image. These results demonstrate that context affects the types of questions asked and that VQA models should be context-sensitive to better meet people's needs, especially in accessibility settings.

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GIO: Gradient Information Optimization for Training Dataset Selection

Jun 20, 2023
Dante Everaert, Christopher Potts

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It is often advantageous to train models on a subset of the available train examples, because the examples are of variable quality or because one would like to train with fewer examples, without sacrificing performance. We present Gradient Information Optimization (GIO), a scalable, task-agnostic approach to this data selection problem that requires only a small set of (unlabeled) examples representing a target distribution. GIO begins from a natural, information-theoretic objective that is intractable in practice. Our contribution is in showing that it can be made highly scalable through a simple relaxation of the objective and a highly efficient implementation. In experiments with machine translation, spelling correction, and image recognition, we show that GIO delivers outstanding results with very small train sets. These findings are robust to different representation models and hyperparameters for GIO itself. GIO is task- and domain-agnostic and can be applied out-of-the-box to new datasets and domains.

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