Recently proposed long-form question answering (QA) systems, supported by large language models (LLMs), have shown promising capabilities. Yet, attributing and verifying their generated abstractive answers can be difficult, and automatically evaluating their accuracy remains an ongoing challenge. In this work, we introduce a new QA task for answering multi-answer questions by summarizing multiple diverse sources in a semi-extractive fashion. Specifically, Semi-extractive Multi-source QA (SEMQA) requires models to output a comprehensive answer, while mixing factual quoted spans -- copied verbatim from given input sources -- and non-factual free-text connectors that glue these spans together into a single cohesive passage. This setting bridges the gap between the outputs of well-grounded but constrained extractive QA systems and more fluent but harder to attribute fully abstractive answers. Particularly, it enables a new mode for language models that leverages their advanced language generation capabilities, while also producing fine in-line attributions by-design that are easy to verify, interpret, and evaluate. To study this task, we create the first dataset of this kind, QuoteSum, with human-written semi-extractive answers to natural and generated questions, and define text-based evaluation metrics. Experimenting with several LLMs in various settings, we find this task to be surprisingly challenging, demonstrating the importance of QuoteSum for developing and studying such consolidation capabilities.
Recent studies show that large language models (LLMs) can be instructed to effectively perform zero-shot passage re-ranking, in which the results of a first stage retrieval method, such as BM25, are rated and reordered to improve relevance. In this work, we improve LLM-based re-ranking by algorithmically selecting few-shot demonstrations to include in the prompt. Our analysis investigates the conditions where demonstrations are most helpful, and shows that adding even one demonstration is significantly beneficial. We propose a novel demonstration selection strategy based on difficulty rather than the commonly used semantic similarity. Furthermore, we find that demonstrations helpful for ranking are also effective at question generation. We hope our work will spur more principled research into question generation and passage ranking.
Ranking documents using Large Language Models (LLMs) by directly feeding the query and candidate documents into the prompt is an interesting and practical problem. However, there has been limited success so far, as researchers have found it difficult to outperform fine-tuned baseline rankers on benchmark datasets. We analyze pointwise and listwise ranking prompts used by existing methods and argue that off-the-shelf LLMs do not fully understand these ranking formulations, possibly due to the nature of how LLMs are trained. In this paper, we propose to significantly reduce the burden on LLMs by using a new technique called Pairwise Ranking Prompting (PRP). Our results are the first in the literature to achieve state-of-the-art ranking performance on standard benchmarks using moderate-sized open-sourced LLMs. On TREC-DL2020, PRP based on the Flan-UL2 model with 20B parameters outperforms the previous best approach in the literature, which is based on the blackbox commercial GPT-4 that has 50x (estimated) model size, by over 5% at NDCG@1. On TREC-DL2019, PRP is only inferior to the GPT-4 solution on the NDCG@5 and NDCG@10 metrics, while outperforming other existing solutions, such as InstructGPT which has 175B parameters, by over 10% for nearly all ranking metrics. Furthermore, we propose several variants of PRP to improve efficiency and show that it is possible to achieve competitive results even with linear complexity. We also discuss other benefits of PRP, such as supporting both generation and scoring LLM APIs, as well as being insensitive to input ordering.
Generative information retrieval (IR) has experienced substantial growth across multiple research communities (e.g., information retrieval, computer vision, natural language processing, and machine learning), and has been highly visible in the popular press. Theoretical, empirical, and actual user-facing products have been released that retrieve documents (via generation) or directly generate answers given an input request. We would like to investigate whether end-to-end generative models are just another trend or, as some claim, a paradigm change for IR. This necessitates new metrics, theoretical grounding, evaluation methods, task definitions, models, user interfaces, etc. The goal of this workshop (https://coda.io/@sigir/gen-ir) is to focus on previously explored Generative IR techniques like document retrieval and direct Grounded Answer Generation, while also offering a venue for the discussion and exploration of how Generative IR can be applied to new domains like recommendation systems, summarization, etc. The format of the workshop is interactive, including roundtable and keynote sessions and tends to avoid the one-sided dialogue of a mini-conference.
Transformer encoders contextualize token representations by attending to all other tokens at each layer, leading to quadratic increase in compute effort with the input length. In practice, however, the input text of many NLP tasks can be seen as a sequence of related segments (e.g., the sequence of sentences within a passage, or the hypothesis and premise in NLI). While attending across these segments is highly beneficial for many tasks, we hypothesize that this interaction can be delayed until later encoding stages. To this end, we introduce Layer-Adjustable Interactions in Transformers (LAIT). Within LAIT, segmented inputs are first encoded independently, and then jointly. This partial two-tower architecture bridges the gap between a Dual Encoder's ability to pre-compute representations for segments and a fully self-attentive Transformer's capacity to model cross-segment attention. The LAIT framework effectively leverages existing pretrained Transformers and converts them into the hybrid of the two aforementioned architectures, allowing for easy and intuitive control over the performance-efficiency tradeoff. Experimenting on a wide range of NLP tasks, we find LAIT able to reduce 30-50% of the attention FLOPs on many tasks, while preserving high accuracy; in some practical settings, LAIT could reduce actual latency by orders of magnitude.
Popularized by the Differentiable Search Index, the emerging paradigm of generative retrieval re-frames the classic information retrieval problem into a sequence-to-sequence modeling task, forgoing external indices and encoding an entire document corpus within a single Transformer. Although many different approaches have been proposed to improve the effectiveness of generative retrieval, they have only been evaluated on document corpora on the order of 100k in size. We conduct the first empirical study of generative retrieval techniques across various corpus scales, ultimately scaling up to the entire MS MARCO passage ranking task with a corpus of 8.8M passages and evaluating model sizes up to 11B parameters. We uncover several findings about scaling generative retrieval to millions of passages; notably, the central importance of using synthetic queries as document representations during indexing, the ineffectiveness of existing proposed architecture modifications when accounting for compute cost, and the limits of naively scaling model parameters with respect to retrieval performance. While we find that generative retrieval is competitive with state-of-the-art dual encoders on small corpora, scaling to millions of passages remains an important and unsolved challenge. We believe these findings will be valuable for the community to clarify the current state of generative retrieval, highlight the unique challenges, and inspire new research directions.
Differentiable Search Indices (DSIs) encode a corpus of documents in the parameters of a model and use the same model to map queries directly to relevant document identifiers. Despite the strong performance of DSI models, deploying them in situations where the corpus changes over time is computationally expensive because reindexing the corpus requires re-training the model. In this work, we introduce DSI++, a continual learning challenge for DSI to incrementally index new documents while being able to answer queries related to both previously and newly indexed documents. Across different model scales and document identifier representations, we show that continual indexing of new documents leads to considerable forgetting of previously indexed documents. We also hypothesize and verify that the model experiences forgetting events during training, leading to unstable learning. To mitigate these issues, we investigate two approaches. The first focuses on modifying the training dynamics. Flatter minima implicitly alleviate forgetting, so we optimize for flatter loss basins and show that the model stably memorizes more documents (+12\%). Next, we introduce a generative memory to sample pseudo-queries for documents and supplement them during continual indexing to prevent forgetting for the retrieval task. Extensive experiments on novel continual indexing benchmarks based on Natural Questions (NQ) and MS MARCO demonstrate that our proposed solution mitigates forgetting by a significant margin. Concretely, it improves the average Hits@10 by $+21.1\%$ over competitive baselines for NQ and requires $6$ times fewer model updates compared to re-training the DSI model for incrementally indexing five corpora in a sequence.
With the devastating outbreak of COVID-19, vaccines are one of the crucial lines of defense against mass infection in this global pandemic. Given the protection they provide, vaccines are becoming mandatory in certain social and professional settings. This paper presents a classification model for detecting COVID-19 vaccination related search queries, a machine learning model that is used to generate search insights for COVID-19 vaccinations. The proposed method combines and leverages advancements from modern state-of-the-art (SOTA) natural language understanding (NLU) techniques such as pretrained Transformers with traditional dense features. We propose a novel approach of considering dense features as memory tokens that the model can attend to. We show that this new modeling approach enables a significant improvement to the Vaccine Search Insights (VSI) task, improving a strong well-established gradient-boosting baseline by relative +15% improvement in F1 score and +14% in precision.
Large language models (LLMs) have shown impressive results across a variety of tasks while requiring little or no direct supervision. Further, there is mounting evidence that LLMs may have potential in information-seeking scenarios. We believe the ability of an LLM to attribute the text that it generates is likely to be crucial for both system developers and users in this setting. We propose and study Attributed QA as a key first step in the development of attributed LLMs. We develop a reproducable evaluation framework for the task, using human annotations as a gold standard and a correlated automatic metric that we show is suitable for development settings. We describe and benchmark a broad set of architectures for the task. Our contributions give some concrete answers to two key questions (How to measure attribution?, and How well do current state-of-the-art methods perform on attribution?), and give some hints as to how to address a third key question (How to build LLMs with attribution?).
Scaling language models improves performance but comes with significant computational costs. This paper proposes UL2R, a method that substantially improves existing language models and their scaling curves with a relatively tiny amount of extra compute. The key idea is to continue training a state-of-the-art large language model (e.g., PaLM) on a few more steps with UL2's mixture-of-denoiser objective. We show that, with almost negligible extra computational costs and no new sources of data, we are able to substantially improve the scaling properties of large language models on downstream metrics. In this paper, we continue training PaLM with UL2R, introducing a new set of models at 8B, 62B, and 540B scale which we call U-PaLM. Impressively, at 540B scale, we show an approximately 2x computational savings rate where U-PaLM achieves the same performance as the final PaLM 540B model at around half its computational budget (i.e., saving $\sim$4.4 million TPUv4 hours). We further show that this improved scaling curve leads to 'emergent abilities' on challenging BIG-Bench tasks -- for instance, U-PaLM does much better than PaLM on some tasks or demonstrates better quality at much smaller scale (62B as opposed to 540B). Overall, we show that U-PaLM outperforms PaLM on many few-shot setups, i.e., English NLP tasks (e.g., commonsense reasoning, question answering), reasoning tasks with chain-of-thought (e.g., GSM8K), multilingual tasks (MGSM, TydiQA), MMLU and challenging BIG-Bench tasks. Finally, we provide qualitative examples showing the new capabilities of U-PaLM for single and multi-span infilling.