NLP models have progressed drastically in recent years, according to numerous datasets proposed to evaluate performance. Questions remain, however, about how particular dataset design choices may impact the conclusions we draw about model capabilities. In this work, we investigate this question in the domain of compositional generalization. We examine the performance of six modeling approaches across 4 datasets, split according to 8 compositional splitting strategies, ranking models by 18 compositional generalization splits in total. Our results show that: i) the datasets, although all designed to evaluate compositional generalization, rank modeling approaches differently; ii) datasets generated by humans align better with each other than they with synthetic datasets, or than synthetic datasets among themselves; iii) generally, whether datasets are sampled from the same source is more predictive of the resulting model ranking than whether they maintain the same interpretation of compositionality; and iv) which lexical items are used in the data can strongly impact conclusions. Overall, our results demonstrate that much work remains to be done when it comes to assessing whether popular evaluation datasets measure what they intend to measure, and suggest that elucidating more rigorous standards for establishing the validity of evaluation sets could benefit the field.
Generative models have been widely applied to solve extractive tasks, where parts of the input is extracted to form the desired output, and achieved significant success. For example, in extractive question answering (QA), generative models have constantly yielded state-of-the-art results. In this work, we identify the issue of tokenization inconsistency that is commonly neglected in training these models. This issue damages the extractive nature of these tasks after the input and output are tokenized inconsistently by the tokenizer, and thus leads to performance drop as well as hallucination. We propose a simple yet effective fix to this issue and conduct a case study on extractive QA. We show that, with consistent tokenization, the model performs better in both in-domain and out-of-domain datasets, with a notable average of +1.7 F2 gain when a BART model is trained on SQuAD and evaluated on 8 QA datasets. Further, the model converges faster, and becomes less likely to generate out-of-context answers. With these findings, we would like to call for more attention on how tokenization should be done when solving extractive tasks and recommend applying consistent tokenization during training.
The ability to generalise well is one of the primary desiderata of natural language processing (NLP). Yet, what `good generalisation' entails and how it should be evaluated is not well understood, nor are there any common standards to evaluate it. In this paper, we aim to lay the ground-work to improve both of these issues. We present a taxonomy for characterising and understanding generalisation research in NLP, we use that taxonomy to present a comprehensive map of published generalisation studies, and we make recommendations for which areas might deserve attention in the future. Our taxonomy is based on an extensive literature review of generalisation research, and contains five axes along which studies can differ: their main motivation, the type of generalisation they aim to solve, the type of data shift they consider, the source by which this data shift is obtained, and the locus of the shift within the modelling pipeline. We use our taxonomy to classify over 400 previous papers that test generalisation, for a total of more than 600 individual experiments. Considering the results of this review, we present an in-depth analysis of the current state of generalisation research in NLP, and make recommendations for the future. Along with this paper, we release a webpage where the results of our review can be dynamically explored, and which we intend to up-date as new NLP generalisation studies are published. With this work, we aim to make steps towards making state-of-the-art generalisation testing the new status quo in NLP.
An attention matrix of a transformer self-attention sublayer can provably be decomposed into two components and only one of them (effective attention) contributes to the model output. This leads us to ask whether visualizing effective attention gives different conclusions than interpretation of standard attention. Using a subset of the GLUE tasks and BERT, we carry out an analysis to compare the two attention matrices, and show that their interpretations differ. Effective attention is less associated with the features related to the language modeling pretraining such as the separator token, and it has more potential to illustrate linguistic features captured by the model for solving the end-task. Given the found differences, we recommend using effective attention for studying a transformer's behavior since it is more pertinent to the model output by design.