Improving the alignment of language models with human preferences remains an active research challenge. Previous approaches have primarily utilized Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF) via online RL methods such as Proximal Policy Optimization (PPO). Recently, offline methods such as Sequence Likelihood Calibration (SLiC) and Direct Preference Optimization (DPO) have emerged as attractive alternatives, offering improvements in stability and scalability while maintaining competitive performance. SLiC refines its loss function using sequence pairs sampled from a supervised fine-tuned (SFT) policy, while DPO directly optimizes language models based on preference data, foregoing the need for a separate reward model. However, the maximum likelihood estimator (MLE) of the target optimal policy requires labeled preference pairs sampled from that policy. DPO's lack of a reward model constrains its ability to sample preference pairs from the optimal policy, and SLiC is restricted to sampling preference pairs only from the SFT policy. To address these limitations, we introduce a novel approach called Statistical Rejection Sampling Optimization (RSO) that aims to source preference data from the target optimal policy using rejection sampling, enabling a more accurate estimation of the optimal policy. We also propose a unified framework that enhances the loss functions used in both SLiC and DPO from a preference modeling standpoint. Through extensive experiments across three diverse tasks, we demonstrate that RSO consistently outperforms both SLiC and DPO on evaluations from both Large Language Model (LLM) and human raters.
Learning from human feedback has been shown to be effective at aligning language models with human preferences. Past work has often relied on Reinforcement Learning from Human Feedback (RLHF), which optimizes the language model using reward scores assigned from a reward model trained on human preference data. In this work we show how the recently introduced Sequence Likelihood Calibration (SLiC), can also be used to effectively learn from human preferences (SLiC-HF). Furthermore, we demonstrate this can be done with human feedback data collected for a different model, similar to off-policy, offline RL data. Automatic and human evaluation experiments on the TL;DR summarization task show that SLiC-HF significantly improves supervised fine-tuning baselines. Furthermore, SLiC-HF presents a competitive alternative to the PPO RLHF implementation used in past work while being much simpler to implement, easier to tune and more computationally efficient in practice.
The evaluation of abstractive summarization models typically uses test data that is identically distributed as training data. In real-world practice, documents to be summarized may contain input noise caused by text extraction artifacts or data pipeline bugs. The robustness of model performance under distribution shift caused by such noise is relatively under-studied. We present a large empirical study quantifying the sometimes severe loss in performance (up to 12 ROUGE-1 points) from different types of input noise for a range of datasets and model sizes. We then propose a light-weight method for detecting and removing such noise in the input during model inference without requiring any extra training, auxiliary models, or even prior knowledge of the type of noise. Our proposed approach effectively mitigates the loss in performance, recovering a large fraction of the performance drop, sometimes as large as 11 ROUGE-1 points.
Conditional language models are predominantly trained with maximum likelihood estimation (MLE), giving probability mass to sparsely observed target sequences. While MLE trained models assign high probability to plausible sequences given the context, the model probabilities often do not accurately rank-order generated sequences by quality. This has been empirically observed in beam search decoding as output quality degrading with large beam sizes, and decoding strategies benefiting from heuristics such as length normalization and repetition-blocking. In this work, we introduce sequence likelihood calibration (SLiC) where the likelihood of model generated sequences are calibrated to better align with reference sequences in the model's latent space. With SLiC, decoding heuristics become unnecessary and decoding candidates' quality significantly improves regardless of the decoding method. Furthermore, SLiC shows no sign of diminishing returns with model scale, and presents alternative ways to improve quality with limited training and inference budgets. With SLiC, we exceed or match SOTA results on a wide range of generation tasks spanning abstractive summarization, question generation, abstractive question answering and data-to-text generation, even with modest-sized models.
Machine learning algorithms typically assume independent and identically distributed samples in training and at test time. Much work has shown that high-performing ML classifiers can degrade significantly and provide overly-confident, wrong classification predictions, particularly for out-of-distribution (OOD) inputs. Conditional language models (CLMs) are predominantly trained to classify the next token in an output sequence, and may suffer even worse degradation on OOD inputs as the prediction is done auto-regressively over many steps. Furthermore, the space of potential low-quality outputs is larger as arbitrary text can be generated and it is important to know when to trust the generated output. We present a highly accurate and lightweight OOD detection method for CLMs, and demonstrate its effectiveness on abstractive summarization and translation. We also show how our method can be used under the common and realistic setting of distribution shift for selective generation (analogous to selective prediction for classification) of high-quality outputs, while automatically abstaining from low-quality ones, enabling safer deployment of generative language models.
While large pretrained Transformer models have proven highly capable at tackling natural language tasks, handling long sequence inputs continues to be a significant challenge. One such task is long input summarization, where inputs are longer than the maximum input context of most pretrained models. Through an extensive set of experiments, we investigate what model architectural changes and pretraining paradigms can most efficiently adapt a pretrained Transformer for long input summarization. We find that a staggered, block-local Transformer with global encoder tokens strikes a good balance of performance and efficiency, and that an additional pretraining phase on long sequences meaningfully improves downstream summarization performance. Based on our findings, we introduce PEGASUS-X, an extension of the PEGASUS model with additional long input pretraining to handle inputs of up to 16K tokens. PEGASUS-X achieves strong performance on long input summarization tasks comparable with much larger models while adding few additional parameters and not requiring model parallelism to train.
Widely used evaluation metrics for text generation either do not work well with longer texts or fail to evaluate all aspects of text quality. In this paper, we introduce a new metric called SMART to mitigate such limitations. Specifically, We treat sentences as basic units of matching instead of tokens, and use a sentence matching function to soft-match candidate and reference sentences. Candidate sentences are also compared to sentences in the source documents to allow grounding (e.g., factuality) evaluation. Our results show that system-level correlations of our proposed metric with a model-based matching function outperforms all competing metrics on the SummEval summarization meta-evaluation dataset, while the same metric with a string-based matching function is competitive with current model-based metrics. The latter does not use any neural model, which is useful during model development phases where resources can be limited and fast evaluation is required. Finally, we also conducted extensive analyses showing that our proposed metrics work well with longer summaries and are less biased towards specific models.
Most prior work in the sequence-to-sequence paradigm focused on datasets with input sequence lengths in the hundreds of tokens due to the computational constraints of common RNN and Transformer architectures. In this paper, we study long-form abstractive text summarization, a sequence-to-sequence setting with input sequence lengths up to 100,000 tokens and output sequence lengths up to 768 tokens. We propose SEAL, a Transformer-based model, featuring a new encoder-decoder attention that dynamically extracts/selects input snippets to sparsely attend to for each output segment. Using only the original documents and summaries, we derive proxy labels that provide weak supervision for extractive layers simultaneously with regular supervision from abstractive summaries. The SEAL model achieves state-of-the-art results on existing long-form summarization tasks, and outperforms strong baseline models on a new dataset/task we introduce, Search2Wiki, with much longer input text. Since content selection is explicit in the SEAL model, a desirable side effect is that the selection can be inspected for enhanced interpretability.
Recent work pre-training Transformers with self-supervised objectives on large text corpora has shown great success when fine-tuned on downstream NLP tasks including text summarization. However, pre-training objectives tailored for abstractive text summarization have not been explored. Furthermore there is a lack of systematic evaluation across diverse domains. In this work, we propose pre-training large Transformer-based encoder-decoder models on massive text corpora with a new self-supervised objective. In PEGASUS, important sentences are removed/masked from an input document and are generated together as one output sequence from the remaining sentences, similar to an extractive summary. We evaluated our best PEGASUS model on 12 downstream summarization tasks spanning news, science, stories, instructions, emails, patents, and legislative bills. Experiments demonstrate it achieves state-of-the-art performance on all 12 downstream datasets measured by ROUGE scores. Our model also shows surprising performance on low-resource summarization, surpassing previous state-of-the-art results on 6 datasets with only 1000 examples.
Transfer learning, where a model is first pre-trained on a data-rich task before being fine-tuned on a downstream task, has emerged as a powerful technique in natural language processing (NLP). The effectiveness of transfer learning has given rise to a diversity of approaches, methodology, and practice. In this paper, we explore the landscape of transfer learning techniques for NLP by introducing a unified framework that converts every language problem into a text-to-text format. Our systematic study compares pre-training objectives, architectures, unlabeled datasets, transfer approaches, and other factors on dozens of language understanding tasks. By combining the insights from our exploration with scale and our new "Colossal Clean Crawled Corpus", we achieve state-of-the-art results on many benchmarks covering summarization, question answering, text classification, and more. To facilitate future work on transfer learning for NLP, we release our dataset, pre-trained models, and code.