Though majority vote among annotators is typically used for ground truth labels in natural language processing, annotator disagreement in tasks such as hate speech detection may reflect differences in opinion across groups, not noise. Thus, a crucial problem in hate speech detection is determining whether a statement is offensive to the demographic group that it targets, when that group may constitute a small fraction of the annotator pool. We construct a model that predicts individual annotator ratings on potentially offensive text and combines this information with the predicted target group of the text to model the opinions of target group members. We show gains across a range of metrics, including raising performance over the baseline by 22% at predicting individual annotators' ratings and by 33% at predicting variance among annotators, which provides a metric for model uncertainty downstream. We find that annotator ratings can be predicted using their demographic information and opinions on online content, without the need to track identifying annotator IDs that link each annotator to their ratings. We also find that use of non-invasive survey questions on annotators' online experiences helps to maximize privacy and minimize unnecessary collection of demographic information when predicting annotators' opinions.
Though majority vote among annotators is typically used for ground truth labels in natural language processing, annotator disagreement in tasks such as hate speech detection may reflect differences among group opinions, not noise. Thus, a crucial problem in hate speech detection is whether a statement is offensive to the demographic group that it targets, which may constitute a small fraction of the annotator pool. We construct a model that predicts individual annotator ratings on potentially offensive text and combines this information with the predicted target group of the text to model the opinions of target group members. We show gains across a range of metrics, including raising performance over the baseline by 22% at predicting individual annotators' ratings and 33% at predicting variance among annotators, which provides a method of measuring model uncertainty downstream. We find that annotators' ratings can be predicted using their demographic information and opinions on online content, without the need to track identifying annotator IDs that link each annotator to their ratings. We also find that use of non-invasive survey questions on annotators' online experiences helps to maximize privacy and minimize unnecessary collection of demographic information when predicting annotators' opinions.
Early warning systems (EWS) are prediction algorithms that have recently taken a central role in efforts to improve graduation rates in public schools across the US. These systems assist in targeting interventions at individual students by predicting which students are at risk of dropping out. Despite significant investments and adoption, there remain significant gaps in our understanding of the efficacy of EWS. In this work, we draw on nearly a decade's worth of data from a system used throughout Wisconsin to provide the first large-scale evaluation of the long-term impact of EWS on graduation outcomes. We present evidence that risk assessments made by the prediction system are highly accurate, including for students from marginalized backgrounds. Despite the system's accuracy and widespread use, we find no evidence that it has led to improved graduation rates. We surface a robust statistical pattern that can explain why these seemingly contradictory insights hold. Namely, environmental features, measured at the level of schools, contain significant signal about dropout risk. Within each school, however, academic outcomes are essentially independent of individual student performance. This empirical observation indicates that assigning all students within the same school the same probability of graduation is a nearly optimal prediction. Our work provides an empirical backbone for the robust, qualitative understanding among education researchers and policy-makers that dropout is structurally determined. The primary barrier to improving outcomes lies not in identifying students at risk of dropping out within specific schools, but rather in overcoming structural differences across different school districts. Our findings indicate that we should carefully evaluate the decision to fund early warning systems without also devoting resources to interventions tackling structural barriers.
Dynamic benchmarks interweave model fitting and data collection in an attempt to mitigate the limitations of static benchmarks. In contrast to an extensive theoretical and empirical study of the static setting, the dynamic counterpart lags behind due to limited empirical studies and no apparent theoretical foundation to date. Responding to this deficit, we initiate a theoretical study of dynamic benchmarking. We examine two realizations, one capturing current practice and the other modeling more complex settings. In the first model, where data collection and model fitting alternate sequentially, we prove that model performance improves initially but can stall after only three rounds. Label noise arising from, for instance, annotator disagreement leads to even stronger negative results. Our second model generalizes the first to the case where data collection and model fitting have a hierarchical dependency structure. We show that this design guarantees strictly more progress than the first, albeit at a significant increase in complexity. We support our theoretical analysis by simulating dynamic benchmarks on two popular datasets. These results illuminate the benefits and practical limitations of dynamic benchmarking, providing both a theoretical foundation and a causal explanation for observed bottlenecks in empirical work.
Machine learning (ML) techniques are increasingly prevalent in education, from their use in predicting student dropout, to assisting in university admissions, and facilitating the rise of MOOCs. Given the rapid growth of these novel uses, there is a pressing need to investigate how ML techniques support long-standing education principles and goals. In this work, we shed light on this complex landscape drawing on qualitative insights from interviews with education experts. These interviews comprise in-depth evaluations of ML for education (ML4Ed) papers published in preeminent applied ML conferences over the past decade. Our central research goal is to critically examine how the stated or implied education and societal objectives of these papers are aligned with the ML problems they tackle. That is, to what extent does the technical problem formulation, objectives, approach, and interpretation of results align with the education problem at hand. We find that a cross-disciplinary gap exists and is particularly salient in two parts of the ML life cycle: the formulation of an ML problem from education goals and the translation of predictions to interventions. We use these insights to propose an extended ML life cycle, which may also apply to the use of ML in other domains. Our work joins a growing number of meta-analytical studies across education and ML research, as well as critical analyses of the societal impact of ML. Specifically, it fills a gap between the prevailing technical understanding of machine learning and the perspective of education researchers working with students and in policy.
* 29 pages, 1 figure, 2 tables. Supplementary material available upon
The U.S. criminal legal system increasingly relies on software output to convict and incarcerate people. In a large number of cases each year, the government makes these consequential decisions based on evidence from statistical software -- such as probabilistic genotyping, environmental audio detection, and toolmark analysis tools -- that defense counsel cannot fully cross-examine or scrutinize. This undermines the commitments of the adversarial criminal legal system, which relies on the defense's ability to probe and test the prosecution's case to safeguard individual rights. Responding to this need to adversarially scrutinize output from such software, we propose robust adversarial testing as an audit framework to examine the validity of evidentiary statistical software. We define and operationalize this notion of robust adversarial testing for defense use by drawing on a large body of recent work in robust machine learning and algorithmic fairness. We demonstrate how this framework both standardizes the process for scrutinizing such tools and empowers defense lawyers to examine their validity for instances most relevant to the case at hand. We further discuss existing structural and institutional challenges within the U.S. criminal legal system that may create barriers for implementing this and other such audit frameworks and close with a discussion on policy changes that could help address these concerns.
Rotating savings and credit associations (roscas) are informal financial organizations common in settings where communities have reduced access to formal financial institutions. In a rosca, a fixed group of participants regularly contribute sums of money to a pot. This pot is then allocated periodically using lottery, aftermarket, or auction mechanisms. Roscas are empirically well-studied in economics. They are, however, challenging to study theoretically due to their dynamic nature. Typical economic analyses of roscas stop at coarse ordinal welfare comparisons to other credit allocation mechanisms, leaving much of roscas' ubiquity unexplained. In this work, we take an algorithmic perspective on the study of roscas. Building on techniques from the price of anarchy literature, we present worst-case welfare approximation guarantees. We further experimentally compare the welfare of outcomes as key features of the environment vary. These cardinal welfare analyses further rationalize the prevalence of roscas. We conclude by discussing several other promising avenues.
* Proceedings of the Thirty-sixth AAAI Conference on Artificial
While most mortality rates have decreased in the US, maternal mortality has increased and is among the highest of any OECD nation. Extensive public health research is ongoing to better understand the characteristics of communities with relatively high or low rates. In this work, we explore the role that social media language can play in providing insights into such community characteristics. Analyzing pregnancy-related tweets generated in US counties, we reveal a diverse set of latent topics including Morning Sickness, Celebrity Pregnancies, and Abortion Rights. We find that rates of mentioning these topics on Twitter predicts maternal mortality rates with higher accuracy than standard socioeconomic and risk variables such as income, race, and access to health-care, holding even after reducing the analysis to six topics chosen for their interpretability and connections to known risk factors. We then investigate psychological dimensions of community language, finding the use of less trustful, more stressed, and more negative affective language is significantly associated with higher mortality rates, while trust and negative affect also explain a significant portion of racial disparities in maternal mortality. We discuss the potential for these insights to inform actionable health interventions at the community-level.
* In Proceedings of The Web Conference 2020(WWW '20)
Across various domains--such as health, education, and housing--improving societal welfare involves allocating resources, setting policies, targeting interventions, and regulating activities. These solutions have an immense impact on the day-to-day lives of individuals, whether in the form of access to quality healthcare, labor market outcomes, or how votes are accounted for in a democratic society. Problems that can have an out-sized impact on individuals whose opportunities have historically been limited often pose conceptual and technical challenges, requiring insights from many disciplines. Conversely, the lack of interdisciplinary approach can leave these urgent needs unaddressed and can even exacerbate underlying socioeconomic inequalities. To realize the opportunities in these domains, we need to correctly set objectives and reason about human behavior and actions. Doing so requires a deep grounding in the field of interest and collaboration with domain experts who understand the societal implications and feasibility of proposed solutions. These insights can play an instrumental role in proposing algorithmically-informed policies. In this article, we describe the Mechanism Design for Social Good (MD4SG) research agenda, which involves using insights from algorithms, optimization, and mechanism design to improve access to opportunity. The MD4SG research community takes an interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder approach to improve societal welfare. We discuss three exciting research avenues within MD4SG related to improving access to opportunity in the developing world, labor markets and discrimination, and housing. For each of these, we showcase ongoing work, underline new directions, and discuss potential for implementing existing work in practice.
The lack of comprehensive, high-quality health data in developing nations creates a roadblock for combating the impacts of disease. One key challenge is understanding the health information needs of people in these nations. Without understanding people's everyday needs, concerns, and misconceptions, health organizations and policymakers lack the ability to effectively target education and programming efforts. In this paper, we propose a bottom-up approach that uses search data from individuals to uncover and gain insight into health information needs in Africa. We analyze Bing searches related to HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis from all 54 African nations. For each disease, we automatically derive a set of common search themes or topics, revealing a wide-spread interest in various types of information, including disease symptoms, drugs, concerns about breastfeeding, as well as stigma, beliefs in natural cures, and other topics that may be hard to uncover through traditional surveys. We expose the different patterns that emerge in health information needs by demographic groups (age and sex) and country. We also uncover discrepancies in the quality of content returned by search engines to users by topic. Combined, our results suggest that search data can help illuminate health information needs in Africa and inform discussions on health policy and targeted education efforts both on- and offline.