Anthony Ferritto


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The TechQA Dataset
Vittorio Castelli | Rishav Chakravarti | Saswati Dana | Anthony Ferritto | Radu Florian | Martin Franz | Dinesh Garg | Dinesh Khandelwal | Scott McCarley | Michael McCawley | Mohamed Nasr | Lin Pan | Cezar Pendus | John Pitrelli | Saurabh Pujar | Salim Roukos | Andrzej Sakrajda | Avi Sil | Rosario Uceda-Sosa | Todd Ward | Rong Zhang
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

We introduce TECHQA, a domain-adaptation question answering dataset for the technical support domain. The TECHQA corpus highlights two real-world issues from the automated customer support domain. First, it contains actual questions posed by users on a technical forum, rather than questions generated specifically for a competition or a task. Second, it has a real-world size – 600 training, 310 dev, and 490 evaluation question/answer pairs – thus reflecting the cost of creating large labeled datasets with actual data. Hence, TECHQA is meant to stimulate research in domain adaptation rather than as a resource to build QA systems from scratch. TECHQA was obtained by crawling the IBMDeveloper and DeveloperWorks forums for questions with accepted answers provided in an IBM Technote—a technical document that addresses a specific technical issue. We also release a collection of the 801,998 Technotes available on the web as of April 4, 2019 as a companion resource that can be used to learn representations of the IT domain language.

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Span Selection Pre-training for Question Answering
Michael Glass | Alfio Gliozzo | Rishav Chakravarti | Anthony Ferritto | Lin Pan | G P Shrivatsa Bhargav | Dinesh Garg | Avi Sil
Proceedings of the 58th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics

BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) and related pre-trained Transformers have provided large gains across many language understanding tasks, achieving a new state-of-the-art (SOTA). BERT is pretrained on two auxiliary tasks: Masked Language Model and Next Sentence Prediction. In this paper we introduce a new pre-training task inspired by reading comprehension to better align the pre-training from memorization to understanding. Span Selection PreTraining (SSPT) poses cloze-like training instances, but rather than draw the answer from the model’s parameters, it is selected from a relevant passage. We find significant and consistent improvements over both BERT-BASE and BERT-LARGE on multiple Machine Reading Comprehension (MRC) datasets. Specifically, our proposed model has strong empirical evidence as it obtains SOTA results on Natural Questions, a new benchmark MRC dataset, outperforming BERT-LARGE by 3 F1 points on short answer prediction. We also show significant impact in HotpotQA, improving answer prediction F1 by 4 points and supporting fact prediction F1 by 1 point and outperforming the previous best system. Moreover, we show that our pre-training approach is particularly effective when training data is limited, improving the learning curve by a large amount.

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A Multilingual Reading Comprehension System for more than 100 Languages
Anthony Ferritto | Sara Rosenthal | Mihaela Bornea | Kazi Hasan | Rishav Chakravarti | Salim Roukos | Radu Florian | Avi Sil
Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics: System Demonstrations

This paper presents M-GAAMA, a Multilingual Question Answering architecture and demo system. This is the first multilingual machine reading comprehension (MRC) demo which is able to answer questions in over 100 languages. M-GAAMA answers questions from a given passage in the same or different language. It incorporates several existing multilingual models that can be used interchangeably in the demo such as M-BERT and XLM-R. The M-GAAMA demo also improves language accessibility by incorporating the IBM Watson machine translation widget to provide additional capabilities to the user to see an answer in their desired language. We also show how M-GAAMA can be used in downstream tasks by incorporating it into an END-TO-END-QA system using CFO (Chakravarti et al., 2019). We experiment with our system architecture on the Multi-Lingual Question Answering (MLQA) and the COVID-19 CORD (Wang et al., 2020; Tang et al., 2020) datasets to provide insights into the performance of the system.

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Towards building a Robust Industry-scale Question Answering System
Rishav Chakravarti | Anthony Ferritto | Bhavani Iyer | Lin Pan | Radu Florian | Salim Roukos | Avi Sil
Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computational Linguistics: Industry Track

Industry-scale NLP systems necessitate two features. 1. Robustness: “zero-shot transfer learning” (ZSTL) performance has to be commendable and 2. Efficiency: systems have to train efficiently and respond instantaneously. In this paper, we introduce the development of a production model called GAAMA (Go Ahead Ask Me Anything) which possess the above two characteristics. For robustness, it trains on the recently introduced Natural Questions (NQ) dataset. NQ poses additional challenges over older datasets like SQuAD: (a) QA systems need to read and comprehend an entire Wikipedia article rather than a small passage, and (b) NQ does not suffer from observation bias during construction, resulting in less lexical overlap between the question and the article. GAAMA consists of Attention-over-Attention, diversity among attention heads, hierarchical transfer learning, and synthetic data augmentation while being computationally inexpensive. Building on top of the powerful BERTQA model, GAAMA provides a ∼2.0% absolute boost in F1 over the industry-scale state-of-the-art (SOTA) system on NQ. Further, we show that GAAMA transfers zero-shot to unseen real life and important domains as it yields respectable performance on two benchmarks: the BioASQ and the newly introduced CovidQA datasets.

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Multi-Stage Pre-training for Low-Resource Domain Adaptation
Rong Zhang | Revanth Gangi Reddy | Md Arafat Sultan | Vittorio Castelli | Anthony Ferritto | Radu Florian | Efsun Sarioglu Kayi | Salim Roukos | Avi Sil | Todd Ward
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Transfer learning techniques are particularly useful for NLP tasks where a sizable amount of high-quality annotated data is difficult to obtain. Current approaches directly adapt a pretrained language model (LM) on in-domain text before fine-tuning to downstream tasks. We show that extending the vocabulary of the LM with domain-specific terms leads to further gains. To a bigger effect, we utilize structure in the unlabeled data to create auxiliary synthetic tasks, which helps the LM transfer to downstream tasks. We apply these approaches incrementally on a pretrained Roberta-large LM and show considerable performance gain on three tasks in the IT domain: Extractive Reading Comprehension, Document Ranking and Duplicate Question Detection.

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ARES: A Reading Comprehension Ensembling Service
Anthony Ferritto | Lin Pan | Rishav Chakravarti | Salim Roukos | Radu Florian | J. William Murdock | Avi Sil
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing: System Demonstrations

We introduce ARES (A Reading Comprehension Ensembling Service): a novel Machine Reading Comprehension (MRC) demonstration system which utilizes an ensemble of models to increase F1 by 2.3 points. While many of the top leaderboard submissions in popular MRC benchmarks such as the Stanford Question Answering Dataset (SQuAD) and Natural Questions (NQ) use model ensembles, the accompanying papers do not publish their ensembling strategies. In this work, we detail and evaluate various ensembling strategies using the NQ dataset. ARES leverages the CFO (Chakravarti et al., 2019) and ReactJS distributed frameworks to provide a scalable interactive Question Answering experience that capitalizes on the agreement (or lack thereof) between models to improve the answer visualization experience.


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CFO: A Framework for Building Production NLP Systems
Rishav Chakravarti | Cezar Pendus | Andrzej Sakrajda | Anthony Ferritto | Lin Pan | Michael Glass | Vittorio Castelli | J. William Murdock | Radu Florian | Salim Roukos | Avi Sil
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and the 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP): System Demonstrations

This paper introduces a novel orchestration framework, called CFO (Computation Flow Orchestrator), for building, experimenting with, and deploying interactive NLP (Natural Language Processing) and IR (Information Retrieval) systems to production environments. We then demonstrate a question answering system built using this framework which incorporates state-of-the-art BERT based MRC (Machine Reading Com- prehension) with IR components to enable end-to-end answer retrieval. Results from the demo system are shown to be high quality in both academic and industry domain specific settings. Finally, we discuss best practices when (pre-)training BERT based MRC models for production systems. Screencast links: - Short video (< 3 min): http: // - Supplementary long video (< 13 min):