Brian Lester


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Constrained Decoding for Computationally Efficient Named Entity Recognition Taggers
Brian Lester | Daniel Pressel | Amy Hemmeter | Sagnik Ray Choudhury | Srinivas Bangalore
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2020

Current state-of-the-art models for named entity recognition (NER) are neural models with a conditional random field (CRF) as the final layer. Entities are represented as per-token labels with a special structure in order to decode them into spans. Current work eschews prior knowledge of how the span encoding scheme works and relies on the CRF learning which transitions are illegal and which are not to facilitate global coherence. We find that by constraining the output to suppress illegal transitions we can train a tagger with a cross-entropy loss twice as fast as a CRF with differences in F1 that are statistically insignificant, effectively eliminating the need for a CRF. We analyze the dynamics of tag co-occurrence to explain when these constraints are most effective and provide open source implementations of our tagger in both PyTorch and TensorFlow.

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iobes: Library for Span Level Processing
Brian Lester
Proceedings of Second Workshop for NLP Open Source Software (NLP-OSS)

Many tasks in natural language processing, such as named entity recognition and slot-filling, involve identifying and labeling specific spans of text. In order to leverage common models, these tasks are often recast as sequence labeling tasks. Each token is given a label and these labels are prefixed with special tokens such as B- or I-. After a model assigns labels to each token, these prefixes are used to group the tokens into spans. Properly parsing these annotations is critical for producing fair and comparable metrics; however, despite its importance, there is not an easy-to-use, standardized, programmatically integratable library to help work with span labeling. To remedy this, we introduce our open-source library, iobes. iobes is used for parsing, converting, and processing spans represented as token level decisions.


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An Effective Label Noise Model for DNN Text Classification
Ishan Jindal | Daniel Pressel | Brian Lester | Matthew Nokleby
Proceedings of the 2019 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies, Volume 1 (Long and Short Papers)

Because large, human-annotated datasets suffer from labeling errors, it is crucial to be able to train deep neural networks in the presence of label noise. While training image classification models with label noise have received much attention, training text classification models have not. In this paper, we propose an approach to training deep networks that is robust to label noise. This approach introduces a non-linear processing layer (noise model) that models the statistics of the label noise into a convolutional neural network (CNN) architecture. The noise model and the CNN weights are learned jointly from noisy training data, which prevents the model from overfitting to erroneous labels. Through extensive experiments on several text classification datasets, we show that this approach enables the CNN to learn better sentence representations and is robust even to extreme label noise. We find that proper initialization and regularization of this noise model is critical. Further, by contrast to results focusing on large batch sizes for mitigating label noise for image classification, we find that altering the batch size does not have much effect on classification performance.


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Baseline: A Library for Rapid Modeling, Experimentation and Development of Deep Learning Algorithms targeting NLP
Daniel Pressel | Sagnik Ray Choudhury | Brian Lester | Yanjie Zhao | Matt Barta
Proceedings of Workshop for NLP Open Source Software (NLP-OSS)

We introduce Baseline: a library for reproducible deep learning research and fast model development for NLP. The library provides easily extensible abstractions and implementations for data loading, model development, training and export of deep learning architectures. It also provides implementations for simple, high-performance, deep learning models for various NLP tasks, against which newly developed models can be compared. Deep learning experiments are hard to reproduce, Baseline provides functionalities to track them. The goal is to allow a researcher to focus on model development, delegating the repetitive tasks to the library.