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.
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.
Community-driven Question Answering (CQA) systems such as Yahoo! Answers have become valuable sources of reusable information. CQA retrieval enables usage of historical CQA archives to solve new questions posed by users. This task has received much recent attention, with methods building upon literature from translation models, topic models, and deep learning. In this paper, we devise a CQA retrieval technique, LASER-QA, that embeds question-answer pairs within a unified latent space preserving the local neighborhood structure of question and answer spaces. The idea is that such a space mirrors semantic similarity among questions as well as answers, thereby enabling high quality retrieval. Through an empirical analysis on various real-world QA datasets, we illustrate the improved effectiveness of LASER-QA over state-of-the-art methods.