Jonas Pfeiffer


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MultiCQA: Zero-Shot Transfer of Self-Supervised Text Matching Models on a Massive Scale
Andreas Rücklé | Jonas Pfeiffer | Iryna Gurevych
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

We study the zero-shot transfer capabilities of text matching models on a massive scale, by self-supervised training on 140 source domains from community question answering forums in English. We investigate the model performances on nine benchmarks of answer selection and question similarity tasks, and show that all 140 models transfer surprisingly well, where the large majority of models substantially outperforms common IR baselines. We also demonstrate that considering a broad selection of source domains is crucial for obtaining the best zero-shot transfer performances, which contrasts the standard procedure that merely relies on the largest and most similar domains. In addition, we extensively study how to best combine multiple source domains. We propose to incorporate self-supervised with supervised multi-task learning on all available source domains. Our best zero-shot transfer model considerably outperforms in-domain BERT and the previous state of the art on six benchmarks. Fine-tuning of our model with in-domain data results in additional large gains and achieves the new state of the art on all nine benchmarks.

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MAD-X: An Adapter-Based Framework for Multi-Task Cross-Lingual Transfer
Jonas Pfeiffer | Ivan Vulić | Iryna Gurevych | Sebastian Ruder
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

The main goal behind state-of-the-art pre-trained multilingual models such as multilingual BERT and XLM-R is enabling and bootstrapping NLP applications in low-resource languages through zero-shot or few-shot cross-lingual transfer. However, due to limited model capacity, their transfer performance is the weakest exactly on such low-resource languages and languages unseen during pre-training. We propose MAD-X, an adapter-based framework that enables high portability and parameter-efficient transfer to arbitrary tasks and languages by learning modular language and task representations. In addition, we introduce a novel invertible adapter architecture and a strong baseline method for adapting a pre-trained multilingual model to a new language. MAD-X outperforms the state of the art in cross lingual transfer across a representative set of typologically diverse languages on named entity recognition and causal commonsense reasoning, and achieves competitive results on question answering. Our code and adapters are available at

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AdapterHub: A Framework for Adapting Transformers
Jonas Pfeiffer | Andreas Rücklé | Clifton Poth | Aishwarya Kamath | Ivan Vulić | Sebastian Ruder | Kyunghyun Cho | Iryna Gurevych
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing: System Demonstrations

The current modus operandi in NLP involves downloading and fine-tuning pre-trained models consisting of millions or billions of parameters. Storing and sharing such large trained models is expensive, slow, and time-consuming, which impedes progress towards more general and versatile NLP methods that learn from and for many tasks. Adapters—small learnt bottleneck layers inserted within each layer of a pre-trained model— ameliorate this issue by avoiding full fine-tuning of the entire model. However, sharing and integrating adapter layers is not straightforward. We propose AdapterHub, a framework that allows dynamic “stiching-in” of pre-trained adapters for different tasks and languages. The framework, built on top of the popular HuggingFace Transformers library, enables extremely easy and quick adaptations of state-of-the-art pre-trained models (e.g., BERT, RoBERTa, XLM-R) across tasks and languages. Downloading, sharing, and training adapters is as seamless as possible using minimal changes to the training scripts and a specialized infrastructure. Our framework enables scalable and easy access to sharing of task-specific models, particularly in low-resource scenarios. AdapterHub includes all recent adapter architectures and can be found at


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FAMULUS: Interactive Annotation and Feedback Generation for Teaching Diagnostic Reasoning
Jonas Pfeiffer | Christian M. Meyer | Claudia Schulz | Jan Kiesewetter | Jan Zottmann | Michael Sailer | Elisabeth Bauer | Frank Fischer | Martin R. Fischer | Iryna Gurevych
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

Our proposed system FAMULUS helps students learn to diagnose based on automatic feedback in virtual patient simulations, and it supports instructors in labeling training data. Diagnosing is an exceptionally difficult skill to obtain but vital for many different professions (e.g., medical doctors, teachers). Previous case simulation systems are limited to multiple-choice questions and thus cannot give constructive individualized feedback on a student’s diagnostic reasoning process. Given initially only limited data, we leverage a (replaceable) NLP model to both support experts in their further data annotation with automatic suggestions, and we provide automatic feedback for students. We argue that because the central model consistently improves, our interactive approach encourages both students and instructors to recurrently use the tool, and thus accelerate the speed of data creation and annotation. We show results from two user studies on diagnostic reasoning in medicine and teacher education and outline how our system can be extended to further use cases.

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Fine-Tuned Neural Models for Propaganda Detection at the Sentence and Fragment levels
Tariq Alhindi | Jonas Pfeiffer | Smaranda Muresan
Proceedings of the Second Workshop on Natural Language Processing for Internet Freedom: Censorship, Disinformation, and Propaganda

This paper presents the CUNLP submission for the NLP4IF 2019 shared-task on Fine-Grained Propaganda Detection. Our system finished 5th out of 26 teams on the sentence-level classification task and 5th out of 11 teams on the fragment-level classification task based on our scores on the blind test set. We present our models, a discussion of our ablation studies and experiments, and an analysis of our performance on all eighteen propaganda techniques present in the corpus of the shared task.

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Specializing Distributional Vectors of All Words for Lexical Entailment
Aishwarya Kamath | Jonas Pfeiffer | Edoardo Maria Ponti | Goran Glavaš | Ivan Vulić
Proceedings of the 4th Workshop on Representation Learning for NLP (RepL4NLP-2019)

Semantic specialization methods fine-tune distributional word vectors using lexical knowledge from external resources (e.g. WordNet) to accentuate a particular relation between words. However, such post-processing methods suffer from limited coverage as they affect only vectors of words seen in the external resources. We present the first post-processing method that specializes vectors of all vocabulary words – including those unseen in the resources – for the asymmetric relation of lexical entailment (LE) (i.e., hyponymy-hypernymy relation). Leveraging a partially LE-specialized distributional space, our POSTLE (i.e., post-specialization for LE) model learns an explicit global specialization function, allowing for specialization of vectors of unseen words, as well as word vectors from other languages via cross-lingual transfer. We capture the function as a deep feed-forward neural network: its objective re-scales vector norms to reflect the concept hierarchy while simultaneously attracting hyponymy-hypernymy pairs to better reflect semantic similarity. An extended model variant augments the basic architecture with an adversarial discriminator. We demonstrate the usefulness and versatility of POSTLE models with different input distributional spaces in different scenarios (monolingual LE and zero-shot cross-lingual LE transfer) and tasks (binary and graded LE). We report consistent gains over state-of-the-art LE-specialization methods, and successfully LE-specialize word vectors for languages without any external lexical knowledge.


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A Neural Autoencoder Approach for Document Ranking and Query Refinement in Pharmacogenomic Information Retrieval
Jonas Pfeiffer | Samuel Broscheit | Rainer Gemulla | Mathias Göschl
Proceedings of the BioNLP 2018 workshop

In this study, we investigate learning-to-rank and query refinement approaches for information retrieval in the pharmacogenomic domain. The goal is to improve the information retrieval process of biomedical curators, who manually build knowledge bases for personalized medicine. We study how to exploit the relationships between genes, variants, drugs, diseases and outcomes as features for document ranking and query refinement. For a supervised approach, we are faced with a small amount of annotated data and a large amount of unannotated data. Therefore, we explore ways to use a neural document auto-encoder in a semi-supervised approach. We show that a combination of established algorithms, feature-engineering and a neural auto-encoder model yield promising results in this setting.