Minghan Li


Certified Error Control of Candidate Set Pruning for Two-Stage Relevance Ranking
Minghan Li | Xinyu Zhang | Ji Xin | Hongyang Zhang | Jimmy Lin
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

In information retrieval (IR), candidate set pruning has been commonly used to speed up two-stage relevance ranking. However, such an approach lacks accurate error control and often trades accuracy against computational efficiency in an empirical fashion, missing theoretical guarantees. In this paper, we propose the concept of certified error control of candidate set pruning for relevance ranking, which means that the test error after pruning is guaranteed to be controlled under a user-specified threshold with high probability. Both in-domain and out-of-domain experiments show that our method successfully prunes the first-stage retrieved candidate sets to improve the second-stage reranking speed while satisfying the pre-specified accuracy constraints in both settings. For example, on MS MARCO Passage v1, our method reduces the average candidate set size from 1000 to 27, increasing reranking speed by about 37 times, while keeping MRR@10 greater than a pre-specified value of 0.38 with about 90% empirical coverage. In contrast, empirical baselines fail to meet such requirements. Code and data are available at: https://github.com/alexlimh/CEC-Ranking.

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An Encoder Attribution Analysis for Dense Passage Retriever in Open-Domain Question Answering
Minghan Li | Xueguang Ma | Jimmy Lin
Proceedings of the 2nd Workshop on Trustworthy Natural Language Processing (TrustNLP 2022)

The bi-encoder design of dense passage retriever (DPR) is a key factor to its success in open-domain question answering (QA), yet it is unclear how DPR’s question encoder and passage encoder individually contributes to overall performance, which we refer to as the encoder attribution problem. The problem is important as it helps us identify the factors that affect individual encoders to further improve overall performance. In this paper, we formulate our analysis under a probabilistic framework called encoder marginalization, where we quantify the contribution of a single encoder by marginalizing other variables. First, we find that the passage encoder contributes more than the question encoder to in-domain retrieval accuracy. Second, we demonstrate how to find the affecting factors for each encoder, where we train DPR with different amounts of data and use encoder marginalization to analyze the results. We find that positive passage overlap and corpus coverage of training data have big impacts on the passage encoder, while the question encoder is mainly affected by training sample complexity under this setting. Based on this framework, we can devise data-efficient training regimes: for example, we manage to train a passage encoder on SQuAD using 60% less training data without loss of accuracy.


Multi-Task Dense Retrieval via Model Uncertainty Fusion for Open-Domain Question Answering
Minghan Li | Ming Li | Kun Xiong | Jimmy Lin
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2021

Multi-task dense retrieval models can be used to retrieve documents from a common corpus (e.g., Wikipedia) for different open-domain question-answering (QA) tasks. However, Karpukhin et al. (2020) shows that jointly learning different QA tasks with one dense model is not always beneficial due to corpus inconsistency. For example, SQuAD only focuses on a small set of Wikipedia articles while datasets like NQ and Trivia cover more entries, and joint training on their union can cause performance degradation. To solve this problem, we propose to train individual dense passage retrievers (DPR) for different tasks and aggregate their predictions during test time, where we use uncertainty estimation as weights to indicate how probable a specific query belongs to each expert’s expertise. Our method reaches state-of-the-art performance on 5 benchmark QA datasets, with up to 10% improvement in top-100 accuracy compared to a joint-training multi-task DPR on SQuAD. We also show that our method handles corpus inconsistency better than the joint-training DPR on a mixed subset of different QA datasets. Code and data are available at https://github.com/alexlimh/DPR_MUF.

Simple and Effective Unsupervised Redundancy Elimination to Compress Dense Vectors for Passage Retrieval
Xueguang Ma | Minghan Li | Kai Sun | Ji Xin | Jimmy Lin
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Recent work has shown that dense passage retrieval techniques achieve better ranking accuracy in open-domain question answering compared to sparse retrieval techniques such as BM25, but at the cost of large space and memory requirements. In this paper, we analyze the redundancy present in encoded dense vectors and show that the default dimension of 768 is unnecessarily large. To improve space efficiency, we propose a simple unsupervised compression pipeline that consists of principal component analysis (PCA), product quantization, and hybrid search. We further investigate other supervised baselines and find surprisingly that unsupervised PCA outperforms them in some settings. We perform extensive experiments on five question answering datasets and demonstrate that our best pipeline achieves good accuracy–space trade-offs, for example, 48× compression with less than 3% drop in top-100 retrieval accuracy on average or 96× compression with less than 4% drop. Code and data are available at http://pyserini.io/.