Nicola De Cao


GenIE: Generative Information Extraction
Martin Josifoski | Nicola De Cao | Maxime Peyrard | Fabio Petroni | Robert West
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Structured and grounded representation of text is typically formalized by closed information extraction, the problem of extracting an exhaustive set of (subject, relation, object) triplets that are consistent with a predefined set of entities and relations from a knowledge base schema. Most existing works are pipelines prone to error accumulation, and all approaches are only applicable to unrealistically small numbers of entities and relations. We introduce GenIE (generative information extraction), the first end-to-end autoregressive formulation of closed information extraction. GenIE naturally exploits the language knowledge from the pre-trained transformer by autoregressively generating relations and entities in textual form. Thanks to a new bi-level constrained generation strategy, only triplets consistent with the predefined knowledge base schema are produced. Our experiments show that GenIE is state-of-the-art on closed information extraction, generalizes from fewer training data points than baselines, and scales to a previously unmanageable number of entities and relations. With this work, closed information extraction becomes practical in realistic scenarios, providing new opportunities for downstream tasks. Finally, this work paves the way towards a unified end-to-end approach to the core tasks of information extraction.

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Sparse Interventions in Language Models with Differentiable Masking
Nicola De Cao | Leon Schmid | Dieuwke Hupkes | Ivan Titov
Proceedings of the Fifth BlackboxNLP Workshop on Analyzing and Interpreting Neural Networks for NLP

There has been a lot of interest in understanding what information is captured by hidden representations of language models (LMs). Typically, interpretation methods i) do not guarantee that the model actually uses the information found to be encoded, and ii) do not discover small subsets of neurons responsible for a considered phenomenon. Inspired by causal mediation analysis, we propose a method that discovers a small subset of neurons within a neural LM responsible for a particular linguistic phenomenon, i.e., subsets causing a change in the corresponding token emission probabilities. We use a differentiable relaxation to approximately search through the combinatorial space. An L0 regularization term ensures that the search converges to discrete and sparse solutions. We apply our method to analyze subject-verb number agreement and gender bias detection in LSTMs. We observe that it is fast and finds better solutions than alternatives such as REINFORCE and Integrated Gradients. Our experiments confirm that each of these phenomena is mediated through a small subset of neurons that do not play any other discernible role.

Multilingual Autoregressive Entity Linking
Nicola De Cao | Ledell Wu | Kashyap Popat | Mikel Artetxe | Naman Goyal | Mikhail Plekhanov | Luke Zettlemoyer | Nicola Cancedda | Sebastian Riedel | Fabio Petroni
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Volume 10

We present mGENRE, a sequence-to- sequence system for the Multilingual Entity Linking (MEL) problem—the task of resolving language-specific mentions to a multilingual Knowledge Base (KB). For a mention in a given language, mGENRE predicts the name of the target entity left-to-right, token-by-token in an autoregressive fashion. The autoregressive formulation allows us to effectively cross-encode mention string and entity names to capture more interactions than the standard dot product between mention and entity vectors. It also enables fast search within a large KB even for mentions that do not appear in mention tables and with no need for large-scale vector indices. While prior MEL works use a single representation for each entity, we match against entity names of as many languages as possible, which allows exploiting language connections between source input and target name. Moreover, in a zero-shot setting on languages with no training data at all, mGENRE treats the target language as a latent variable that is marginalized at prediction time. This leads to over 50% improvements in average accuracy. We show the efficacy of our approach through extensive evaluation including experiments on three popular MEL benchmarks where we establish new state-of-the-art results. Source code available at


Editing Factual Knowledge in Language Models
Nicola De Cao | Wilker Aziz | Ivan Titov
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

The factual knowledge acquired during pre-training and stored in the parameters of Language Models (LMs) can be useful in downstream tasks (e.g., question answering or textual inference). However, some facts can be incorrectly induced or become obsolete over time. We present KnowledgeEditor, a method which can be used to edit this knowledge and, thus, fix ‘bugs’ or unexpected predictions without the need for expensive re-training or fine-tuning. Besides being computationally efficient, KnowledgeEditordoes not require any modifications in LM pre-training (e.g., the use of meta-learning). In our approach, we train a hyper-network with constrained optimization to modify a fact without affecting the rest of the knowledge; the trained hyper-network is then used to predict the weight update at test time. We show KnowledgeEditor’s efficacy with two popular architectures and knowledge-intensive tasks: i) a BERT model fine-tuned for fact-checking, and ii) a sequence-to-sequence BART model for question answering. With our method, changing a prediction on the specific wording of a query tends to result in a consistent change in predictions also for its paraphrases. We show that this can be further encouraged by exploiting (e.g., automatically-generated) paraphrases during training. Interestingly, our hyper-network can be regarded as a ‘probe’ revealing which components need to be changed to manipulate factual knowledge; our analysis shows that the updates tend to be concentrated on a small subset of components. Source code available at

Highly Parallel Autoregressive Entity Linking with Discriminative Correction
Nicola De Cao | Wilker Aziz | Ivan Titov
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Generative approaches have been recently shown to be effective for both Entity Disambiguation and Entity Linking (i.e., joint mention detection and disambiguation). However, the previously proposed autoregressive formulation for EL suffers from i) high computational cost due to a complex (deep) decoder, ii) non-parallelizable decoding that scales with the source sequence length, and iii) the need for training on a large amount of data. In this work, we propose a very efficient approach that parallelizes autoregressive linking across all potential mentions and relies on a shallow and efficient decoder. Moreover, we augment the generative objective with an extra discriminative component, i.e., a correction term which lets us directly optimize the generator’s ranking. When taken together, these techniques tackle all the above issues: our model is >70 times faster and more accurate than the previous generative method, outperforming state-of-the-art approaches on the standard English dataset AIDA-CoNLL. Source code available at

KILT: a Benchmark for Knowledge Intensive Language Tasks
Fabio Petroni | Aleksandra Piktus | Angela Fan | Patrick Lewis | Majid Yazdani | Nicola De Cao | James Thorne | Yacine Jernite | Vladimir Karpukhin | Jean Maillard | Vassilis Plachouras | Tim Rocktäschel | Sebastian Riedel
Proceedings of the 2021 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies

Challenging problems such as open-domain question answering, fact checking, slot filling and entity linking require access to large, external knowledge sources. While some models do well on individual tasks, developing general models is difficult as each task might require computationally expensive indexing of custom knowledge sources, in addition to dedicated infrastructure. To catalyze research on models that condition on specific information in large textual resources, we present a benchmark for knowledge-intensive language tasks (KILT). All tasks in KILT are grounded in the same snapshot of Wikipedia, reducing engineering turnaround through the re-use of components, as well as accelerating research into task-agnostic memory architectures. We test both task-specific and general baselines, evaluating downstream performance in addition to the ability of the models to provide provenance. We find that a shared dense vector index coupled with a seq2seq model is a strong baseline, outperforming more tailor-made approaches for fact checking, open-domain question answering and dialogue, and yielding competitive results on entity linking and slot filling, by generating disambiguated text. KILT data and code are available at


How do Decisions Emerge across Layers in Neural Models? Interpretation with Differentiable Masking
Nicola De Cao | Michael Sejr Schlichtkrull | Wilker Aziz | Ivan Titov
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

Attribution methods assess the contribution of inputs to the model prediction. One way to do so is erasure: a subset of inputs is considered irrelevant if it can be removed without affecting the prediction. Though conceptually simple, erasure’s objective is intractable and approximate search remains expensive with modern deep NLP models. Erasure is also susceptible to the hindsight bias: the fact that an input can be dropped does not mean that the model ‘knows’ it can be dropped. The resulting pruning is over-aggressive and does not reflect how the model arrives at the prediction. To deal with these challenges, we introduce Differentiable Masking. DiffMask learns to mask-out subsets of the input while maintaining differentiability. The decision to include or disregard an input token is made with a simple model based on intermediate hidden layers of the analyzed model. First, this makes the approach efficient because we predict rather than search. Second, as with probing classifiers, this reveals what the network ‘knows’ at the corresponding layers. This lets us not only plot attribution heatmaps but also analyze how decisions are formed across network layers. We use DiffMask to study BERT models on sentiment classification and question answering.


Question Answering by Reasoning Across Documents with Graph Convolutional Networks
Nicola De Cao | Wilker Aziz | Ivan Titov
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)

Most research in reading comprehension has focused on answering questions based on individual documents or even single paragraphs. We introduce a neural model which integrates and reasons relying on information spread within documents and across multiple documents. We frame it as an inference problem on a graph. Mentions of entities are nodes of this graph while edges encode relations between different mentions (e.g., within- and cross-document co-reference). Graph convolutional networks (GCNs) are applied to these graphs and trained to perform multi-step reasoning. Our Entity-GCN method is scalable and compact, and it achieves state-of-the-art results on a multi-document question answering dataset, WikiHop (Welbl et al., 2018).