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Liu Yang

Liu Yang

I got my Ph.D in Computer Science at the Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval (CIIR) , College of Information and Computer Sciences, University of Massachusetts Amherst under the supervision of Prof. W. Bruce Croft. My research areas include information retrieval, natural language processing, text mining and machine learning. I have published more than 30 papers in top conferences such as WWW, SIGIR, ACL, ICML, CIKM, WSDM, ICDM and NAACL. Moreover, I have served as the SPC/PC member for top conferences including KDD, ACL, SIGIR, WWW, AAAI, EMNLP, WSDM and CIKM. I'm now focusing on research on deep learning, text matching, question answering, neural conversational models, search, ranking and relevance, learning to rank, statistical language models, probabilistic graphical models and user modeling/profiling. For a full list of my publications see my personal page .
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    Natural Language Understanding with Privacy-Preserving BERT
    Proceedings of the 30th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, ACM (2021)
    Preview abstract Privacy preservation remains a key challenge in data mining and Natural Language Understanding (NLU). Previous research shows that the input text or even text embeddings can leak private information. This concern motivates our research on effective privacy preservation approaches for pretrained Language Models (LMs). We investigate the privacy and utility implications of applying dχ-privacy, a variant of Local Differential Privacy, to BERT fine-tuning in NLU applications. More importantly, we further propose privacy-adaptive LM pretraining methods and show that our approach can boost the utility of BERT dramatically while retaining the same level of privacy protection. We also quantify the level of privacy preservation and provide guidance on privacy configuration. Our experiments and findings lay the groundwork for future explorations of privacy-preserving NLU with pretrained LMs. View details
    Preview abstract Transformers do not scale very well to long sequence lengths largely because of quadratic self-attention complexity. In the recent months, a wide spectrum of efficient, fast Transformers have been proposed to tackle this problem, more often than not claiming superior or comparable performance to vanilla Transformer models. To this date, there is no well-established consensus on how to evaluate this class of models. Moreover, inconsistent benchmarking on a wide spectrum of tasks and datasets makes it difficult to assess relative performance amongst many models. This paper proposes a systematic and unified benchmark, LRA a benchmark specifically focused on evaluating model quality under long-context scenarios. Our benchmark is a suite of tasks consisting of sequences ranging from $1K$ to $16K$ tokens, encompassing a wide range of data types and modalities such as text, natural and synthetic images, and mathematical expressions requiring similarity, structural and visual-spatial reasoning. We systematically evaluate ten well established long-range Transformer models (Reformers, Linformers, Linear Transformers, Sinkhorn Transformers, Performers, Synthesizers, Sparse Transformers and Longformers) on our newly proposed benchmark suite. LRA paves the way towards better understanding this class of efficient Transformer models, facilitates more research in this direction, and presents new challenging tasks to tackle. View details
    Preview abstract Pre-trained models like BERT have dominated NLP / IR applications such as single sentence classification, text pair classification, and question answering. However, deploying these models in real systems is highly non-trivial due to their exorbitant computational costs. A common remedy to this is knowledge distillation, leading to faster inference. However –as we show here – existing works are not optimized for dealing with pairs (or tuples) of texts. Consequently, they are either not scalable or demonstrate subpar performance. In this work,we propose DiPair— a novel framework for distilling fast and accurate models on text pair tasks. Coupled with an end-to-end training strategy, DiPair is both highly scalable and offers improved quality-speed tradeoffs. Empirical studies conducted on both academic and real-world e-commerce benchmarks demonstrate the efficacy of the proposed approach with speedups of over 350x and minimal quality drop relative to the cross-attention teacherBERT model. View details
    Preview abstract Many natural language processing and information retrieval problems can be formalized as the task of semantic matching. Existing work in this area has been largely focused on matching between short texts (e.g., question answering), or between a short and a long text (e.g., ad-hoc retrieval). Semantic matching between long-form documents, which has many important applications like news recommendation, related article recommendation and document clustering, is relatively less explored and needs more research effort. In recent years, self-attention based models like Transformers and BERT have achieved state-of-the-art performance in the task of text matching. These models, however, are still limited to short text like a few sentences or one paragraph due to the quadratic computational complexity of self-attention with respect to input text length. In this paper, we address the issue by proposing the Siamese Multi-depth Transformer-based Hierarchical (SMITH) Encoder for long-form document matching. Our model contains several innovations to adapt self-attention models for longer text input. We propose a transformer based hierarchical encoder to capture the document structure information. In order to better capture sentence level semantic relations within a document, we pre-train the model with a novel masked sentence block language modeling task in addition to the masked word language modeling task used by BERT. Our experimental results on several benchmark datasets for long-form document matching show that our proposed SMITH model outperforms the previous state-of-the-art models including hierarchical attention, multi-depth attention-based hierarchical recurrent neural network, and BERT. Comparing to BERT based baselines, our model is able to increase maximum input text length from 512 to 2048. We will open source a Wikipedia based benchmark dataset, code and a pre-trained checkpoint to accelerate future research on long-form document matching. View details
    Preview abstract We propose Sparse Sinkhorn Attention, a new efficient and sparse method for learning to attend. Our method is based on differentiable sorting of internal representations. Concretely, we introduce a meta sorting network that learns to generate latent permutations over sequences. Given sorted sequences, we are then able to compute quasi-global attention with only local windows, improving the memory efficiency of the attention module. To this end, we propose new algorithmic innovations such as Causal Sinkhorn Balancing and SortCut, a dynamic sequence truncation method for tailoring Sinkhorn Attention for encoding and/or decoding purposes. Via extensive experiments on algorithmic seq2seq sorting, language modeling, pixel-wise image generation, document classification and natural language inference, we demonstrate that our Sinkhorn Attention remains competitive to the vanilla attention, consistently outperforming recently proposed efficient Transformer models such as Sparse Transformers, while retaining memory efficiency. View details
    A Hybrid Retrieval-Generation Neural Conversation Model
    Junjie Hu
    Minghui Qiu
    Chen Qu
    Jianfeng Gao
    W. Bruce Croft
    Xiaodong Liu
    Yelong Shen
    Jingjing Liu
    Proceedings of the 28th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM 2019), ACM (to appear)
    Preview abstract Intelligent personal assistant systems that are able to have multi-turn conversations with human users are becoming increasingly popular. Most previous research has been focused on using either retrieval-based or generation-based methods to develop such systems. Retrieval-based methods have the advantage of returning fluent and informative responses with great diversity. However, the performance of the methods is limited by the size of the response repository. On the other hand, generation-based methods can produce highly coherent responses on any topics. But the generated responses are often generic and not informative due to the lack of grounding knowledge. In this paper, we propose a hybrid neural conversation model that combines the merits of both response retrieval and generation methods. Experimental results on Twitter and Foursquare data show that the proposed model outperforms both retrieval-based methods and generation-based methods (including a recently proposed knowledge-grounded neural conversation model) under both automatic evaluation metrics and human evaluation. We hope that the findings in this study provide new insights on how to integrate text retrieval and text generation models for building conversation systems. View details
    Attentive History Selection for Conversational Question Answering
    Chen Qu
    Minghui Qiu
    Yongfeng Zhang
    Cen Chen
    W. Bruce Croft
    Mohit Iyyer
    Proceedings of the 28th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management (CIKM 2019) (to appear)
    Preview abstract Conversational question answering (ConvQA) is a simplified but concrete setting of conversational search. One of its major challenges is to leverage the conversation history to understand and answer the current question. In this work, we propose a novel solution for ConvQA that involves three aspects. First, we propose a positional history answer embedding method to encode conversation history with position information using BERT in a natural way. BERT is a powerful technique for text representation. Second, we design a history attention mechanism (HAM) to conduct a “soft selection” for conversation histories. This method attends to history turns with different weights based on how helpful they are on answering the current question. Third, in addition to handling conversation history, we take advantage of multi-task learning (MTL) to do answer prediction along with another essential conversation task (dialog act prediction) using a uniform model architecture. MTL is able to learn more expressive and generic representations to improve the performance of ConvQA. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our model with extensive experimental evaluations on QuAC, a large-scale ConvQA dataset. We show that position information plays an important role in conversation history modeling. We also visualize the history attention and provide new insights into conversation history understanding. View details
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