Zifeng Wang

Zifeng Wang

Zifeng Wang is a research scientist at Google, working on exciting machine learning algorithms and their applications. His research interests include efficient model adaptation, continual learning, and large language models. He received his PhD in machine learning from Northeastern University advised by Prof. Jennifer Dy.
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    Preview abstract Table-based reasoning with large language models (LLMs) is a promising direction to tackle many table understanding tasks, such as table-based question answering and fact verification. Compared with generic reasoning, table-based reasoning requires the extraction of underlying semantics from both free-form questions and semi-structured tabular data. Chain-of-Thought and its similar approaches incorporate the reasoning chain in the form of textual context, but it is still an open question how to effectively leverage tabular data in the reasoning chain. We propose the Chain-of-Table framework, where tabular data is explicitly used in the reasoning chain as a proxy for intermediate thoughts. Specifically, we guide LLMs using in-context learning to iteratively generate operations and update the table to represent a tabular reasoning chain. LLMs can therefore dynamically plan the next operation based on the results of the previous ones. This continuous evolution of the table forms a chain, showing the reasoning process for a given tabular problem. The chain carries structured information of the intermediate results, enabling more accurate and reliable predictions. Chain-of-Table achieves new state-of-the-art performance on WikiTQ, FeTaQA, and TabFact benchmarks across multiple LLM choices. View details
    Preview abstract Instruction tuning has emerged as the key in aligning large language models (LLMs) with specific task instructions, thereby mitigating the discrepancy between the next-token prediction objective and users' actual goals. To reduce the labor and time cost to collect or annotate data by humans, researchers start to explore the use of LLMs to generate instruction-aligned synthetic data. Recent works focus on generating diverse instructions and applying LLM to increase instruction complexity, often neglecting downstream use cases. It remains unclear how to tailor high-quality data to elicit better instruction-following abilities in different target instruction distributions and LLMs. To this end, we introduce CodecLM, a general framework for adaptively generating high-quality synthetic data for LLM alignment with different downstream instruction distributions and LLMs. Drawing on the Encode-Decode principles, we use LLMs as codecs to guide the data generation process. We first encode seed instructions into metadata, which are concise keywords generated on-the-fly to capture the target instruction distribution, and then decode metadata to create tailored instructions. We also introduce Self-Rubrics and Contrastive Filtering during decoding to tailor data-efficient samples. Extensive experiments on four open-domain instruction following benchmarks validate the effectiveness of CodecLM over the current state-of-the-arts. View details
    Preview abstract Zero-shot transfer learning for document understanding is a crucial yet under-investigated scenario to help reduce the high cost involved in annotating document entities. We present a novel query-based framework, QueryForm, that extracts entity values from form-like documents in a zero-shot fashion. QueryForm contains a dual prompting mechanism that composes both the document schema and a specific entity type into a query, which is used to prompt a Transformer model to perform a single entity extraction task. Furthermore, we propose to leverage large-scale query-entity pairs generated from form-like webpages with weak HTML annotations to pre-train QueryForm. By unifying pre-training and fine-tuning into the same query-based framework, QueryForm enables models to learn from structured documents containing various entities and layouts, leading to better generalization to target document types without the need for target-specific training data. QueryForm sets new state-of-the-art average F1 score on both the XFUND (+4.6%~10.1%) and the Payment (+3.2%~9.5%) zero-shot benchmark, with a smaller model size and no additional image input. View details
    Preview abstract The mainstream paradigm behind continual learning has been to adapt the model parameters to non-stationary data distributions, where catastrophic forgetting is the central challenge. Typical methods rely on a rehearsal buffer or known task identity at test time to retrieve learned knowledge and address forgetting, while this work presents a new paradigm for continual learning that aims to train a more succinct memory system without accessing task identity at test time. Our method learns to dynamically prompt (L2P) a pre-trained model to learn tasks sequentially under different task transitions. In our proposed framework, prompts are small learnable parameters, which are maintained in a memory space. The objective is to optimize prompts to instruct the model prediction and explicitly manage task-invariant and task-specific knowledge while maintaining model plasticity. We conduct comprehensive experiments under popular image classification benchmarks with different challenging continual learning settings, where L2P consistently outperforms prior state-ofthe-art methods. Surprisingly, L2P achieves competitive results against rehearsal-based methods even without a rehearsal buffer and is directly applicable to challenging taskagnostic continual learning. Source code is available at https://github.com/google-research/l2p. View details
    Preview abstract Continual learning aims to enable a single model to learn a sequence of tasks without catastrophic forgetting. Top-performing methods usually require a rehearsal buffer to store past pristine examples for experience replay, which, however, limits their practical value due to privacy and memory constraints. In this work, we present a simple yet effective framework, DualPrompt, which learns a tiny set of parameters, called prompts, to properly instruct a pre-trained model to learn tasks arriving sequentially without buffering past examples. DualPrompt presents a novel approach to attach complementary prompts to the pre-trained backbone, and then formulates the objective as learning task-invariant and task-specific "instructions". With extensive experimental validation, DualPrompt consistently sets state-of-the-art performance under the challenging class-incremental setting. In particular, DualPrompt outperforms recent advanced continual learning methods with relatively large buffer sizes. We also introduce a more challenging benchmark, Split ImageNet-R, to help generalize rehearsal-free continual learning research. Source code is available at https://github.com/google-research/l2p. View details
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