During the past decade, several areas of speech and language understanding have witnessed substantial breakthroughs from the use of data-driven models. In the area of dialogue systems, the trend is less obvious, and most practical systems are still built through significant engineering and expert knowledge. Nevertheless, several recent results suggest that data-driven approaches are feasible and quite promising. To facilitate research in this area, we have carried out a wide survey of publicly available datasets suitable for data-driven learning of dialogue systems. We discuss important characteristics of these datasets, how they can be used to learn diverse dialogue strategies, and their other potential uses. We also examine methods for transfer learning between datasets and the use of external knowledge. Finally, we discuss appropriate choice of evaluation metrics for the learning objective.
In this paper we survey the methods and concepts developed for the evaluation of dialogue systems. Evaluation is a crucial part during the development process. Often, dialogue systems are evaluated by means of human evaluations and questionnaires. However, this tends to be very cost and time intensive. Thus, much work has been put into finding methods, which allow to reduce the involvement of human labour. In this survey, we present the main concepts and methods. For this, we differentiate between the various classes of dialogue systems (task-oriented dialogue systems, conversational dialogue systems, and question-answering dialogue systems). We cover each class by introducing the main technologies developed for the dialogue systems and then by presenting the evaluation methods regarding this class.
Natural language understanding (NLU) of text is a fundamental challenge in AI, and it has received significant attention throughout the history of NLP research. This primary goal has been studied under different tasks, such as Question Answering (QA) and Textual Entailment (TE). In this thesis, we investigate the NLU problem through the QA task and focus on the aspects that make it a challenge for the current state-of-the-art technology. This thesis is organized into three main parts: In the first part, we explore multiple formalisms to improve existing machine comprehension systems. We propose a formulation for abductive reasoning in natural language and show its effectiveness, especially in domains with limited training data. Additionally, to help reasoning systems cope with irrelevant or redundant information, we create a supervised approach to learn and detect the essential terms in questions. In the second part, we propose two new challenge datasets. In particular, we create two datasets of natural language questions where (i) the first one requires reasoning over multiple sentences; (ii) the second one requires temporal common sense reasoning. We hope that the two proposed datasets will motivate the field to address more complex problems. In the final part, we present the first formal framework for multi-step reasoning algorithms, in the presence of a few important properties of language use, such as incompleteness, ambiguity, etc. We apply this framework to prove fundamental limitations for reasoning algorithms. These theoretical results provide extra intuition into the existing empirical evidence in the field.
One of the major hurdles preventing the full exploitation of information from online communities is the widespread concern regarding the quality and credibility of user-contributed content. Prior works in this domain operate on a static snapshot of the community, making strong assumptions about the structure of the data (e.g., relational tables), or consider only shallow features for text classification. To address the above limitations, we propose probabilistic graphical models that can leverage the joint interplay between multiple factors in online communities --- like user interactions, community dynamics, and textual content --- to automatically assess the credibility of user-contributed online content, and the expertise of users and their evolution with user-interpretable explanation. To this end, we devise new models based on Conditional Random Fields for different settings like incorporating partial expert knowledge for semi-supervised learning, and handling discrete labels as well as numeric ratings for fine-grained analysis. This enables applications such as extracting reliable side-effects of drugs from user-contributed posts in healthforums, and identifying credible content in news communities. Online communities are dynamic, as users join and leave, adapt to evolving trends, and mature over time. To capture this dynamics, we propose generative models based on Hidden Markov Model, Latent Dirichlet Allocation, and Brownian Motion to trace the continuous evolution of user expertise and their language model over time. This allows us to identify expert users and credible content jointly over time, improving state-of-the-art recommender systems by explicitly considering the maturity of users. This also enables applications such as identifying helpful product reviews, and detecting fake and anomalous reviews with limited information.
The Aviation Safety Reporting System collects voluntarily submitted reports on aviation safety incidents to facilitate research work aiming to reduce such incidents. To effectively reduce these incidents, it is vital to accurately identify why these incidents occurred. More precisely, given a set of possible causes, or shaping factors, this task of cause identification involves identifying all and only those shaping factors that are responsible for the incidents described in a report. We investigate two approaches to cause identification. Both approaches exploit information provided by a semantic lexicon, which is automatically constructed via Thelen and Riloff's Basilisk framework augmented with our linguistic and algorithmic modifications. The first approach labels a report using a simple heuristic, which looks for the words and phrases acquired during the semantic lexicon learning process in the report. The second approach recasts cause identification as a text classification problem, employing supervised and transductive text classification algorithms to learn models from incident reports labeled with shaping factors and using the models to label unseen reports. Our experiments show that both the heuristic-based approach and the learning-based approach (when given sufficient training data) outperform the baseline system significantly.