Zero-shot Neural Retrieval via Domain-targeted Synthetic Query Generation

Ji Ma, Ivan Korotkov, Yinfei Yang, Keith Hall, Ryan McDonald

Deep neural scoring models have recently been shown to improve ranking quality on a number of benchmarks (Guo et al., 2016; Daiet al., 2018; MacAvaney et al., 2019; Yanget al., 2019a). However, these methods rely on underlying ad-hoc retrieval systems to generate candidates for scoring, which are rarely neural themselves (Zamani et al., 2018). Re-cent work has shown that the performance of ad-hoc neural retrieval systems can be competitive with a number of baselines (Zamani et al.,2018), potentially leading the way to full end-to-end neural retrieval. A major road-block to the adoption of ad-hoc retrieval models is that they require large supervised training sets to surpass classic term-based techniques, which can be developed from raw corpora. Previous work shows weakly supervised data can yield competitive results, e.g., click data (Dehghaniet al., 2017; Borisov et al., 2016). Unfortunately for many domains, even weakly supervised data can be scarce. In this paper, we pro-pose an approach to zero-shot learning (Xianet al., 2018) for ad-hoc retrieval models that relies on synthetic query generation. Crucially, the query generation system is trained on general domain data, but is applied to documents in the targeted domain. This allows us to create arbitrarily large, yet noisy, query-document relevance pairs that are domain targeted. On a number of benchmarks, we show that this is an effective strategy for building neural retrieval models for specialised domains.

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