APPLS: A Meta-evaluation Testbed for Plain Language Summarization

Yue Guo, Tal August, Gondy Leroy, Trevor Cohen, Lucy Lu Wang

While there has been significant development of models for Plain Language Summarization (PLS), evaluation remains a challenge. This is in part because PLS involves multiple, interrelated language transformations (e.g., adding background explanations, removing specialized terminology). No metrics are explicitly engineered for PLS, and the suitability of other text generation evaluation metrics remains unclear. To address these concerns, our study presents a granular meta-evaluation testbed, APPLS, designed to evaluate existing metrics for PLS. Drawing on insights from previous research, we define controlled perturbations for our testbed along four criteria that a metric of plain language should capture: informativeness, simplification, coherence, and faithfulness. Our analysis of metrics using this testbed reveals that current metrics fail to capture simplification, signaling a crucial gap. In response, we introduce POMME, a novel metric designed to assess text simplification in PLS. We demonstrate its correlation with simplification perturbations and validate across a variety of datasets. Our research contributes the first meta-evaluation testbed for PLS and a comprehensive evaluation of existing metrics, offering insights with relevance to other text generation tasks.

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