A Critical Re-evaluation of Neural Methods for Entity Alignment

Neural methods have become the de-facto choice for the vast majority of data analysis tasks, and entity alignment (EA) is no exception. Not surprisingly, more than 50 different neural EA methods have been published since 2017. However, surprisingly, an analysis of the differences between neural and non-neural EA methods has been lacking. We bridge this gap by performing an in-depth comparison among five carefully chosen representative state-of-the-art methods from the pre-neural and neural era. We unravel, and consequently mitigate, the inherent deficiencies in the experimental setup utilized for evaluating neural EA methods. To ensure fairness in evaluation, we homogenize the entity matching modules of neural and non-neural methods. Additionally, for the first time, we draw a parallel between EA and record linkage (RL) by empirically showcasing the ability of RL methods to perform EA. Our results indicate that Paris, the state-of-the-art non-neural method, statistically significantly outperforms all the representative state-of-the-art neural methods in terms of both efficacy and efficiency across a wide variety of dataset types and scenarios, and is second only to BERT-INT for a specific scenario of cross-lingual EA. Our findings shed light on the potential problems resulting from an impulsive application of neural methods as a panacea for all data analytics tasks. Overall, our work results in two overarching conclusions: (1) Paris should be used as a baseline in every follow-up work on EA, and (2) neural methods need to be positioned better to showcase their true potential, for which we provide multiple recommendations.

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