APPLS: Evaluating Evaluation Metrics for Plain Language Summarization

23 May 2023  ·  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. PLS lacks a dedicated assessment metric, and the suitability of text generation evaluation metrics is unclear due to the unique transformations involved (e.g., adding background explanations, removing specialized terminology). To address these concerns, our study presents a granular meta-evaluation testbed, APPLS, designed to evaluate metrics for PLS. We define a set of perturbations along four criteria inspired by previous work that a PLS metric should capture: informativeness, simplification, coherence, and faithfulness. An analysis of metrics using our testbed reveals that current metrics fail to capture simplification consistently. In response, we introduce POMME, a new metric designed to assess text simplification in PLS; the metric is calculated as the normalized perplexity difference between an in-domain and out-of-domain language model. We demonstrate POMME's correlation with fine-grained variations in simplification and validate its sensitivity across 4 text simplification datasets. This work contributes the first meta-evaluation testbed for PLS and a comprehensive evaluation of existing metrics. The APPLS testbed and POMME is available at

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