Contextualized Sparse Representations for Real-Time Open-Domain Question Answering

Open-domain question answering can be formulated as a phrase retrieval problem, in which we can expect huge scalability and speed benefit but often suffer from low accuracy due to the limitation of existing phrase representation models. In this paper, we aim to improve the quality of each phrase embedding by augmenting it with a contextualized sparse representation (Sparc). Unlike previous sparse vectors that are term-frequency-based (e.g., tf-idf) or directly learned (only few thousand dimensions), we leverage rectified self-attention to indirectly learn sparse vectors in n-gram vocabulary space. By augmenting the previous phrase retrieval model (Seo et al., 2019) with Sparc, we show 4%+ improvement in CuratedTREC and SQuAD-Open. Our CuratedTREC score is even better than the best known retrieve & read model with at least 45x faster inference speed.

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