Domain-matched Pre-training Tasks for Dense Retrieval

Pre-training on larger datasets with ever increasing model size is now a proven recipe for increased performance across almost all NLP tasks. A notable exception is information retrieval, where additional pre-training has so far failed to produce convincing results. We show that, with the right pre-training setup, this barrier can be overcome. We demonstrate this by pre-training large bi-encoder models on 1) a recently released set of 65 million synthetically generated questions, and 2) 200 million post-comment pairs from a preexisting dataset of Reddit conversations made available by We evaluate on a set of information retrieval and dialogue retrieval benchmarks, showing substantial improvements over supervised baselines.

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Results from the Paper

 Ranked #1 on Passage Retrieval on Natural Questions (using extra training data)

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Task Dataset Model Metric Name Metric Value Global Rank Uses Extra
Training Data
Result Benchmark
Passage Retrieval Natural Questions DPR-PAQ Precision@20 84.68 # 2
Precision@100 89.22 # 1


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