Inexpensive Domain Adaptation of Pretrained Language Models: Case Studies on Biomedical NER and Covid-19 QA

Domain adaptation of Pretrained Language Models (PTLMs) is typically achieved by unsupervised pretraining on target-domain text. While successful, this approach is expensive in terms of hardware, runtime and CO_2 emissions. Here, we propose a cheaper alternative: We train Word2Vec on target-domain text and align the resulting word vectors with the wordpiece vectors of a general-domain PTLM. We evaluate on eight biomedical Named Entity Recognition (NER) tasks and compare against the recently proposed BioBERT model. We cover over 60% of the BioBERT-BERT F1 delta, at 5% of BioBERT's CO_2 footprint and 2% of its cloud compute cost. We also show how to quickly adapt an existing general-domain Question Answering (QA) model to an emerging domain: the Covid-19 pandemic.

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