Condenser: a Pre-training Architecture for Dense Retrieval

EMNLP 2021  ·  Luyu Gao, Jamie Callan ·

Pre-trained Transformer language models (LM) have become go-to text representation encoders. Prior research fine-tunes deep LMs to encode text sequences such as sentences and passages into single dense vector representations for efficient text comparison and retrieval. However, dense encoders require a lot of data and sophisticated techniques to effectively train and suffer in low data situations. This paper finds a key reason is that standard LMs' internal attention structure is not ready-to-use for dense encoders, which needs to aggregate text information into the dense representation. We propose to pre-train towards dense encoder with a novel Transformer architecture, Condenser, where LM prediction CONditions on DENSE Representation. Our experiments show Condenser improves over standard LM by large margins on various text retrieval and similarity tasks.

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