Rethinking the Event Coding Pipeline with Prompt Entailment

For monitoring crises, political events are extracted from the news. The large amount of unstructured full-text event descriptions makes a case-by-case analysis unmanageable, particularly for low-resource humanitarian aid organizations. This creates a demand to classify events into event types, a task referred to as event coding. Typically, domain experts craft an event type ontology, annotators label a large dataset and technical experts develop a supervised coding system. In this work, we propose PR-ENT, a new event coding approach that is more flexible and resource-efficient, while maintaining competitive accuracy: first, we extend an event description such as "Military injured two civilians'' by a template, e.g. "People were [Z]" and prompt a pre-trained (cloze) language model to fill the slot Z. Second, we select answer candidates Z* = {"injured'', "hurt"...} by treating the event description as premise and the filled templates as hypothesis in a textual entailment task. This allows domain experts to draft the codebook directly as labeled prompts and interpretable answer candidates. This human-in-the-loop process is guided by our interactive codebook design tool. We evaluate PR-ENT in several robustness checks: perturbing the event description and prompt template, restricting the vocabulary and removing contextual information.

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