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What are the best Systems? New Perspectives on NLP Benchmarking

Pierre Colombo · Nathan Noiry · Ekhine Irurozki · Stephan Clémençon

Hall J (level 1) #519


In Machine Learning, a benchmark refers to an ensemble of datasets associated with one or multiple metrics together with a way to aggregate different systems performances. They are instrumental in {\it (i)} assessing the progress of new methods along different axes and {\it (ii)} selecting the best systems for practical use. This is particularly the case for NLP with the development of large pre-trained models (\textit{e.g.} GPT, BERT) that are expected to generalize well on a variety of tasks. While the community mainly focused on developing new datasets and metrics, there has been little interest in the aggregation procedure, which is often reduced to a simple average over various performance measures. However, this procedure can be problematic when the metrics are on a different scale, which may lead to spurious conclusions. This paper proposes a new procedure to rank systems based on their performance across different tasks. Motivated by the social choice theory, the final system ordering is obtained through aggregating the rankings induced by each task and is theoretically grounded. We conduct extensive numerical experiments (on over 270k scores) to assess the soundness of our approach both on synthetic and real scores (\textit{e.g.} GLUE, EXTREM, SEVAL, TAC, FLICKR). In particular, we show that our method yields different conclusions on state-of-the-art systems than the mean-aggregation procedure while being both more reliable and robust.

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