Data Selection for Language Models via Importance Resampling

Sang Michael Xie · Shibani Santurkar · Tengyu Ma · Percy Liang

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #429
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Thu 14 Dec 3 p.m. PST — 5 p.m. PST


Selecting a suitable pretraining dataset is crucial for both general-domain (e.g., GPT-3) and domain-specific (e.g., Codex) language models (LMs). We formalize this problem as selecting a subset of a large raw unlabeled dataset to match a desired target distribution given some unlabeled target samples. Due to the large scale and dimensionality of the raw text data, existing methods use simple heuristics or use experts to manually curate data. Instead, we extend the classic importance resampling approach used in low-dimensions for LM data selection. We propose Data Selection with Importance Resampling (DSIR), an efficient and scalable framework that estimates importance weights in a reduced feature space for tractability and selects data with importance resampling according to these weights. To determine an appropriate feature space, we show that KL reduction, a data metric that measures the proximity between selected pretraining data and the target in a feature space, has high correlation with average downstream accuracy (r=0.89) when computed with simple n-gram features. This motivates our instantiation of DSIR using n-gram features. When performing continued pretraining towards a specific domain, DSIR performs comparably to expert curation across 8 target distributions. When pretraining general-domain models (target is Wikipedia + books), DSIR improves over random selection and heuristic filtering baselines by 2-2.5% on the GLUE benchmark.

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