Data Selection for Language Models via Importance Resampling

Sang Michael Xie, Shibani Santurkar,Tengyu Ma大牛学者,Percy Liang大牛学者


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Selecting a suitable training dataset is crucial for both general-domain (e.g., GPT-3) and domain-specific (e.g., Codex) language models (LMs). We formalize this data selection 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 to select data that are similar to a high-quality reference corpus (e.g., Wikipedia), or leverage experts to manually curate data. Instead, we extend the classic importance resampling approach used in low-dimensions for LM data selection. Crucially, we work in a reduced feature space to make importance weight estimation tractable over the space of text. To determine an appropriate feature space, we first show that KL reduction, a data metric that measures the proximity between selected data and the target in a feature space, has high correlation with average accuracy on 8 downstream tasks (r=0.89) when computed with simple n-gram features. From this observation, we present Data Selection with Importance Resampling (DSIR), an efficient and scalable algorithm that estimates importance weights in a reduced feature space (e.g., n-gram features in our instantiation) and selects data with importance resampling according to these weights. When training general-domain models (target is Wikipedia + books), DSIR improves over random selection and heuristic filtering baselines by 2--2.5% on the GLUE benchmark. When performing continued pretraining towards a specific domain, DSIR performs comparably to expert curated data across 8 target distributions.
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