SPRINT: A Unified Toolkit for Evaluating and Demystifying Zero-shot Neural Sparse Retrieval

PROCEEDINGS OF THE 46TH INTERNATIONAL ACM SIGIR CONFERENCE ON RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT IN INFORMATION RETRIEVAL, SIGIR 2023(2023)

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摘要
Traditionally, sparse retrieval systems relied on lexical representations to retrieve documents, such as BM25, dominated information retrieval tasks. With the onset of pre-trained transformer models such as BERT, neural sparse retrieval has led to a new paradigm within retrieval. Despite the success, there has been limited software supporting different sparse retrievers running in a unified, common environment. This hinders practitioners from fairly comparing different sparse models and obtaining realistic evaluation results. Another missing piece is, that a majority of prior work evaluates sparse retrieval models on in-domain retrieval, i.e. on a single dataset: MS MARCO. However, a key requirement in practical retrieval systems requires models that can generalize well to unseen out-of-domain, i.e. zero-shot retrieval tasks. In this work, we provide SPRINT, a unified python toolkit based on Pyserini and Lucene, supporting a common interface for evaluating neural sparse retrieval. The toolkit currently includes five built-in models: uniCOIL, DeepImpact, SPARTA, TILDEv2 and SPLADEv2. Users can also easily add customized models by defining their term weighting method. Using our toolkit, we establish strong and reproducible zero-shot sparse retrieval baselines across the well-acknowledged benchmark, BEIR. Our results demonstrate that SPLADEv2 achieves the best average score of 0.470 nDCG@10 on BEIR amongst all neural sparse retrievers. In this work, we further uncover the reasons behind its performance gain. We show that SPLADEv2 produces sparse representations with a majority of tokens outside of the original query and document which is often crucial for its performance gains, i.e. a limitation among its other sparse counterparts. We provide our SPRINT toolkit, models, and data used in our experiments publicly here: https://github.com/thakur-nandan/sprint.
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关键词
neural sparse retrieval,unified toolkit,zero-shot retrieval
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