He He (New York University) “What We Talk about When We Talk about Spurious Correlations in NLP” @ Hackerman Hall B17
Oct 14 @ 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm


Model robustness and spurious correlations have received increasing attention in the NLP community, both in methods and evaluation. The term “spurious correlation” is overloaded though and can refer to any undesirable shortcuts learned by the model, as judged by domain experts.

When designing mitigation algorithms, we often (implicitly) assume that a spurious feature is irrelevant for prediction. However, many features in NLP (e.g. word overlap and negation) are not spurious in the sense that the background is spurious for classifying objects in an image. In contrast, they carry important information that’s needed to make predictions by humans. In this talk, we argue that it is more productive to characterize features in terms of their necessity and sufficiency for prediction. We then discuss the implications of this categorization in representation, learning, and evaluation.


He He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and the Center for Data Science at New York University. She obtained her PhD in Computer Science at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining NYU, she spent a year at AWS AI and was a post-doc at Stanford University before that. She is interested in building robust and trustworthy NLP systems in human-centered settings. Her recent research focus includes robust language understanding, collaborative text generation, and understanding capabilities and issues of large language models.

Fei Sha (University of Southern California) “Extracting Information from Text into Memory for Knowledge-Intensive Tasks” @ Hackerman Hall B17
Oct 24 @ 12:00 pm – 1:15 pm


Modern learning architectures for natural language processing have been very successful in incorporating a huge amount of texts into their parameters. However, by and large, such models store and use knowledge in distributed and decentralized ways. This proves unreliable and makes the models ill-suited for knowledge-intensive tasks that require reasoning over factual information in linguistic expressions.  In this talk, I will give a few examples of exploring alternative architectures to tackle those challenges. In particular, we can improve the performance of such (language) models by representing, storing and accessing knowledge in a dedicated memory component.

This talk is based on several joint works with Yury Zemlyanskiy (Google Research), Michiel de Jong (USC and Google Research), William Cohen (Google Research and CMU) and our other collaborators in Google Research.


Fei is a research scientist at Google Research. Before that, he was a Professor of Computer Science at University of Southern California. His primary research interests are machine learning and its application to various AI problems: speech and language processing, computer vision, robotics and recently weather forecast and climate modeling.   He has a PhD (2007) from Computer and Information Science from U. of Pennsylvania and B.Sc and M.Sc in Biomedical Engineering from Southeast University (Nanjing, China).

Center for Language and Speech Processing