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Scalable and Effective Generative Information Retrieval

Hansi ZengChen LuoBowen JinSheikh Muhammad Sarwar and Tianxin WeiHamed Zamani
Nov 2023
Recent research has shown that transformer networks can be used as differentiable search indexes by representing each document as a sequences of document ID tokens. These generative retrieval models cast the retrieval problem to a document ID generation problem for each given query. Despite their elegant design, existing generative retrieval models only perform well on artificially-constructed and small-scale collections. This has led to serious skepticism in the research community on their real-world impact. This paper represents an important milestone in generative retrieval research by showing, for the first time, that generative retrieval models can be trained to perform effectively on large-scale standard retrieval benchmarks. For doing so, we propose RIPOR- an optimization framework for generative retrieval that can be adopted by any encoder-decoder architecture. RIPOR is designed based on two often-overlooked fundamental design considerations in generative retrieval. First, given the sequential decoding nature of document ID generation, assigning accurate relevance scores to documents based on the whole document ID sequence is not sufficient. To address this issue, RIPOR introduces a novel prefix-oriented ranking optimization algorithm. Second, initial document IDs should be constructed based on relevance associations between queries and documents, instead of the syntactic and semantic information in the documents. RIPOR addresses this issue using a relevance-based document ID construction approach that quantizes relevance-based representations learned for documents. Evaluation on MSMARCO and TREC Deep Learning Track reveals that RIPOR surpasses state-of-the-art generative retrieval models by a large margin (e.g., 30.5% MRR improvements on MS MARCO Dev Set), and perform better on par with popular dense retrieval models.
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