Transfer learning for biomedical named entity recognition with neural networks

Transfer learning for biomedical named entity recognition with neural networks Abstract Motivation The explosive increase of biomedical literature has made information extraction an increasingly important tool for biomedical research. A fundamental task is the recognition of biomedical named entities in text (BNER) such as genes/proteins, diseases and species. Recently, a domain-independent method based on deep learning and statistical word embeddings, called long short-term memory network-conditional random field (LSTM-CRF), has been shown to outperform state-of-the-art entity-specific BNER tools. However, this method is dependent on gold-standard corpora (GSCs) consisting of hand-labeled entities, which tend to be small but highly reliable. An alternative to GSCs are silver-standard corpora (SSCs), which are generated by harmonizing the annotations made by several automatic annotation systems. SSCs typically contain more noise than GSCs but have the advantage of containing many more training examples. Ideally, these corpora could be combined to achieve the benefits of both, which is an opportunity for transfer learning. In this work, we analyze to what extent transfer learning improves upon state-of-the-art results for BNER. Results We demonstrate that transferring a deep neural network (DNN) trained on a large, noisy SSC to a smaller, but more reliable GSC significantly improves upon state-of-the-art results for BNER. Compared to a state-of-the-art baseline evaluated on 23 GSCs covering four different entity classes, transfer learning results in an average reduction in error of approximately 11%. We found transfer learning to be especially beneficial for target datasets with a small number of labels (approximately 6000 or less). Availability and implementation Source code for the LSTM-CRF is available at https://github.com/Franck-Dernoncourt/NeuroNER/ and links to the corpora are available at https://github.com/BaderLab/Transfer-Learning-BNER-Bioinformatics-2018/. Supplementary information Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online. 1 Introduction The large quantity of biological information deposited in literature every day leads to information overload for biomedical researchers. In 2016 alone, there were 869 666 citations indexed in MEDLINE (https://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/index_stats_comp.html), which is greater than one paper per minute. Ideally, efficient, accurate text-mining and information extraction tools and methods could be used to help unlock structured information from this growing amount of raw text for use in computational data analysis. Text-mining has already proven useful for many types of large-scale biomedical data analysis, such as network biology (Al-Aamri et al., 2017; Zhou et al., 2014), gene prioritization (Aerts et al., 2006), drug repositioning (Rastegar-Mojarad et al., 2015; Wang and Zhang, 2013) and the creation of curated databases (Li et al., 2015). A fundamental task in biomedical information extraction is the recognition of biomedical named entities in text (biomedical named entity recognition, BNER) such as genes and gene products, diseases and species. Biomedical named entities have several characteristics that make their recognition in text particularly challenging (Campos et al., 2012), including the sharing of head nouns (e.g. ‘91 and 84 kDa proteins’ refers to ‘91 kDa protein’ and ‘84 kDa protein’), several spelling forms per entity (e.g. ‘N-acetylcysteine’, ‘N-acetyl-cysteine’ and ‘NAcetylCysteine’) and ambiguous abbreviations (e.g. ‘TCF’ may refer to ‘T cell factor’ or to ‘Tissue Culture Fluid’). Until recently, state-of-the-art BNER tools have relied on hand-crafted features to capture the characteristics of different entity classes. This process of feature engineering, i.e. finding the set of features that best helps discern entities of a specific type from other tokens (or other entity classes), incurs extensive trial-and-error experiments. On top of this costly process, high-quality BNER tools typically employ entity-specific modules, such as whitelist and blacklist dictionaries, which are difficult to build and maintain. Defining these steps currently takes the majority of time and cost when developing BNER tools (Leser and Hakenberg, 2005) and leads to highly specialized solutions that cannot be ported to domains (or even entity types) other than the ones they were designed for. Very recently, however, a domain-independent method based on deep learning and statistical word embeddings, called long short-term memory network-conditional random field (LSTM-CRF), has been shown to outperform state-of-the-art entity-specific BNER tools (Habibi et al., 2017). However, supervised, deep neural network (DNN) based approaches to BNER depend on large amounts of high quality, manually annotated data in the form of gold standard corpora (GSCs). The creation of a GSC is laborious: annotation guidelines must be established, domain experts must be trained, the annotation process is time-consuming and annotation disagreements must be resolved. As a consequence, GSCs in the biomedical domain tend to be small and focus on specific subdomains. Silver-standard corpora (SSCs) represent an alternative that tend to be much larger, but of lower quality. SSCs are generated by using multiple, existing named entity taggers to annotate a large, unlabeled corpus. The heterogeneous results are automatically integrated, yielding a consensus-based, machine-generated ground truth. Compared to the generation of GSCs, this procedure is inexpensive, fast and results in very large training datasets. The Collaborative Annotation of a Large Biomedical Corpus (CALBC) project sought to replace GSCs with SSCs, which would be much larger, more broadly scoped and more diversely annotated (Rebholz-Schuhmann et al., 2010). However, Chowdhury and Lavelli (2011) found that a gene name recognition system trained on an initial version of the CALBC SSC performed worse than when trained on a BioCreative GSC. While SSCs have not proven to be viable replacements for GSCs, at least for the task of BNER, they do have the advantage of containing many more training examples (often in excess of 100 times more). This presents a unique transfer learning opportunity. Transfer learning aims to perform a task on a ‘target’ dataset using knowledge learned from a ‘source’ dataset (Li, 2012; Pan and Yang, 2010; Weiss et al., 2016). For DNNs, transfer learning is typically implemented by using some or all of the learned parameters of a DNN pre-trained on a source dataset to initialize training for a second DNN to be trained on a target dataset. Ideally, transfer learning improves generalization of the model, reduces training times on the target dataset, and reduces the amount of labeled data needed to obtain high performance. The idea has been successfully applied to many fields, such as speech recognition (Wang and Zheng, 2015), finance (Stamate et al., 2015) and computer vision (Oquab et al., 2014; Yosinski et al., 2014; Zeiler and Fergus, 2013). Despite its popularity, few studies have been performed on transfer learning for DNN-based models in the field of natural language processing (NLP). For example, Mou et al. (2016) focused on transfer learning with convolutional neural networks (CNN) for sentence classification. To the best of our knowledge, there exists only one study which has analyzed transfer learning for DNN-based models in the context of NER (Lee et al., 2017), and no study which has analyzed transfer learning for DNN-based approaches to BNER. In this work, we analyze to what extent transfer learning on a source SSC to a target GSC improves performance on GSCs covering four different biomedical entity classes: chemicals, diseases, species and genes/proteins. We also identify the nature of these improvements and the scenarios where transfer learning offers the biggest advantages. The primary motivation for transfer learning from a SSC to a GSC is that we are able to expose the DNN to a large number of training examples (from the SSC) while minimizing the impact of noise in the SSC on model performance by also training on the GSC. 2 Materials and methods The following sections present a technical explanation of the DNN architecture used in this study and in prior work (Habibi et al., 2017). We first briefly describe LSTM, a specific kind of DNN, and then discuss the architecture of the hybrid LSTM-CRF model. We also describe the corpora used for evaluation and details regarding text pre-processing and evaluation metrics. 2.1 LSTM-CRF Recurrent neural networks (RNNs) are popular for sequence labeling tasks, due to their ability to use previous information in a sequence for processing of current input. Although RNNs can, in theory, learn long-range dependencies, they fail to do so in practice and tend to be biased towards their most recent inputs in the sequence (Bengio et al., 1994). An LSTM is a specific RNN architecture which mitigates this issue by keeping a memory cell that serves as a summary of the preceding elements of an input sequence and is able to model dependencies between sequence elements even if they are far apart (Hochreiter and Schmidhuber, 1997). The input to an LSTM unit is a sequence of vectors x1,x2,...,xT of length T, for which it produces an output sequence of vectors h1,h2,...hT of equal length by applying a non-linear transformation learned during the training phase. Each ht is called the activation of the LSTM at token t, where a token is an instance of a sequence of characters in a document that are grouped together as a useful semantic unit for processing. The formula to compute one activation of an LSTM unit in the LSTM-CRF model is provided below (Lample et al., 2016): it=σ(Wxixt+Whiht−1+Wcict−1+bi)ct=(1−it)⊙ct−1+it⊙tanh(Wxcxt+Whcht−1+bc)ot=σ(Wxoxt+Whoht−1+Wcoct+bo)ht=ot⊙tanh(ct) where all Ws and bs are trainable parameters, σ(·) and tanh(·) denote the element-wise sigmoid and hyperbolic tangent activation functions, and ⊙ is the element-wise product. Such an LSTM-layer processes the input in one direction and thus can only encode dependencies on elements that came earlier in the sequence. As a remedy for this problem, another LSTM-layer which processes input in the reverse direction is commonly used, which allows detecting dependencies on elements later in the text. The resulting DNN is called a bi-directional LSTM (Graves and Schmidhuber, 2005). The representation of a word using this model is obtained by concatenating its left and right context representations, ht=[ht⃗;ht⃖] ⁠. These representations effectively encode a representation of a word in context. Finally, a sequential conditional random field (Lafferty et al., 2001) receives as input the scores output by the bi-directional LSTM to jointly model tagging decisions. LSTM-CRF (Lample et al., 2016) is a domain-independent NER method which does not rely on any language-specific knowledge or resources, such as dictionaries. In this study, we used NeuroNER (Dernoncourt et al., 2017b), a named entity recognizer based on a bi-directional LSTM-CRF architecture. The major components of the LSTM-CRF model for sequence tagging are described below: Token embedding layer maps each token in the input sequence to a token embedding. Character embedding layer maps each character in the input sequence to a character embedding. Character Bi-LSTM layer takes as input character embeddings and outputs a single, character-level representation vector that summarizes the information from the sequence of characters in the corresponding token. Token Bi-LSTM layer takes as input a sequence of character-enhanced token vectors, which are formed by concatenating the outputs of the token embedding layer and the character Bi-LSTM layer. Label prediction layer using a fully-connected neural network, maps the output from the token Bi-LSTM layer to a sequence of vectors containing the probability of each label for each corresponding token. Label sequence optimization layer using a CRF, outputs the most likely sequence of predicted labels based on the sequence of probability vectors from the previous layer.Figure 1 illustrates the DNN architecture. All layers of the network are learned jointly. A detailed description of the architecture is explained in Dernoncourt et al. (2017a). Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Architecture of the hybrid long short-term memory network-conditional random field (LSTM-CRF) model for named entity recognition (NER). Here, xi is the i-th token in the input sequence, xij is the j-th character of the i-th token, ℓ(i) is the number of characters in the i-th token and ei is the character-enhanced token embedding of the i-th token. For transfer learning experiments, we train the parameters of the model on a source dataset, and transfer all of the parameters to initialize the model for training on a target dataset Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Architecture of the hybrid long short-term memory network-conditional random field (LSTM-CRF) model for named entity recognition (NER). Here, xi is the i-th token in the input sequence, xij is the j-th character of the i-th token, ℓ(i) is the number of characters in the i-th token and ei is the character-enhanced token embedding of the i-th token. For transfer learning experiments, we train the parameters of the model on a source dataset, and transfer all of the parameters to initialize the model for training on a target dataset 2.1.1 Training The network was trained using the back-propagation algorithm to update the parameters on every training example, one at a time, using stochastic gradient descent. For regularization, dropout was applied before the token Bi-LSTM layer, and early stopping was used on the validation set with a patience of 10 epochs, i.e. the model stopped training if performance did not improve on the validation set for 10 consecutive epochs. While training on the source datasets, the learning rate was set to 0.0005, gradient clipping to 5.0 and the dropout rate to 0.8. These hyperparameters were chosen to discourage convergence of the network on the source dataset, such that further learning could occur on the target dataset. While training on the target datasets, the learning rate was increased to 0.005, and the dropout rate lowered to 0.5. These are the default hyperparameters of NeuroNER and give good performance on most NER tasks. Additionally, Lample et al. (2016) showed a dropout rate of 0.5 to be optimal for the task of NER. 2.2 Gold standard corpora We performed our evaluations on four entity types: chemicals, diseases, species and genes/proteins. We used 23 datasets (i.e. GSCs), each containing hand-labeled annotations for one of these entity types, such as the ‘CDR’ corpus for chemicals (Li et al., 2016), ‘NCBI Disease’ for disease names (Doğan et al., 2014), ‘S800’ for species (Pafilis et al., 2013) and ‘DECA’ for genes/proteins (Wang et al., 2010). Table 1 lists all corpora and their characteristics, like the number of sentences, tokens and annotated entities per entity class (measured after text pre-processing as described in Section 2.6). Table 1. Gold standard corpora (GSCs) used in this work Entity type Corpus Text genre Text type No. sentences No. tokens No. unique tokens No. annotations No. unique annotations Chemicals BioSemantics (Akhondi et al., 2014) Patent Full-text 163219 6608020 173193 386110 72782 CDR (Li et al., 2016) Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 15915 2623 CHEMDNER patent (Krallinger et al., 2015a,b) Patent Abstract 35679 1495524 60850 65685 20630 Diseases Arizona Disease (Leaman et al., 2009) Scientific Article Abstract 2804 74346 8133 3425 1266 CDR Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 12617 3113 miRNA (Bagewadi et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 2159 606 NCBI Disease (Doğan et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 7645 173283 12534 6881 2136 Variome (Verspoor et al., 2013) Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 5904 451 Species CellFinder (Neves et al., 2012) Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 479 42 Linneaus (Gerner et al., 2010) Scientific Article Full-text 19048 491253 33132 4259 419 LocText (Goldberg et al., 2015) Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 276 37 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 722 41 S800 (Pafilis et al., 2013) Scientific Article Abstract 8356 198091 19992 3708 1503 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 182 8 Genes/proteins BioCreative II GM (Smith et al., 2008) Scientific Article Abstract 20384 514146 49365 24596 15841 BioInfer (Pyysalo et al., 2007) Scientific Article Abstract 1147 34187 5200 4378 1041 CellFinder Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 1750 734 DECA (Wang et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 5492 139771 14053 6324 2127 FSU-PRGE (Hahn et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 35361 914717 453634 59489 27363 IEPA (Ding et al., 2001) Scientific Article Abstract 241 15365 2871 1110 130 LocText Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 1395 549 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 1058 370 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 4617 458 Entity type Corpus Text genre Text type No. sentences No. tokens No. unique tokens No. annotations No. unique annotations Chemicals BioSemantics (Akhondi et al., 2014) Patent Full-text 163219 6608020 173193 386110 72782 CDR (Li et al., 2016) Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 15915 2623 CHEMDNER patent (Krallinger et al., 2015a,b) Patent Abstract 35679 1495524 60850 65685 20630 Diseases Arizona Disease (Leaman et al., 2009) Scientific Article Abstract 2804 74346 8133 3425 1266 CDR Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 12617 3113 miRNA (Bagewadi et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 2159 606 NCBI Disease (Doğan et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 7645 173283 12534 6881 2136 Variome (Verspoor et al., 2013) Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 5904 451 Species CellFinder (Neves et al., 2012) Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 479 42 Linneaus (Gerner et al., 2010) Scientific Article Full-text 19048 491253 33132 4259 419 LocText (Goldberg et al., 2015) Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 276 37 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 722 41 S800 (Pafilis et al., 2013) Scientific Article Abstract 8356 198091 19992 3708 1503 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 182 8 Genes/proteins BioCreative II GM (Smith et al., 2008) Scientific Article Abstract 20384 514146 49365 24596 15841 BioInfer (Pyysalo et al., 2007) Scientific Article Abstract 1147 34187 5200 4378 1041 CellFinder Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 1750 734 DECA (Wang et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 5492 139771 14053 6324 2127 FSU-PRGE (Hahn et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 35361 914717 453634 59489 27363 IEPA (Ding et al., 2001) Scientific Article Abstract 241 15365 2871 1110 130 LocText Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 1395 549 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 1058 370 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 4617 458 Table 1. Gold standard corpora (GSCs) used in this work Entity type Corpus Text genre Text type No. sentences No. tokens No. unique tokens No. annotations No. unique annotations Chemicals BioSemantics (Akhondi et al., 2014) Patent Full-text 163219 6608020 173193 386110 72782 CDR (Li et al., 2016) Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 15915 2623 CHEMDNER patent (Krallinger et al., 2015a,b) Patent Abstract 35679 1495524 60850 65685 20630 Diseases Arizona Disease (Leaman et al., 2009) Scientific Article Abstract 2804 74346 8133 3425 1266 CDR Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 12617 3113 miRNA (Bagewadi et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 2159 606 NCBI Disease (Doğan et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 7645 173283 12534 6881 2136 Variome (Verspoor et al., 2013) Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 5904 451 Species CellFinder (Neves et al., 2012) Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 479 42 Linneaus (Gerner et al., 2010) Scientific Article Full-text 19048 491253 33132 4259 419 LocText (Goldberg et al., 2015) Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 276 37 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 722 41 S800 (Pafilis et al., 2013) Scientific Article Abstract 8356 198091 19992 3708 1503 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 182 8 Genes/proteins BioCreative II GM (Smith et al., 2008) Scientific Article Abstract 20384 514146 49365 24596 15841 BioInfer (Pyysalo et al., 2007) Scientific Article Abstract 1147 34187 5200 4378 1041 CellFinder Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 1750 734 DECA (Wang et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 5492 139771 14053 6324 2127 FSU-PRGE (Hahn et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 35361 914717 453634 59489 27363 IEPA (Ding et al., 2001) Scientific Article Abstract 241 15365 2871 1110 130 LocText Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 1395 549 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 1058 370 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 4617 458 Entity type Corpus Text genre Text type No. sentences No. tokens No. unique tokens No. annotations No. unique annotations Chemicals BioSemantics (Akhondi et al., 2014) Patent Full-text 163219 6608020 173193 386110 72782 CDR (Li et al., 2016) Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 15915 2623 CHEMDNER patent (Krallinger et al., 2015a,b) Patent Abstract 35679 1495524 60850 65685 20630 Diseases Arizona Disease (Leaman et al., 2009) Scientific Article Abstract 2804 74346 8133 3425 1266 CDR Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 12617 3113 miRNA (Bagewadi et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 2159 606 NCBI Disease (Doğan et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 7645 173283 12534 6881 2136 Variome (Verspoor et al., 2013) Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 5904 451 Species CellFinder (Neves et al., 2012) Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 479 42 Linneaus (Gerner et al., 2010) Scientific Article Full-text 19048 491253 33132 4259 419 LocText (Goldberg et al., 2015) Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 276 37 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 722 41 S800 (Pafilis et al., 2013) Scientific Article Abstract 8356 198091 19992 3708 1503 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 182 8 Genes/proteins BioCreative II GM (Smith et al., 2008) Scientific Article Abstract 20384 514146 49365 24596 15841 BioInfer (Pyysalo et al., 2007) Scientific Article Abstract 1147 34187 5200 4378 1041 CellFinder Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 1750 734 DECA (Wang et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 5492 139771 14053 6324 2127 FSU-PRGE (Hahn et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 35361 914717 453634 59489 27363 IEPA (Ding et al., 2001) Scientific Article Abstract 241 15365 2871 1110 130 LocText Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 1395 549 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 1058 370 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 4617 458 2.3 Silver standard corpora We collected 50 000 abstracts (from a total of 174 999) at random from the CALBC-SSC-III-Small corpus (Kafkas et al., 2012) for each of the four entity types it annotates: chemicals and drugs (CHED), diseases (DISO), living beings (LIVB) and genes/proteins (PRGE). These SSCs served as the source datasets for each transfer learning experiment we performed. For each SSC, any document that appeared in at least one of the GSCs annotated for the same entity type was excluded to avoid possible circularity in performance testing (e.g. if a document with PubMed ID 130845 was found in a GSC annotated for genes/proteins, it was excluded from the PRGE SSC). In an effort to reduce noise in the SSCs, a selection of entities present but not annotated in any of the GSCs of the same entity type were removed from the SSCs. For example, certain text spans such as ‘genes’, ‘proteins’ and ‘animals’ are annotated in the SSCs but not annotated in any of the GSCs of the same entity type, and so were removed from the SSCs (see Supplementary Material). 2.4 Word embeddings We utilized statistical word embedding techniques to capture functional (i.e. semantic and syntactic) similarity of words based on their surrounding words. Word embeddings are pre-trained using large unlabeled datasets typically based on token co-occurrences (Collobert et al., 2011; Mikolov et al., 2013; Pennington et al., 2014). The learned vectors, or word embeddings, encode many linguistic regularities and patterns, some of which can be represented as linear translations. In the canonical example, the resulting vector for vec(‘king’) – vec(‘man’) + vec(‘woman’) is closest to the vector associated with ‘queen’, i.e. vec(‘queen’). We used the Wiki-PubMed-PMC model, trained on a combination of PubMed abstracts (nearly 23 million abstracts) and PubMedCentral (PMC) articles (nearly 700 000 full-text articles) plus approximately four million English Wikipedia articles, and therefore mixes domain-specific texts with domain-independent ones. The model was created by Pyysalo et al. (2013) using Google’s word2vec (Mikolov et al., 2013). We chose this model to be consistent with Habibi et al. (2017), who showed it to be optimal for the task of BNER and who we compare to. 2.5 Character embeddings The token-based word embeddings introduced above effectively capture distributional similarities of words (where does the word tend to occur in a corpus?) but are less effective at capturing orthographic similarities (what does the word look like?). In addition, token-based word embeddings cannot account for out-of-vocabulary tokens and misspellings. Character-based word representation models (Ling et al., 2015) offer a solution to these problems by using each individual character of a token to generate the token vector representation. Character-based word embeddings encode sub-token patterns such as morphemes (e.g. suffixes and prefixes), morphological inflections (e.g. number and tense) and other information not contained in the token-based word embeddings. The LSTM-CRF architecture used in this study combines character-based word representations with token-based word representations, allowing the model to learn distributional and orthographic features of words. Character embeddings are initialized randomly and learned jointly with the other parameters of the DNN. 2.6 Text pre-processing All corpora were first converted to the Brat standoff format (http://brat.nlplab.org/standoff.html). In this format, annotations are stored separately from the annotated document text. Thus, for each text document in the corpus, there is a corresponding annotation file. The two files are associated by the file naming convention that their base name (file name without suffix) is the same. All annotations follow the same basic structure: each line contains one annotation, and each annotation has an identifier that appears first on the line, separated from the rest of the annotation by a single tab character. 2.7 Evaluation metrics We randomly divided each GSC into three disjoint subsets. 60% of the samples were used for training, 10% as the development set for the training of methods and 30% for the final evaluation. We compared all methods in terms of precision, recall and F1-score on the test sets. Precision is computed as the percentage of predicted labels that are gold labels (i.e. labels that appear in the GSC), recall as the percentage of gold labels that are correctly predicted, and F1-score as the harmonic mean of precision and recall. A predicted label is considered correct if and only if it exactly matches a gold label. NeuroNER uses the conlleval script from the CoNLL-2000 shared task to compute all performance metrics (https://www.clips.uantwerpen.be/conll2000/chunking/output.html). For a single performance metric across all corpora, we compute the average percent reduction in error, which in our case is the average reduction in F1-score error due to transfer learning (TL) relative to the baseline: F1TL−F1baseline100−F1baseline*100 3 Results We assessed the effect of transfer learning on the performance of a state-of-the-art method for BNER (LSTM-CRF) on 23 different datasets covering four different types of biomedical entity classes. We applied transfer learning by training all parameters of the DNN on a source dataset (CALBC-SSC-III) for a particular entity type (e.g. genes/proteins) and used the same DNN to retrain on a target dataset (i.e. a GSC) of the same entity type. Results were compared to training the model only on the target dataset using the same word embeddings (baseline). 3.1 Quantifying the impact of transfer learning In this experiment, we determine whether transfer learning improves on state-of-the-art results for BNER. Table 2 compares the macro-averaged performance metrics of the model trained only on the target dataset (i.e. the baseline) against the model trained on the source dataset followed by the target dataset for 23 evaluation sets; exact precision, recall and F1-scores are given in Appendix A. Transfer learning improves the average F1-scores over the baseline for each of the four entity classes, leading to an average reduction in error of 11.28% across the GSCs. On corpora annotated for diseases, species and genes/proteins, transfer learning (on average) improved both precision and recall, leading to sizable improvements in F1-score. For corpora annotated for chemicals, transfer learning (on average) slightly increased recall at the cost of precision for a small increase in F1-score. More generally, transfer learning appears to be especially effective on corpora with a small number of labels. For example, transfer learning led to a 9.69% improvement in F1-score on the test set of the CellFinder corpus annotated for genes/proteins—the eighth smallest corpus overall by number of labels. Conversely, the only GSC for which transfer learning worsened the performance compared to the baseline was the BioSemantics corpora, the largest GSC used in this study. Table 2. Macro-averaged performance values in terms of precision, recall and F1-score for baseline (B) and transfer learning (TL) over the corpora per each entity type Precision (%) Recall (%) F1-score (%) B TL B TL B TL Chemicals 87.10 87.05 89.19 89.47 88.08 88.21 Diseases 80.41 81.41 81.13 82.46 80.73 82.09 Species 84.18 84.52 84.44 90.12 84.20 87.01 Genes/proteins 82.09 83.38 80.85 83.08 81.20 83.09 Precision (%) Recall (%) F1-score (%) B TL B TL B TL Chemicals 87.10 87.05 89.19 89.47 88.08 88.21 Diseases 80.41 81.41 81.13 82.46 80.73 82.09 Species 84.18 84.52 84.44 90.12 84.20 87.01 Genes/proteins 82.09 83.38 80.85 83.08 81.20 83.09 Note: Baseline values are derived from training on the target dataset only, while transfer learning values are derived by training on the source dataset followed by training on the target dataset. The macro average is computed by averaging the performance scores obtained by the classifiers for each corpus of a given entity class. Bold: best scores. Table 2. Macro-averaged performance values in terms of precision, recall and F1-score for baseline (B) and transfer learning (TL) over the corpora per each entity type Precision (%) Recall (%) F1-score (%) B TL B TL B TL Chemicals 87.10 87.05 89.19 89.47 88.08 88.21 Diseases 80.41 81.41 81.13 82.46 80.73 82.09 Species 84.18 84.52 84.44 90.12 84.20 87.01 Genes/proteins 82.09 83.38 80.85 83.08 81.20 83.09 Precision (%) Recall (%) F1-score (%) B TL B TL B TL Chemicals 87.10 87.05 89.19 89.47 88.08 88.21 Diseases 80.41 81.41 81.13 82.46 80.73 82.09 Species 84.18 84.52 84.44 90.12 84.20 87.01 Genes/proteins 82.09 83.38 80.85 83.08 81.20 83.09 Note: Baseline values are derived from training on the target dataset only, while transfer learning values are derived by training on the source dataset followed by training on the target dataset. The macro average is computed by averaging the performance scores obtained by the classifiers for each corpus of a given entity class. Bold: best scores. 3.2 Learning curve for select evaluation sets Figure 2 compares learning curves for the baseline model against the model trained with transfer learning on select GSCs, one for each entity class. The number of training examples used as the target training set is reported as a percent of the overall GSC size (e.g. for a GSC of 100 documents, a target train set size of 60% corresponds to 60 documents). The performance improvement due to transfer learning is especially pronounced when a small number of labels are used as the target training set. For example, on the miRNA corpus annotated for diseases, performing transfer learning and using 10% of examples as the train set leads to similar performance as using approximately 28% of examples as the train set when not using transfer learning. The performance gains from transfer learning diminish as the number of training examples used for the target training set increases. These results suggest that transfer learning is especially beneficial for datasets with a small number of labels. Figure 3 more precisely captures this trend. Large improvements in F1-score are observed for corpora with up to approximately 6000 total annotations, with improvement quickly tailing off afterward. Indeed, all corpora for which transfer learning led to a statistically significant (⁠ p≤0.05 ⁠) improvement in F1-score have 6000 annotations or less (see Appendix A). Therefore, it appears that the expected performance improvements derived from transfer learning are largest when the number of annotations in the target dataset is approximately 6000 or less. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide Impact of transfer learning on the F1-scores. Baseline corresponds to training the model only with the target dataset, and transfer learning corresponds to training on the source dataset followed by training on the target dataset. The number of training examples used in the target training set is reported as a percent of the overall GSC size (e.g. for a GSC of 100 documents, a target train set size of 60% corresponds to 60 documents). Error bars represent the standard deviation (SD) for n = 3 trials. If an error bar is not shown, it was smaller than the size of the data point symbol. (a-d) Impact of transfer learning on the F1-scores of four select copora Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide Impact of transfer learning on the F1-scores. Baseline corresponds to training the model only with the target dataset, and transfer learning corresponds to training on the source dataset followed by training on the target dataset. The number of training examples used in the target training set is reported as a percent of the overall GSC size (e.g. for a GSC of 100 documents, a target train set size of 60% corresponds to 60 documents). Error bars represent the standard deviation (SD) for n = 3 trials. If an error bar is not shown, it was smaller than the size of the data point symbol. (a-d) Impact of transfer learning on the F1-scores of four select copora Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Box plots representing absolute F1-score improvement over the baseline after transfer learning, grouped by the total number of annotations in the target gold-standard corpora (GSCs). Bin boundaries were generated using the R package binr (Izrailev, 2015). Scores for individual GSCs are plotted, where point shapes indicate statistical significance (⁠ P≤0.05 ⁠) Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Box plots representing absolute F1-score improvement over the baseline after transfer learning, grouped by the total number of annotations in the target gold-standard corpora (GSCs). Bin boundaries were generated using the R package binr (Izrailev, 2015). Scores for individual GSCs are plotted, where point shapes indicate statistical significance (⁠ P≤0.05 ⁠) 3.3 Error analysis We compared the errors made by the baseline and transfer learning classifiers by computing intersections of true-positives (TPs), false-negatives (FNs) and false-positives (FPs) per entity type (Fig. 4). In general, there is broad agreement for baseline and transfer learning classifiers, especially for TPs, with different strengths per entity type. For diseases, transfer learning has a negligible impact on the number of TPs and FNs but leads to a sizable decrease in the number of FPs, thereby increasing precision. For species and genes/proteins, transfer learning decreases the number of FNs but increases the number of FPs and TPs—trading precision for recall. Interestingly, the pattern of TPs, FPs and FNs for chemical entities appears to disagree with the pattern in performance metrics observed at the macro-level (Table 2). However, because the decrease in FPs and TPs is roughly equal in magnitude to the increase in FNs, the net effect is the nearly identical performance metrics of the baseline and transfer learning method for chemical entities that we observe at the macro-level. Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide Venn diagrams demonstrating the area of overlap among the true-positive (TP), false-negative (FN) and false-positive (FP) sets of the baseline (B) and transfer learning (TL) methods per entity class Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide Venn diagrams demonstrating the area of overlap among the true-positive (TP), false-negative (FN) and false-positive (FP) sets of the baseline (B) and transfer learning (TL) methods per entity class 4 Discussion In this study, we demonstrated that transfer learning from large SSCs (source) to smaller GSCs (target) improves performance over training solely on the GSCs for BNER. This is the first study of the effect of transfer learning for BNER. On average, transfer learning leads to improvements in F1-score over a state-of-the-art baseline, especially for smaller GSCs, though the nature and degree of these improvements vary per entity type (Table 2). The effect of transfer learning is most pronounced when the target train set size is small, with improvements diminishing as the training set size grows (Fig. 2). Significant improvements in performance were observed only for corpora with 6000 total annotations or less (Fig. 3). We conclude that the representations learned from the source dataset are effectively transferred and exploited for the target dataset; when transfer learning is adopted, fewer annotations are needed to achieve the same level of performance as when the source dataset is not used. Thus, our results suggest that researchers and text-mining practitioners can make use of transfer learning to reduce the number of hand-labeled annotations necessary to obtain high performance for BNER. We also suggest that transfer learning is likely to be a valuable tool for existing GSCs with a small number of labels. Transfer learning had little impact on performance for chemical GSCs. This is likely explained by the much larger size of these corpora, which have a median number of annotations ten times that of the next largest set of corpora (diseases). We suspect that relatively large corpora contain enough training examples for the model to generalize well, in which case we would not expect transfer learning to improve model performance. Indeed, the largest corpora in our study, the BioSemantics corpora (annotated for chemical entities), was the only corpora for which transfer learning worsened performance over the baseline. With 386 110 total annotations (almost double the sum total of annotations in the remaining 22 GSCs) the BioSemantics corpus is an extreme outlier. To create such a large GSC, documents were first pre-annotated and made available to four independent annotator groups each consisting of two to ten annotators (Akhondi et al., 2014). This is a much larger annotation effort than usual and is not realistic for the creation of typical GSCs in most contexts. Another possibility is that chemical entities are easier to identify in text. BNER has recently made substantial advances in performance with the application of deep learning (Habibi et al., 2017). We show that transfer learning is a valuable addition to this method. However, there are opportunities to further optimize this approach, for instance, by determining the optimal size of the source dataset, developing robust methods of filtering noise from the source dataset, and extensive hyperparameter tuning (Reimers and Gurevych, 2017; Young et al., 2015). 4.1 Related work Lee et al. (2017) performed a similar set of experiments, transferring an LSTM-CRF based NER model from a large labeled dataset to a smaller dataset for the task of de-identification of protected health information (PHI) from electronic health records (EHR). It was demonstrated that transfer learning improves the performance over state-of-the-art results, and may be especially beneficial for a target dataset with a small number of labels. Our results confirm these findings in the context of BNER. The study also explored the importance of each layer of the DNN in transfer learning. They found that transferring a few lower layers is almost as efficient as transferring all layers, which supports the common hypothesis that higher layers of DNN architectures contain the parameters that are more specific to the task and dataset used for training. We performed a similar experiment (see Supplementary Fig. S1) with similar results. A recent study has sought to adopt multi-task learning for the task of BNER (Crichton et al., 2017). While transfer learning and multi-task learning are different, they are both forms of inductive transfer that are often employed for similar reasons. At a high-level, multi-task learning (Caruana, 1993) is a machine learning method in which multiple learning tasks are solved at the same time. This is in contrast to transfer learning, where we typically transfer some knowledge learned from one task or domain to another. In the classification context, multi-task learning is used to improve the performance of multiple classification tasks by learning them jointly. The idea is that by sharing representations between tasks, we can exploit commonalities, leading to improved learning efficiency and prediction accuracy for the task-specific models, when compared to training the models separately (Baxter et al., 2000; Caruana, 1998; Thrun, 1996). Crichton et al. (2017) demonstrated that a neural network multi-task model outperforms a comparable single-task model, on average, for the task of BNER. Perhaps most interestingly, it was found that the performance improvements due to multi-task learning diminish as the size of the datasets grows—something we found to be true of transfer learning as well. Together, our results suggest that there is promise in the idea of sharing information between tasks and between datasets for biomedical text-mining, and may help overcome the limitations of training DNNs on small biomedical GSCs. Future work could evaluate the combination of multi-task and transfer learning to see if they are complementary and can further improve performance. 5 Conclusion In this work, we have studied transfer learning with DNNs for BNER (specifically LSTM-CRF) by transferring parameters learned on large, noisy SSC for fine-tuning on smaller, but more reliable GSC. We demonstrated that compared to a state-of-the-art baseline evaluated on 23 GSCs, transfer learning results in an average reduction in error of approximately 11%. The largest performance improvements were observed for GSCs with a small number of labels (on the order of 6000 or less). Our results suggest that researchers and text-mining practitioners can make use of transfer learning to reduce the number of hand-labeled annotations necessary to obtain high performance for BNER. We also suggest that transfer learning is likely to be a valuable tool for existing GSC with a small number of labels. We hope this study will increase interest in the development of large, broadly-scoped SSCs for the training of supervised biomedical information extraction methods. Acknowledgements We acknowledge the creators of the various corpora used in this study. We gratefully acknowledge the support of NVIDIA Corporation with the donation of the Titan Xp GPU used for this research. 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This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Bioinformatics Oxford University Press

Transfer learning for biomedical named entity recognition with neural networks

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Oxford University Press
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© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press.
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1367-4803
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1460-2059
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10.1093/bioinformatics/bty449
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Abstract

Abstract Motivation The explosive increase of biomedical literature has made information extraction an increasingly important tool for biomedical research. A fundamental task is the recognition of biomedical named entities in text (BNER) such as genes/proteins, diseases and species. Recently, a domain-independent method based on deep learning and statistical word embeddings, called long short-term memory network-conditional random field (LSTM-CRF), has been shown to outperform state-of-the-art entity-specific BNER tools. However, this method is dependent on gold-standard corpora (GSCs) consisting of hand-labeled entities, which tend to be small but highly reliable. An alternative to GSCs are silver-standard corpora (SSCs), which are generated by harmonizing the annotations made by several automatic annotation systems. SSCs typically contain more noise than GSCs but have the advantage of containing many more training examples. Ideally, these corpora could be combined to achieve the benefits of both, which is an opportunity for transfer learning. In this work, we analyze to what extent transfer learning improves upon state-of-the-art results for BNER. Results We demonstrate that transferring a deep neural network (DNN) trained on a large, noisy SSC to a smaller, but more reliable GSC significantly improves upon state-of-the-art results for BNER. Compared to a state-of-the-art baseline evaluated on 23 GSCs covering four different entity classes, transfer learning results in an average reduction in error of approximately 11%. We found transfer learning to be especially beneficial for target datasets with a small number of labels (approximately 6000 or less). Availability and implementation Source code for the LSTM-CRF is available at https://github.com/Franck-Dernoncourt/NeuroNER/ and links to the corpora are available at https://github.com/BaderLab/Transfer-Learning-BNER-Bioinformatics-2018/. Supplementary information Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online. 1 Introduction The large quantity of biological information deposited in literature every day leads to information overload for biomedical researchers. In 2016 alone, there were 869 666 citations indexed in MEDLINE (https://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/index_stats_comp.html), which is greater than one paper per minute. Ideally, efficient, accurate text-mining and information extraction tools and methods could be used to help unlock structured information from this growing amount of raw text for use in computational data analysis. Text-mining has already proven useful for many types of large-scale biomedical data analysis, such as network biology (Al-Aamri et al., 2017; Zhou et al., 2014), gene prioritization (Aerts et al., 2006), drug repositioning (Rastegar-Mojarad et al., 2015; Wang and Zhang, 2013) and the creation of curated databases (Li et al., 2015). A fundamental task in biomedical information extraction is the recognition of biomedical named entities in text (biomedical named entity recognition, BNER) such as genes and gene products, diseases and species. Biomedical named entities have several characteristics that make their recognition in text particularly challenging (Campos et al., 2012), including the sharing of head nouns (e.g. ‘91 and 84 kDa proteins’ refers to ‘91 kDa protein’ and ‘84 kDa protein’), several spelling forms per entity (e.g. ‘N-acetylcysteine’, ‘N-acetyl-cysteine’ and ‘NAcetylCysteine’) and ambiguous abbreviations (e.g. ‘TCF’ may refer to ‘T cell factor’ or to ‘Tissue Culture Fluid’). Until recently, state-of-the-art BNER tools have relied on hand-crafted features to capture the characteristics of different entity classes. This process of feature engineering, i.e. finding the set of features that best helps discern entities of a specific type from other tokens (or other entity classes), incurs extensive trial-and-error experiments. On top of this costly process, high-quality BNER tools typically employ entity-specific modules, such as whitelist and blacklist dictionaries, which are difficult to build and maintain. Defining these steps currently takes the majority of time and cost when developing BNER tools (Leser and Hakenberg, 2005) and leads to highly specialized solutions that cannot be ported to domains (or even entity types) other than the ones they were designed for. Very recently, however, a domain-independent method based on deep learning and statistical word embeddings, called long short-term memory network-conditional random field (LSTM-CRF), has been shown to outperform state-of-the-art entity-specific BNER tools (Habibi et al., 2017). However, supervised, deep neural network (DNN) based approaches to BNER depend on large amounts of high quality, manually annotated data in the form of gold standard corpora (GSCs). The creation of a GSC is laborious: annotation guidelines must be established, domain experts must be trained, the annotation process is time-consuming and annotation disagreements must be resolved. As a consequence, GSCs in the biomedical domain tend to be small and focus on specific subdomains. Silver-standard corpora (SSCs) represent an alternative that tend to be much larger, but of lower quality. SSCs are generated by using multiple, existing named entity taggers to annotate a large, unlabeled corpus. The heterogeneous results are automatically integrated, yielding a consensus-based, machine-generated ground truth. Compared to the generation of GSCs, this procedure is inexpensive, fast and results in very large training datasets. The Collaborative Annotation of a Large Biomedical Corpus (CALBC) project sought to replace GSCs with SSCs, which would be much larger, more broadly scoped and more diversely annotated (Rebholz-Schuhmann et al., 2010). However, Chowdhury and Lavelli (2011) found that a gene name recognition system trained on an initial version of the CALBC SSC performed worse than when trained on a BioCreative GSC. While SSCs have not proven to be viable replacements for GSCs, at least for the task of BNER, they do have the advantage of containing many more training examples (often in excess of 100 times more). This presents a unique transfer learning opportunity. Transfer learning aims to perform a task on a ‘target’ dataset using knowledge learned from a ‘source’ dataset (Li, 2012; Pan and Yang, 2010; Weiss et al., 2016). For DNNs, transfer learning is typically implemented by using some or all of the learned parameters of a DNN pre-trained on a source dataset to initialize training for a second DNN to be trained on a target dataset. Ideally, transfer learning improves generalization of the model, reduces training times on the target dataset, and reduces the amount of labeled data needed to obtain high performance. The idea has been successfully applied to many fields, such as speech recognition (Wang and Zheng, 2015), finance (Stamate et al., 2015) and computer vision (Oquab et al., 2014; Yosinski et al., 2014; Zeiler and Fergus, 2013). Despite its popularity, few studies have been performed on transfer learning for DNN-based models in the field of natural language processing (NLP). For example, Mou et al. (2016) focused on transfer learning with convolutional neural networks (CNN) for sentence classification. To the best of our knowledge, there exists only one study which has analyzed transfer learning for DNN-based models in the context of NER (Lee et al., 2017), and no study which has analyzed transfer learning for DNN-based approaches to BNER. In this work, we analyze to what extent transfer learning on a source SSC to a target GSC improves performance on GSCs covering four different biomedical entity classes: chemicals, diseases, species and genes/proteins. We also identify the nature of these improvements and the scenarios where transfer learning offers the biggest advantages. The primary motivation for transfer learning from a SSC to a GSC is that we are able to expose the DNN to a large number of training examples (from the SSC) while minimizing the impact of noise in the SSC on model performance by also training on the GSC. 2 Materials and methods The following sections present a technical explanation of the DNN architecture used in this study and in prior work (Habibi et al., 2017). We first briefly describe LSTM, a specific kind of DNN, and then discuss the architecture of the hybrid LSTM-CRF model. We also describe the corpora used for evaluation and details regarding text pre-processing and evaluation metrics. 2.1 LSTM-CRF Recurrent neural networks (RNNs) are popular for sequence labeling tasks, due to their ability to use previous information in a sequence for processing of current input. Although RNNs can, in theory, learn long-range dependencies, they fail to do so in practice and tend to be biased towards their most recent inputs in the sequence (Bengio et al., 1994). An LSTM is a specific RNN architecture which mitigates this issue by keeping a memory cell that serves as a summary of the preceding elements of an input sequence and is able to model dependencies between sequence elements even if they are far apart (Hochreiter and Schmidhuber, 1997). The input to an LSTM unit is a sequence of vectors x1,x2,...,xT of length T, for which it produces an output sequence of vectors h1,h2,...hT of equal length by applying a non-linear transformation learned during the training phase. Each ht is called the activation of the LSTM at token t, where a token is an instance of a sequence of characters in a document that are grouped together as a useful semantic unit for processing. The formula to compute one activation of an LSTM unit in the LSTM-CRF model is provided below (Lample et al., 2016): it=σ(Wxixt+Whiht−1+Wcict−1+bi)ct=(1−it)⊙ct−1+it⊙tanh(Wxcxt+Whcht−1+bc)ot=σ(Wxoxt+Whoht−1+Wcoct+bo)ht=ot⊙tanh(ct) where all Ws and bs are trainable parameters, σ(·) and tanh(·) denote the element-wise sigmoid and hyperbolic tangent activation functions, and ⊙ is the element-wise product. Such an LSTM-layer processes the input in one direction and thus can only encode dependencies on elements that came earlier in the sequence. As a remedy for this problem, another LSTM-layer which processes input in the reverse direction is commonly used, which allows detecting dependencies on elements later in the text. The resulting DNN is called a bi-directional LSTM (Graves and Schmidhuber, 2005). The representation of a word using this model is obtained by concatenating its left and right context representations, ht=[ht⃗;ht⃖] ⁠. These representations effectively encode a representation of a word in context. Finally, a sequential conditional random field (Lafferty et al., 2001) receives as input the scores output by the bi-directional LSTM to jointly model tagging decisions. LSTM-CRF (Lample et al., 2016) is a domain-independent NER method which does not rely on any language-specific knowledge or resources, such as dictionaries. In this study, we used NeuroNER (Dernoncourt et al., 2017b), a named entity recognizer based on a bi-directional LSTM-CRF architecture. The major components of the LSTM-CRF model for sequence tagging are described below: Token embedding layer maps each token in the input sequence to a token embedding. Character embedding layer maps each character in the input sequence to a character embedding. Character Bi-LSTM layer takes as input character embeddings and outputs a single, character-level representation vector that summarizes the information from the sequence of characters in the corresponding token. Token Bi-LSTM layer takes as input a sequence of character-enhanced token vectors, which are formed by concatenating the outputs of the token embedding layer and the character Bi-LSTM layer. Label prediction layer using a fully-connected neural network, maps the output from the token Bi-LSTM layer to a sequence of vectors containing the probability of each label for each corresponding token. Label sequence optimization layer using a CRF, outputs the most likely sequence of predicted labels based on the sequence of probability vectors from the previous layer.Figure 1 illustrates the DNN architecture. All layers of the network are learned jointly. A detailed description of the architecture is explained in Dernoncourt et al. (2017a). Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Architecture of the hybrid long short-term memory network-conditional random field (LSTM-CRF) model for named entity recognition (NER). Here, xi is the i-th token in the input sequence, xij is the j-th character of the i-th token, ℓ(i) is the number of characters in the i-th token and ei is the character-enhanced token embedding of the i-th token. For transfer learning experiments, we train the parameters of the model on a source dataset, and transfer all of the parameters to initialize the model for training on a target dataset Fig. 1. View largeDownload slide Architecture of the hybrid long short-term memory network-conditional random field (LSTM-CRF) model for named entity recognition (NER). Here, xi is the i-th token in the input sequence, xij is the j-th character of the i-th token, ℓ(i) is the number of characters in the i-th token and ei is the character-enhanced token embedding of the i-th token. For transfer learning experiments, we train the parameters of the model on a source dataset, and transfer all of the parameters to initialize the model for training on a target dataset 2.1.1 Training The network was trained using the back-propagation algorithm to update the parameters on every training example, one at a time, using stochastic gradient descent. For regularization, dropout was applied before the token Bi-LSTM layer, and early stopping was used on the validation set with a patience of 10 epochs, i.e. the model stopped training if performance did not improve on the validation set for 10 consecutive epochs. While training on the source datasets, the learning rate was set to 0.0005, gradient clipping to 5.0 and the dropout rate to 0.8. These hyperparameters were chosen to discourage convergence of the network on the source dataset, such that further learning could occur on the target dataset. While training on the target datasets, the learning rate was increased to 0.005, and the dropout rate lowered to 0.5. These are the default hyperparameters of NeuroNER and give good performance on most NER tasks. Additionally, Lample et al. (2016) showed a dropout rate of 0.5 to be optimal for the task of NER. 2.2 Gold standard corpora We performed our evaluations on four entity types: chemicals, diseases, species and genes/proteins. We used 23 datasets (i.e. GSCs), each containing hand-labeled annotations for one of these entity types, such as the ‘CDR’ corpus for chemicals (Li et al., 2016), ‘NCBI Disease’ for disease names (Doğan et al., 2014), ‘S800’ for species (Pafilis et al., 2013) and ‘DECA’ for genes/proteins (Wang et al., 2010). Table 1 lists all corpora and their characteristics, like the number of sentences, tokens and annotated entities per entity class (measured after text pre-processing as described in Section 2.6). Table 1. Gold standard corpora (GSCs) used in this work Entity type Corpus Text genre Text type No. sentences No. tokens No. unique tokens No. annotations No. unique annotations Chemicals BioSemantics (Akhondi et al., 2014) Patent Full-text 163219 6608020 173193 386110 72782 CDR (Li et al., 2016) Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 15915 2623 CHEMDNER patent (Krallinger et al., 2015a,b) Patent Abstract 35679 1495524 60850 65685 20630 Diseases Arizona Disease (Leaman et al., 2009) Scientific Article Abstract 2804 74346 8133 3425 1266 CDR Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 12617 3113 miRNA (Bagewadi et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 2159 606 NCBI Disease (Doğan et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 7645 173283 12534 6881 2136 Variome (Verspoor et al., 2013) Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 5904 451 Species CellFinder (Neves et al., 2012) Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 479 42 Linneaus (Gerner et al., 2010) Scientific Article Full-text 19048 491253 33132 4259 419 LocText (Goldberg et al., 2015) Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 276 37 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 722 41 S800 (Pafilis et al., 2013) Scientific Article Abstract 8356 198091 19992 3708 1503 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 182 8 Genes/proteins BioCreative II GM (Smith et al., 2008) Scientific Article Abstract 20384 514146 49365 24596 15841 BioInfer (Pyysalo et al., 2007) Scientific Article Abstract 1147 34187 5200 4378 1041 CellFinder Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 1750 734 DECA (Wang et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 5492 139771 14053 6324 2127 FSU-PRGE (Hahn et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 35361 914717 453634 59489 27363 IEPA (Ding et al., 2001) Scientific Article Abstract 241 15365 2871 1110 130 LocText Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 1395 549 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 1058 370 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 4617 458 Entity type Corpus Text genre Text type No. sentences No. tokens No. unique tokens No. annotations No. unique annotations Chemicals BioSemantics (Akhondi et al., 2014) Patent Full-text 163219 6608020 173193 386110 72782 CDR (Li et al., 2016) Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 15915 2623 CHEMDNER patent (Krallinger et al., 2015a,b) Patent Abstract 35679 1495524 60850 65685 20630 Diseases Arizona Disease (Leaman et al., 2009) Scientific Article Abstract 2804 74346 8133 3425 1266 CDR Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 12617 3113 miRNA (Bagewadi et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 2159 606 NCBI Disease (Doğan et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 7645 173283 12534 6881 2136 Variome (Verspoor et al., 2013) Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 5904 451 Species CellFinder (Neves et al., 2012) Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 479 42 Linneaus (Gerner et al., 2010) Scientific Article Full-text 19048 491253 33132 4259 419 LocText (Goldberg et al., 2015) Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 276 37 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 722 41 S800 (Pafilis et al., 2013) Scientific Article Abstract 8356 198091 19992 3708 1503 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 182 8 Genes/proteins BioCreative II GM (Smith et al., 2008) Scientific Article Abstract 20384 514146 49365 24596 15841 BioInfer (Pyysalo et al., 2007) Scientific Article Abstract 1147 34187 5200 4378 1041 CellFinder Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 1750 734 DECA (Wang et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 5492 139771 14053 6324 2127 FSU-PRGE (Hahn et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 35361 914717 453634 59489 27363 IEPA (Ding et al., 2001) Scientific Article Abstract 241 15365 2871 1110 130 LocText Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 1395 549 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 1058 370 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 4617 458 Table 1. Gold standard corpora (GSCs) used in this work Entity type Corpus Text genre Text type No. sentences No. tokens No. unique tokens No. annotations No. unique annotations Chemicals BioSemantics (Akhondi et al., 2014) Patent Full-text 163219 6608020 173193 386110 72782 CDR (Li et al., 2016) Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 15915 2623 CHEMDNER patent (Krallinger et al., 2015a,b) Patent Abstract 35679 1495524 60850 65685 20630 Diseases Arizona Disease (Leaman et al., 2009) Scientific Article Abstract 2804 74346 8133 3425 1266 CDR Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 12617 3113 miRNA (Bagewadi et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 2159 606 NCBI Disease (Doğan et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 7645 173283 12534 6881 2136 Variome (Verspoor et al., 2013) Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 5904 451 Species CellFinder (Neves et al., 2012) Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 479 42 Linneaus (Gerner et al., 2010) Scientific Article Full-text 19048 491253 33132 4259 419 LocText (Goldberg et al., 2015) Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 276 37 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 722 41 S800 (Pafilis et al., 2013) Scientific Article Abstract 8356 198091 19992 3708 1503 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 182 8 Genes/proteins BioCreative II GM (Smith et al., 2008) Scientific Article Abstract 20384 514146 49365 24596 15841 BioInfer (Pyysalo et al., 2007) Scientific Article Abstract 1147 34187 5200 4378 1041 CellFinder Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 1750 734 DECA (Wang et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 5492 139771 14053 6324 2127 FSU-PRGE (Hahn et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 35361 914717 453634 59489 27363 IEPA (Ding et al., 2001) Scientific Article Abstract 241 15365 2871 1110 130 LocText Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 1395 549 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 1058 370 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 4617 458 Entity type Corpus Text genre Text type No. sentences No. tokens No. unique tokens No. annotations No. unique annotations Chemicals BioSemantics (Akhondi et al., 2014) Patent Full-text 163219 6608020 173193 386110 72782 CDR (Li et al., 2016) Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 15915 2623 CHEMDNER patent (Krallinger et al., 2015a,b) Patent Abstract 35679 1495524 60850 65685 20630 Diseases Arizona Disease (Leaman et al., 2009) Scientific Article Abstract 2804 74346 8133 3425 1266 CDR Scientific Article Abstract 14166 326506 22083 12617 3113 miRNA (Bagewadi et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 2159 606 NCBI Disease (Doğan et al., 2014) Scientific Article Abstract 7645 173283 12534 6881 2136 Variome (Verspoor et al., 2013) Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 5904 451 Species CellFinder (Neves et al., 2012) Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 479 42 Linneaus (Gerner et al., 2010) Scientific Article Full-text 19048 491253 33132 4259 419 LocText (Goldberg et al., 2015) Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 276 37 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 722 41 S800 (Pafilis et al., 2013) Scientific Article Abstract 8356 198091 19992 3708 1503 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 182 8 Genes/proteins BioCreative II GM (Smith et al., 2008) Scientific Article Abstract 20384 514146 49365 24596 15841 BioInfer (Pyysalo et al., 2007) Scientific Article Abstract 1147 34187 5200 4378 1041 CellFinder Scientific Article Full-text 2234 66519 7584 1750 734 DECA (Wang et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 5492 139771 14053 6324 2127 FSU-PRGE (Hahn et al., 2010) Scientific Article Abstract 35361 914717 453634 59489 27363 IEPA (Ding et al., 2001) Scientific Article Abstract 241 15365 2871 1110 130 LocText Scientific Article Abstract 956 22756 4335 1395 549 miRNA Scientific Article Abstract 2676 66419 7638 1058 370 Variome Scientific Article Full-text 6274 177119 12307 4617 458 2.3 Silver standard corpora We collected 50 000 abstracts (from a total of 174 999) at random from the CALBC-SSC-III-Small corpus (Kafkas et al., 2012) for each of the four entity types it annotates: chemicals and drugs (CHED), diseases (DISO), living beings (LIVB) and genes/proteins (PRGE). These SSCs served as the source datasets for each transfer learning experiment we performed. For each SSC, any document that appeared in at least one of the GSCs annotated for the same entity type was excluded to avoid possible circularity in performance testing (e.g. if a document with PubMed ID 130845 was found in a GSC annotated for genes/proteins, it was excluded from the PRGE SSC). In an effort to reduce noise in the SSCs, a selection of entities present but not annotated in any of the GSCs of the same entity type were removed from the SSCs. For example, certain text spans such as ‘genes’, ‘proteins’ and ‘animals’ are annotated in the SSCs but not annotated in any of the GSCs of the same entity type, and so were removed from the SSCs (see Supplementary Material). 2.4 Word embeddings We utilized statistical word embedding techniques to capture functional (i.e. semantic and syntactic) similarity of words based on their surrounding words. Word embeddings are pre-trained using large unlabeled datasets typically based on token co-occurrences (Collobert et al., 2011; Mikolov et al., 2013; Pennington et al., 2014). The learned vectors, or word embeddings, encode many linguistic regularities and patterns, some of which can be represented as linear translations. In the canonical example, the resulting vector for vec(‘king’) – vec(‘man’) + vec(‘woman’) is closest to the vector associated with ‘queen’, i.e. vec(‘queen’). We used the Wiki-PubMed-PMC model, trained on a combination of PubMed abstracts (nearly 23 million abstracts) and PubMedCentral (PMC) articles (nearly 700 000 full-text articles) plus approximately four million English Wikipedia articles, and therefore mixes domain-specific texts with domain-independent ones. The model was created by Pyysalo et al. (2013) using Google’s word2vec (Mikolov et al., 2013). We chose this model to be consistent with Habibi et al. (2017), who showed it to be optimal for the task of BNER and who we compare to. 2.5 Character embeddings The token-based word embeddings introduced above effectively capture distributional similarities of words (where does the word tend to occur in a corpus?) but are less effective at capturing orthographic similarities (what does the word look like?). In addition, token-based word embeddings cannot account for out-of-vocabulary tokens and misspellings. Character-based word representation models (Ling et al., 2015) offer a solution to these problems by using each individual character of a token to generate the token vector representation. Character-based word embeddings encode sub-token patterns such as morphemes (e.g. suffixes and prefixes), morphological inflections (e.g. number and tense) and other information not contained in the token-based word embeddings. The LSTM-CRF architecture used in this study combines character-based word representations with token-based word representations, allowing the model to learn distributional and orthographic features of words. Character embeddings are initialized randomly and learned jointly with the other parameters of the DNN. 2.6 Text pre-processing All corpora were first converted to the Brat standoff format (http://brat.nlplab.org/standoff.html). In this format, annotations are stored separately from the annotated document text. Thus, for each text document in the corpus, there is a corresponding annotation file. The two files are associated by the file naming convention that their base name (file name without suffix) is the same. All annotations follow the same basic structure: each line contains one annotation, and each annotation has an identifier that appears first on the line, separated from the rest of the annotation by a single tab character. 2.7 Evaluation metrics We randomly divided each GSC into three disjoint subsets. 60% of the samples were used for training, 10% as the development set for the training of methods and 30% for the final evaluation. We compared all methods in terms of precision, recall and F1-score on the test sets. Precision is computed as the percentage of predicted labels that are gold labels (i.e. labels that appear in the GSC), recall as the percentage of gold labels that are correctly predicted, and F1-score as the harmonic mean of precision and recall. A predicted label is considered correct if and only if it exactly matches a gold label. NeuroNER uses the conlleval script from the CoNLL-2000 shared task to compute all performance metrics (https://www.clips.uantwerpen.be/conll2000/chunking/output.html). For a single performance metric across all corpora, we compute the average percent reduction in error, which in our case is the average reduction in F1-score error due to transfer learning (TL) relative to the baseline: F1TL−F1baseline100−F1baseline*100 3 Results We assessed the effect of transfer learning on the performance of a state-of-the-art method for BNER (LSTM-CRF) on 23 different datasets covering four different types of biomedical entity classes. We applied transfer learning by training all parameters of the DNN on a source dataset (CALBC-SSC-III) for a particular entity type (e.g. genes/proteins) and used the same DNN to retrain on a target dataset (i.e. a GSC) of the same entity type. Results were compared to training the model only on the target dataset using the same word embeddings (baseline). 3.1 Quantifying the impact of transfer learning In this experiment, we determine whether transfer learning improves on state-of-the-art results for BNER. Table 2 compares the macro-averaged performance metrics of the model trained only on the target dataset (i.e. the baseline) against the model trained on the source dataset followed by the target dataset for 23 evaluation sets; exact precision, recall and F1-scores are given in Appendix A. Transfer learning improves the average F1-scores over the baseline for each of the four entity classes, leading to an average reduction in error of 11.28% across the GSCs. On corpora annotated for diseases, species and genes/proteins, transfer learning (on average) improved both precision and recall, leading to sizable improvements in F1-score. For corpora annotated for chemicals, transfer learning (on average) slightly increased recall at the cost of precision for a small increase in F1-score. More generally, transfer learning appears to be especially effective on corpora with a small number of labels. For example, transfer learning led to a 9.69% improvement in F1-score on the test set of the CellFinder corpus annotated for genes/proteins—the eighth smallest corpus overall by number of labels. Conversely, the only GSC for which transfer learning worsened the performance compared to the baseline was the BioSemantics corpora, the largest GSC used in this study. Table 2. Macro-averaged performance values in terms of precision, recall and F1-score for baseline (B) and transfer learning (TL) over the corpora per each entity type Precision (%) Recall (%) F1-score (%) B TL B TL B TL Chemicals 87.10 87.05 89.19 89.47 88.08 88.21 Diseases 80.41 81.41 81.13 82.46 80.73 82.09 Species 84.18 84.52 84.44 90.12 84.20 87.01 Genes/proteins 82.09 83.38 80.85 83.08 81.20 83.09 Precision (%) Recall (%) F1-score (%) B TL B TL B TL Chemicals 87.10 87.05 89.19 89.47 88.08 88.21 Diseases 80.41 81.41 81.13 82.46 80.73 82.09 Species 84.18 84.52 84.44 90.12 84.20 87.01 Genes/proteins 82.09 83.38 80.85 83.08 81.20 83.09 Note: Baseline values are derived from training on the target dataset only, while transfer learning values are derived by training on the source dataset followed by training on the target dataset. The macro average is computed by averaging the performance scores obtained by the classifiers for each corpus of a given entity class. Bold: best scores. Table 2. Macro-averaged performance values in terms of precision, recall and F1-score for baseline (B) and transfer learning (TL) over the corpora per each entity type Precision (%) Recall (%) F1-score (%) B TL B TL B TL Chemicals 87.10 87.05 89.19 89.47 88.08 88.21 Diseases 80.41 81.41 81.13 82.46 80.73 82.09 Species 84.18 84.52 84.44 90.12 84.20 87.01 Genes/proteins 82.09 83.38 80.85 83.08 81.20 83.09 Precision (%) Recall (%) F1-score (%) B TL B TL B TL Chemicals 87.10 87.05 89.19 89.47 88.08 88.21 Diseases 80.41 81.41 81.13 82.46 80.73 82.09 Species 84.18 84.52 84.44 90.12 84.20 87.01 Genes/proteins 82.09 83.38 80.85 83.08 81.20 83.09 Note: Baseline values are derived from training on the target dataset only, while transfer learning values are derived by training on the source dataset followed by training on the target dataset. The macro average is computed by averaging the performance scores obtained by the classifiers for each corpus of a given entity class. Bold: best scores. 3.2 Learning curve for select evaluation sets Figure 2 compares learning curves for the baseline model against the model trained with transfer learning on select GSCs, one for each entity class. The number of training examples used as the target training set is reported as a percent of the overall GSC size (e.g. for a GSC of 100 documents, a target train set size of 60% corresponds to 60 documents). The performance improvement due to transfer learning is especially pronounced when a small number of labels are used as the target training set. For example, on the miRNA corpus annotated for diseases, performing transfer learning and using 10% of examples as the train set leads to similar performance as using approximately 28% of examples as the train set when not using transfer learning. The performance gains from transfer learning diminish as the number of training examples used for the target training set increases. These results suggest that transfer learning is especially beneficial for datasets with a small number of labels. Figure 3 more precisely captures this trend. Large improvements in F1-score are observed for corpora with up to approximately 6000 total annotations, with improvement quickly tailing off afterward. Indeed, all corpora for which transfer learning led to a statistically significant (⁠ p≤0.05 ⁠) improvement in F1-score have 6000 annotations or less (see Appendix A). Therefore, it appears that the expected performance improvements derived from transfer learning are largest when the number of annotations in the target dataset is approximately 6000 or less. Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide Impact of transfer learning on the F1-scores. Baseline corresponds to training the model only with the target dataset, and transfer learning corresponds to training on the source dataset followed by training on the target dataset. The number of training examples used in the target training set is reported as a percent of the overall GSC size (e.g. for a GSC of 100 documents, a target train set size of 60% corresponds to 60 documents). Error bars represent the standard deviation (SD) for n = 3 trials. If an error bar is not shown, it was smaller than the size of the data point symbol. (a-d) Impact of transfer learning on the F1-scores of four select copora Fig. 2. View largeDownload slide Impact of transfer learning on the F1-scores. Baseline corresponds to training the model only with the target dataset, and transfer learning corresponds to training on the source dataset followed by training on the target dataset. The number of training examples used in the target training set is reported as a percent of the overall GSC size (e.g. for a GSC of 100 documents, a target train set size of 60% corresponds to 60 documents). Error bars represent the standard deviation (SD) for n = 3 trials. If an error bar is not shown, it was smaller than the size of the data point symbol. (a-d) Impact of transfer learning on the F1-scores of four select copora Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Box plots representing absolute F1-score improvement over the baseline after transfer learning, grouped by the total number of annotations in the target gold-standard corpora (GSCs). Bin boundaries were generated using the R package binr (Izrailev, 2015). Scores for individual GSCs are plotted, where point shapes indicate statistical significance (⁠ P≤0.05 ⁠) Fig. 3. View largeDownload slide Box plots representing absolute F1-score improvement over the baseline after transfer learning, grouped by the total number of annotations in the target gold-standard corpora (GSCs). Bin boundaries were generated using the R package binr (Izrailev, 2015). Scores for individual GSCs are plotted, where point shapes indicate statistical significance (⁠ P≤0.05 ⁠) 3.3 Error analysis We compared the errors made by the baseline and transfer learning classifiers by computing intersections of true-positives (TPs), false-negatives (FNs) and false-positives (FPs) per entity type (Fig. 4). In general, there is broad agreement for baseline and transfer learning classifiers, especially for TPs, with different strengths per entity type. For diseases, transfer learning has a negligible impact on the number of TPs and FNs but leads to a sizable decrease in the number of FPs, thereby increasing precision. For species and genes/proteins, transfer learning decreases the number of FNs but increases the number of FPs and TPs—trading precision for recall. Interestingly, the pattern of TPs, FPs and FNs for chemical entities appears to disagree with the pattern in performance metrics observed at the macro-level (Table 2). However, because the decrease in FPs and TPs is roughly equal in magnitude to the increase in FNs, the net effect is the nearly identical performance metrics of the baseline and transfer learning method for chemical entities that we observe at the macro-level. Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide Venn diagrams demonstrating the area of overlap among the true-positive (TP), false-negative (FN) and false-positive (FP) sets of the baseline (B) and transfer learning (TL) methods per entity class Fig. 4. View largeDownload slide Venn diagrams demonstrating the area of overlap among the true-positive (TP), false-negative (FN) and false-positive (FP) sets of the baseline (B) and transfer learning (TL) methods per entity class 4 Discussion In this study, we demonstrated that transfer learning from large SSCs (source) to smaller GSCs (target) improves performance over training solely on the GSCs for BNER. This is the first study of the effect of transfer learning for BNER. On average, transfer learning leads to improvements in F1-score over a state-of-the-art baseline, especially for smaller GSCs, though the nature and degree of these improvements vary per entity type (Table 2). The effect of transfer learning is most pronounced when the target train set size is small, with improvements diminishing as the training set size grows (Fig. 2). Significant improvements in performance were observed only for corpora with 6000 total annotations or less (Fig. 3). We conclude that the representations learned from the source dataset are effectively transferred and exploited for the target dataset; when transfer learning is adopted, fewer annotations are needed to achieve the same level of performance as when the source dataset is not used. Thus, our results suggest that researchers and text-mining practitioners can make use of transfer learning to reduce the number of hand-labeled annotations necessary to obtain high performance for BNER. We also suggest that transfer learning is likely to be a valuable tool for existing GSCs with a small number of labels. Transfer learning had little impact on performance for chemical GSCs. This is likely explained by the much larger size of these corpora, which have a median number of annotations ten times that of the next largest set of corpora (diseases). We suspect that relatively large corpora contain enough training examples for the model to generalize well, in which case we would not expect transfer learning to improve model performance. Indeed, the largest corpora in our study, the BioSemantics corpora (annotated for chemical entities), was the only corpora for which transfer learning worsened performance over the baseline. With 386 110 total annotations (almost double the sum total of annotations in the remaining 22 GSCs) the BioSemantics corpus is an extreme outlier. To create such a large GSC, documents were first pre-annotated and made available to four independent annotator groups each consisting of two to ten annotators (Akhondi et al., 2014). This is a much larger annotation effort than usual and is not realistic for the creation of typical GSCs in most contexts. Another possibility is that chemical entities are easier to identify in text. BNER has recently made substantial advances in performance with the application of deep learning (Habibi et al., 2017). We show that transfer learning is a valuable addition to this method. However, there are opportunities to further optimize this approach, for instance, by determining the optimal size of the source dataset, developing robust methods of filtering noise from the source dataset, and extensive hyperparameter tuning (Reimers and Gurevych, 2017; Young et al., 2015). 4.1 Related work Lee et al. (2017) performed a similar set of experiments, transferring an LSTM-CRF based NER model from a large labeled dataset to a smaller dataset for the task of de-identification of protected health information (PHI) from electronic health records (EHR). It was demonstrated that transfer learning improves the performance over state-of-the-art results, and may be especially beneficial for a target dataset with a small number of labels. Our results confirm these findings in the context of BNER. The study also explored the importance of each layer of the DNN in transfer learning. They found that transferring a few lower layers is almost as efficient as transferring all layers, which supports the common hypothesis that higher layers of DNN architectures contain the parameters that are more specific to the task and dataset used for training. We performed a similar experiment (see Supplementary Fig. S1) with similar results. A recent study has sought to adopt multi-task learning for the task of BNER (Crichton et al., 2017). While transfer learning and multi-task learning are different, they are both forms of inductive transfer that are often employed for similar reasons. At a high-level, multi-task learning (Caruana, 1993) is a machine learning method in which multiple learning tasks are solved at the same time. This is in contrast to transfer learning, where we typically transfer some knowledge learned from one task or domain to another. In the classification context, multi-task learning is used to improve the performance of multiple classification tasks by learning them jointly. The idea is that by sharing representations between tasks, we can exploit commonalities, leading to improved learning efficiency and prediction accuracy for the task-specific models, when compared to training the models separately (Baxter et al., 2000; Caruana, 1998; Thrun, 1996). Crichton et al. (2017) demonstrated that a neural network multi-task model outperforms a comparable single-task model, on average, for the task of BNER. Perhaps most interestingly, it was found that the performance improvements due to multi-task learning diminish as the size of the datasets grows—something we found to be true of transfer learning as well. Together, our results suggest that there is promise in the idea of sharing information between tasks and between datasets for biomedical text-mining, and may help overcome the limitations of training DNNs on small biomedical GSCs. Future work could evaluate the combination of multi-task and transfer learning to see if they are complementary and can further improve performance. 5 Conclusion In this work, we have studied transfer learning with DNNs for BNER (specifically LSTM-CRF) by transferring parameters learned on large, noisy SSC for fine-tuning on smaller, but more reliable GSC. We demonstrated that compared to a state-of-the-art baseline evaluated on 23 GSCs, transfer learning results in an average reduction in error of approximately 11%. The largest performance improvements were observed for GSCs with a small number of labels (on the order of 6000 or less). Our results suggest that researchers and text-mining practitioners can make use of transfer learning to reduce the number of hand-labeled annotations necessary to obtain high performance for BNER. We also suggest that transfer learning is likely to be a valuable tool for existing GSC with a small number of labels. We hope this study will increase interest in the development of large, broadly-scoped SSCs for the training of supervised biomedical information extraction methods. Acknowledgements We acknowledge the creators of the various corpora used in this study. We gratefully acknowledge the support of NVIDIA Corporation with the donation of the Titan Xp GPU used for this research. 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This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Journal

BioinformaticsOxford University Press

Published: Dec 1, 2018

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