DFKI-NLP is a Natural Language Processing group of researchers, software engineers and students at the Berlin office of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) working on basic and applied research in areas covering, among others, information extraction, knowledge base population, dialogue, sentiment analysis, and summarization. We are particularly interested in core research on learning in low-resource settings, reasoning over larger contexts, and continual learning. We strive for a deeper understanding of human language and thinking, with the goal of developing novel methods for processing and generating human language text, speech, and knowledge. An important part of our work is the creation of corpora, the evaluation of NLP datasets and tasks, and the explainability of (neural) models.

Key topics:

  • Applied / domain-specific information extraction
  • Learning in low-resource settings and over large contexts
  • Construction and analysis of IE datasets, linguistic annotation
  • Multilingual information extraction
  • Evaluation methodology research
  • Explainability

Our group forms a part of DFKI’s Speech and Language Technology department led by Prof. Sebastian Möller, and closely collaborates with e.g. the Technische Universität Berlin, DFKI’s Language Technology and Multilinguality department and DFKI’s Intelligent Analytics for Massive Data group.

Latest News

Recent Publications

Saliency Map Verbalization: Comparing Feature Importance Representations from Model-free and Instruction-based Methods

Saliency maps can explain a neural model’s predictions by identifying important input features. They are difficult to interpret for laypeople, especially for instances with many features. In order to make them more accessible, we formalize the underexplored task of translating saliency maps into natural language and compare methods that address two key challenges of this approach – what and how to verbalize. In both automatic and human evaluation setups, using token-level attributions from text classification tasks, we compare two novel methods (search-based and instruction-based verbalizations) against conventional feature importance representations (heatmap visualizations and extractive rationales), measuring simulatability, faithfulness, helpfulness and ease of understanding. Instructing GPT-3.5 to generate saliency map verbalizations yields plausible explanations which include associations, abstractive summarization and commonsense reasoning, achieving by far the highest human ratings, but they are not faithfully capturing numeric information and are inconsistent in their interpretation of the task. In comparison, our search-based, model-free verbalization approach efficiently completes templated verbalizations, is faithful by design, but falls short in helpfulness and simulatability. Our results suggest that saliency map verbalization makes feature attribution explanations more comprehensible and less cognitively challenging to humans than conventional representations.

Efficient Language Model Training through Cross-Lingual and Progressive Transfer Learning

Most Transformer language models are primarily pretrained on English text, limiting their use for other languages. As the model sizes grow, the performance gap between English and other languages with fewer compute and data resources increases even further. Consequently, more resource-efficient training methods are needed to bridge the gap for languages with fewer resources available. To address this problem, we introduce a cross-lingual and progressive transfer learning approach, called CLP-Transfer, that transfers models from a source language, for which pretrained models are publicly available, like English, to a new target language. As opposed to prior work, which focused on the cross-lingual transfer between two languages, we extend the transfer to the model size. Given a pretrained model in a source language, we aim for a same-sized model in a target language. Instead of training a model from scratch, we exploit a smaller model that is in the target language but requires much fewer resources. Both small and source models are then used to initialize the token embeddings of the larger model based on the overlapping vocabulary of the source and target language. All remaining weights are reused from the model in the source language. This approach outperforms the sole cross-lingual transfer and can save up to 80% of the training steps compared to the random initialization.


BIFOLD conducts foundational research in big data management and machine learning, as well as its intersection, to educate future talent, and create high-impact knowledge exchange. The Berlin Institute for the Foundations of Learning and Data (BIFOLD), has evolved in 2019 from the merger of two national Artificial Intelligence Competence Centers: the Berlin Big Data Center (BBDC) and the Berlin Center for Machine Learning (BZML). Embedded in the vibrant Berlin metropolitan area, BIFOLD provides an outstanding scientific environment and numerous collaboration opportunities for national and international researchers. BIFOLD offers a broad range of research topics as well as a platform for interdisciplinary research and knowledge exchange with the sciences and humanities, industry, startups and society. Within BIFOLD, DFKI SLT conducts research in Clinical AI, specifically addressing the task of Pharmacovigilance. Pharmacovigilance is concerned with the assessment and prevention of adverse drug reactions (ADR) in pharmaceutical products. As the level of medication is generally raising all over the world, the potential risk of unwanted side effects, such as ADRs, is constantly increasing. Patients exchange views in their own language as ‘experts in their own right,’ in social media and disease-specific forums. Our project addresses the detection and extraction of ADR from medical forums and social media across different languages using cross-lingual transfer learning in combination with external knowledge sources.
In order to optimally prepare industry, science and the society in Germany and Europe for the global Big Data trend, highly coordinated activities in research, teaching, and technology transfer regarding the integration of data analysis methods and scalable data processing are required. To achieve this, the Berlin Big Data Center is pursuing the following seven objectives: 1) Pooling expertise in scalable data management, data analytics, and big data application 2) Conducting fundamental research to develop novel and automatically scalable technologies capable of performing ‘Deep Analysis’ of ‘Big Data’. 3) Developing an integrated, declarative, highly scalable open-source system that enables the specification, automatic optimization, parallelization and hardware adaptation, and fault-tolerant, efficient execution of advanced data analysis problems, using varying methods (e.g., drawn from machine learning, linear algebra, statistics and probability theory, computational linguistics, or signal processing), leveraging our work on Apache Flink 4) Transfering technology and know-how to support innovation in companies and startups. 5) Educating data scientists with respect to the five big data dimensions (i.e., applications, economic, legal, social, and technological) via leading educational programs. 6) Empowering people to leverage ‘Smart Data’, i.e., to discover newfound information based on their massive data sets. 7)Enabling the general public to conduct sound data-driven decision-making.


The MultiTACRED dataset
MultiTACRED is a multilingual version of the large-scale TAC Relation Extraction Dataset. It covers 12 typologically diverse languages from 9 language families, and was created by machine-translating the instances of the original TACRED dataset and automatically projecting their entity annotations. For details of the original TACRED’s data collection and annotation process, see the Stanford paper. Translations are syntactically validated by checking the correctness of the XML tag markup. Any translations with an invalid tag structure, e.g. missing or invalid head or tail tag pairs, are discarded (on average, 2.3% of the instances). Languages covered are: Arabic, Chinese, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Japanese, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Turkish. Intended use is supervised relation classification. Audience - researchers. The dataset will be released via the LDC (link will follow). Please see our ACL paper for full details. You can find the Github repo containing the translation and experiment code here https://github.com/DFKI-NLP/MultiTACRED.


  • Alt-Moabit 91c
    10559 Berlin
  • Enter Alt-Moabit 91c and take the elevator to Reception on Floor 4
  • 9:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday