What is it about?

In recent times, there's been a lot of interest in training computers to recognize specific names or terms in large chunks of text, like finding the names of people, places, or companies in a news article. This process is called "Named Entity Recognition" (NER). However, training computers to do this usually requires a lot of examples. But what if we don't have many examples? That's where "Few-shot Named Entity Recognition" comes in. It's like teaching a computer to recognize names in texts with only a handful of examples. This paper dives deep into this topic. We discuss what Few-shot NER is, why it's important, and the different ways researchers are approaching the problem. We categorize these methods into two main types based on whether they focus on tweaking the computer model itself or the data it's trained on. Our paper also touches upon the challenges in this field and where it might head in the future. In simpler terms, this work is like a comprehensive guidebook for anyone interested in teaching computers to recognize names in texts, especially when there aren't many examples to learn from.

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Why is it important?

In the age of information, we are constantly producing vast amounts of text data. Yet, not all of this data comes with ample examples for computers to learn from. This research is timely because it addresses the challenge of teaching computers to recognize specific terms in texts even when we have very few examples. This is especially crucial for less common languages or specialized fields where data might be scarce. We provide a clear definition of the few-shot NER problem and even propose a new way to categorize the existing solutions. The need for recognizing names or terms in texts is not limited to just one field. Whether it's healthcare, finance, or legal sectors, there's a demand for efficient NER systems. This research can be particularly transformative for areas where gathering a lot of annotated data is time-consuming or expensive. By laying out the current state of the art and categorizing the different approaches, this paper sets the stage for future studies. It identifies the limitations of current methods and suggests new research directions, acting as a roadmap for those entering the field. In essence, this work is a pioneering guide on how to do NER efficiently with limited examples, making it a valuable resource for both today's challenges and tomorrow's innovations.


The exploration of few-shot learning in the context of Named Entity Recognition (NER) is a testament to the evolving nature of machine learning. As data becomes increasingly diverse and vast, there's a growing need for models that can adapt quickly with minimal examples. This research addresses a significant gap in the field. Traditional NER systems, which rely on extensive annotated data, might not be feasible for every application, especially in niche domains or languages with limited resources. The emphasis on few-shot learning in this paper highlights a shift towards more adaptable and efficient models. Moreover, the comprehensive taxonomy proposed serves as a valuable framework for understanding and categorizing the myriad of approaches in few-shot NER. Such frameworks are essential for standardizing research directions and fostering collaboration in the community. In the broader context, as industries move towards more personalized and adaptable AI solutions, research like this paves the way for more versatile and resource-efficient applications.

Marco Postiglione
University of Naples Federico II

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Few-shot Named Entity Recognition: definition, taxonomy and research directions, ACM Transactions on Intelligent Systems and Technology, July 2023, ACM (Association for Computing Machinery),
DOI: 10.1145/3609483.
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