Building a Custom Search Relevance Training Set

Building a Custom Search Relevance Training Set from Open Source Bing Queries

There is a notable lack of large scale, easy to use, labeled data sets for information retrieval in most specific domains. We propose a method for generating them.

This repo includes code to generate search queries and passages related to a specific domain or field of knowledge. We achieve this by selecting a subset of the popular MS Marco dataset. The full MS Marco training set released by Microsoft is much too large to use in it’s entirety as a training set.

To build the dataset, clone repo and then run:

pip install -r requirements.txt

Examples of queries in the subset generated for health/biology:

  • what normal blood pressure by age?
  • what is your mandible?
  • what part is the sigmoid colon?

Labelling 10k Passages with Google Natural Language API

Up to 30k/month document classifications are free using Google’s API. It can be used to classify passages into 700+ categories, and it also reports confidence scores.

You need to sign up for Google Cloud and authenticate your client first, see

Then run:

from import language
from import enums
from import types

SUBSET_SIZE = 10000 # the number of passages to classify

client = language.LanguageServiceClient()

with open('./categories.tsv', 'w+') as outfile:
    with open('./collectionandqueries/collection.tsv') as collection:
        for i, line in enumerate(collection):
            if i > SUBSET_SIZE: break
                doc_id, doc_text = line.split('\t')
                document = types.Document(
                category = client.classify_text(document)
                for cat in category.categories:
            except: # sometimes the document is too short and the API will err, ignore

Creating a Text Classifier for the Rest of the Set

We use vowpal-wabbit(VW) to build a binary text classifier that can classify the rest of the set very fast and for free. Make sure it is installed. (type vw --help on the bash).

Define a function to extract a binary label form the Google NLP Cateogry. In our case we use health/science:

def label_from_category(category, confidence):
    return (1 if 'Health' in category 
    or 'Science' in category else 0, confidence)

Then use it to build a VW training set

from nltk.stem import PorterStemmer
from nltk.tokenize import word_tokenize
import re

ps = PorterStemmer()

collection_file = './collectionandqueries/collection.tsv'
categories_file = './categories.tsv'
with open(categories_file) as categories:
    categories_dict = dict()
    for line in categories:
        doc_id, category, confidence = line.split('\t')
        categories_dict[doc_id] = label_from_category(category)
# input.vw has format <label> <weight> |n <lowercased, stemmed text>
with open('input.vw', 'w') as output, open(collection_file) as collection:
    for line in collection:
        doc_id, text = line.split('\t')
        if doc_id in categories_dict:
            label, confidence = categories_dict[doc_id]
            tokens = [ps.stem(word.lower()) for word in word_tokenize(text)]
            cleaned = re.sub(r'\:', ' ', ' '.join(tokens)) # strip colon bc this is special VW charater
            output.write(str(label)+' '+str(confidence).strip()+' |n '+ cleaned + ' \n')

Then train a classifier with this data and save it as bio_model:

vw input.vw -f bio_model

Classifying MSMarco

  • Download MsMarco collection+queries: wget
  • Extract: tar -xvzf collectionandqueries.tar.gz

  • Build the porter stmr cli from this repo: and make sure it’s in your path.

  • Run ./classify_msmarco ./collectionandqueries from MS Marco, producing a file preds of format {passage_id} {score}. The higher the score, the more likely it’s related to health / bio.

Building Collection and Queries for the Subset

The code for loading the collection and queries from MSMarco and then classifying them is a little more complicated so I won’t go over it here.

If you want to product the set, clone this repo and run the python script:

python3 --data_dir <path to collectionsandqueries dir> --out_dir <bio-collectionsandqueries>

The output folder should contain:

  • collection.tsv
  • qrels.train.tsv
  • queries.train.tsv

Look here for more details about the format of these.

Evaluation Results for Bio Subset

Pretrained Model Finetuning Dataset BioMARCO Dev MRR@10 [1]
bert-base-uncased-msmarco MSMarco 0.17281
biobert-pubmed-v1.1 MSMarco 0.17070
BM25 - 0.10366

Download dataset here or follow guide below to build it. Look here for more details about the format of the files.

Check out our main project NBoost to download and deploy the models with Elasticsearch.

[1] Reranking top 50 results from BM25

Written on December 3, 2019