conditional random fields

This page contains material on, or relating to, conditional random fields. I shall continue to update this page as research on conditional random fields advances, so do check back periodically. If you feel there is something that should be on here but isn't, then please email me (hmw26 -at- and let me know.


Conditional random fields (CRFs) are a probabilistic framework for labeling and segmenting structured data, such as sequences, trees and lattices. The underlying idea is that of defining a conditional probability distribution over label sequences given a particular observation sequence, rather than a joint distribution over both label and observation sequences. The primary advantage of CRFs over hidden Markov models is their conditional nature, resulting in the relaxation of the independence assumptions required by HMMs in order to ensure tractable inference. Additionally, CRFs avoid the label bias problem, a weakness exhibited by maximum entropy Markov models (MEMMs) and other conditional Markov models based on directed graphical models. CRFs outperform both MEMMs and HMMs on a number of real-world tasks in many fields, including bioinformatics, computational linguistics and speech recognition.


Hanna M. Wallach. Conditional Random Fields: An Introduction. Technical Report MS-CIS-04-21. Department of Computer and Information Science, University of Pennsylvania, 2004.

papers by year


John Lafferty, Andrew McCallum, Fernando Pereira. Conditional Random Fields: Probabilistic Models for Segmenting and Labeling Sequence Data. In Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML-2001), 2001.

We present conditional random fields, a framework for building probabilistic models to segment and label sequence data. Conditional random fields offer several advantages over hidden Markov models and stochastic grammars for such tasks, including the ability to relax strong independence assumptions made in those models. Conditional random fields also avoid a fundamental limitation of maximum entropy Markov models (MEMMs) and other discriminative Markov models based on directed graphical models, which can be biased towards states with few successor states. We present iterative parameter estimation algorithms for conditional random fields and compare the performance of the resulting models to HMMs and MEMMs on synthetic and natural-language data.


Hanna Wallach. Efficient Training of Conditional Random Fields. M.Sc. thesis, Division of Informatics, University of Edinburgh, 2002.

This thesis explores a number of parameter estimation techniques for conditional random fields, a recently introduced probabilistic model for labelling and segmenting sequential data. Theoretical and practical disadvantages of the training techniques reported in current literature on CRFs are discussed. We hypothesise that general numerical optimisation techniques result in improved performance over iterative scaling algorithms for training CRFs. Experiments run on a subset of a well-known text chunking data set confirm that this is indeed the case. This is a highly promising result, indicating that such parameter estimation techniques make CRFs a practical and efficient choice for labelling sequential data, as well as a theoretically sound and principled probabilistic framework.

Thomas G. Dietterich. Machine Learning for Sequential Data: A Review. In Structural, Syntactic, and Statistical Pattern Recognition; Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Vol. 2396, T. Caelli (Ed.), pp. 15–30, Springer-Verlag, 2002.

Statistical learning problems in many fields involve sequential data. This paper formalizes the principal learning tasks and describes the methods that have been developed within the machine learning research community for addressing these problems. These methods include sliding window methods, recurrent sliding windows, hidden Markov models, conditional random fields, and graph transformer networks. The paper also discusses some open research issues.


Fei Sha and Fernando Pereira. Shallow Parsing with Conditional Random Fields. In Proceedings of the 2003 Human Language Technology Conference and North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (HLT/NAACL-03), 2003.

Conditional random fields for sequence labeling offer advantages over both generative models like HMMs and classifers applied at each sequence position. Among sequence labeling tasks in language processing, shallow parsing has received much attention, with the development of standard evaluation datasets and extensive comparison among methods. We show here how to train a conditional random field to achieve performance as good as any reported base noun-phrase chunking method on the CoNLL task, and better than any reported single model. Improved training methods based on modern optimization algorithms were critical in achieving these results. We present extensive comparisons between models and training methods that confirm and strengthen previous results on shallow parsing and training methods for maximum-entropy models.

Andrew McCallum. Efficiently Inducing Features of Conditional Random Fields. In Proceedings of the 19th Conference in Uncertainty in Articifical Intelligence (UAI-2003), 2003.

Conditional Random Fields (CRFs) are undirected graphical models, a special case of which correspond to conditionally-trained finite state machines. A key advantage of CRFs is their great flexibility to include a wide variety of arbitrary, non-independent features of the input. Faced with this freedom, however, an important question remains: what features should be used? This paper presents an efficient feature induction method for CRFs. The method is founded on the principle of iteratively constructing feature conjunctions that would significantly increase conditional log-likelihood if added to the model. Automated feature induction enables not only improved accuracy and dramatic reduction in parameter count, but also the use of larger cliques, and more freedom to liberally hypothesize atomic input variables that may be relevant to a task. The method applies to linear-chain CRFs, as well as to more arbitrary CRF structures, such as Relational Markov Networks, where it corresponds to learning clique templates, and can also be understood as supervised structure learning. Experimental results on named entity extraction and noun phrase segmentation tasks are presented.

David Pinto, Andrew McCallum, Xing Wei and W. Bruce Croft. Table Extraction Using Conditional Random Fields. In Proceedings of the 26th Annual International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval (SIGIR 2003), 2003.

The ability to find tables and extract information from them is a necessary component of data mining, question answering, and other information retrieval tasks. Documents often contain tables in order to communicate densely packed, multi-dimensional information. Tables do this by employing layout patterns to e ciently indicate fields and records in two-dimensional form. Their rich combination of formatting and content present di culties for traditional language modeling techniques, however. This paper presents the use of conditional random fields (CRFs) for table extraction, and compares them with hidden Markov models (HMMs). Unlike HMMs, CRFs support the use of many rich and overlapping layout and language features, and as a result, they perform significantly better. We show experimental results on plain-text government statistical reports in which tables are located with 92% F1, and their constituent lines are classified into 12 table-related categories with 94% accuracy. We also discuss future work on undirected graphical models for segmenting columns, finding cells, and classifying them as data cells or label cells.

Andrew McCallum and Wei Li. Early Results for Named Entity Recognition with Conditional Random Fields, Feature Induction and Web-Enhanced Lexicons. In Proceedings of the Seventh Conference on Natural Language Learning (CoNLL), 2003.

Wei Li and Andrew McCallum. Rapid Development of Hindi Named Entity Recognition Using Conditional Random Fields and Feature Induction. In ACM Transactions on Asian Language Information Processing (TALIP), 2003.

This paper describes our application of conditional random fields with feature induction to a Hindi named entity recognition task. With only five days development time and little knowledge of this language, we automatically discover relevant features by providing a large array of lexical tests and using feature induction to automatically construct the features that most increase conditional likelihood. In an effort to reduce overfitting, we use a combination of a Gaussian prior and early stopping based on the results of 10-fold cross validation.

Yasemin Altun and Thomas Hofmann. Large Margin Methods for Label Sequence Learning. In Proceedings of 8th European Conference on Speech Communication and Technology (EuroSpeech), 2003.

Label sequence learning is the problem of inferring a state sequence from an observation sequence, where the state sequence may encode a labeling, annotation or segmentation of the sequence. In this paper we give an overview of discriminative methods developed for this problem. Special emphasis is put on large margin methods by generalizing multiclass Support Vector Machines and AdaBoost to the case of label sequences.An experimental evaluation demonstrates the advantages over classical approaches like Hidden Markov Models and the competitiveness with methods like Conditional Random Fields.

Simon Lacoste-Julien. Combining SVM with graphical models for supervised classification: an introduction to Max-Margin Markov Networks. CS281A Project Report, UC Berkeley, 2003.

The goal of this paper is to present a survey of the concepts needed to understand the novel Max-Margin Markov Networks (M3-net) framework, a new formalism invented by Taskar, Guestrin and Koller which combines both the advantages of the graphical models and the Support Vector Machines (SVMs) to solve the problem of multi-label multi-class supervised classification. We will compare generative models, discriminative graphical models and SVMs for this task, introducing the basic concepts at the same time, leading at the end to a presentation of the M3-net paper.


Andrew McCallum, Khashayar Rohanimanesh and Charles Sutton. Dynamic Conditional Random Fields for Jointly Labeling Multiple Sequences. Workshop on Syntax, Semantics, Statistics; 16th Annual Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS 2003), 2004.

Conditional random fields (CRFs) for sequence modeling have several advantages over joint models such as HMMs, including the ability to relax strong independence assumptions made in those models, and the ability to incorporate arbitrary overlapping features. Previous work has focused on linear-chain CRFs, which correspond to finite-state machines, and have efficient exact inference algorithms. Often, however, we wish to label sequence data in multiple interacting ways—for example, performing part-of-speech tagging and noun phrase segmentation simultaneously, increasing joint accuracy by sharing information between them. We present dynamic conditional random fields (DCRFs), which are CRFs in which each time slice has a set of state variables and edges—a distributed state representation as in dynamic Bayesian networks—and parameters are tied across slices. (They could also be called conditionally-trained Dynamic Markov Networks.) Since exact inference can be intractable in these models, we perform approximate inference using the tree-based reparameterization framework (TRP). We also present empirical results comparing DCRFs with linear-chain CRFs on natural-language data.

Kevin Murphy, Antonio Torralba and William T.F. Freeman. Using the forest to see the trees: a graphical model relating features, objects and scenes. In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 16 (NIPS 2003), 2004.

Standard approaches to object detection focus on local patches of the image, and try to classify them as background or not. We propose to use the scene context (image as a whole) as an extra source of (global) information, to help resolve local ambiguities. We present a conditional random field for jointly solving the tasks of object detection and scene classification.

Sanjiv Kumar and Martial Hebert. Discriminative Fields for Modeling Spatial Dependencies in Natural Images. In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 16 (NIPS 2003), 2004.

In this paper we present Discriminative Random Fields (DRF), a discriminative framework for the classification of natural image regions by incorporating neighborhood spatial dependencies in the labels as well as the observed data. The proposed model exploits local discriminative models and allows to relax the assumption of conditional independence of the observed data given the labels, commonly used in the Markov Random Field (MRF) framework. The parameters of the DRF model are learned using penalized maximum pseudo-likelihood method. Furthermore, the form of the DRF model allows the MAP inference for binary classification problems using the graph min-cut algorithms. The performance of the model was verified on the synthetic as well as the real-world images. The DRF model outperforms the MRF model in the experiments.

Ben Taskar, Carlos Guestrin and Daphne Koller. Max-Margin Markov Networks. In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 16 (NIPS 2003), 2004.

In typical classification tasks, we seek a function which assigns a label to a single object. Kernel-based approaches, such as support vector machines (SVMs), which maximize the margin of confidence of the classifier, are the method of choice for many such tasks. Their popularity stems both from the ability to use high-dimensional feature spaces, and from their strong theoretical guarantees. However, many real-world tasks involve sequential, spatial, or structured data, where multiple labels must be assigned. Existing kernel-based methods ignore structure in the problem, assigning labels independently to each object, losing much useful information. Conversely, probabilistic graphical models, such as Markov networks, can represent correlations between labels, by exploiting problem structure, but cannot handle high-dimensional feature spaces, and lack strong theoretical generalization guarantees. In this paper, we present a new framework that combines the advantages of both approaches: Maximum margin Markov (M3) networks incorporate both kernels, which efficiently deal with high-dimensional features, and the ability to capture correlations in structured data. We present an efficient algorithm for learning M3 networks based on a compact quadratic program formulation. We provide a new theoretical bound for generalization in structured domains. Experiments on the task of handwritten character recognition and collective hypertext classification demonstrate very significant gains over previous approaches.

Burr Settles. Biomedical Named Entity Recognition Using Conditional Random Fields and Rich Feature Sets. To appear in Proceedings of the International Joint Workshop on Natural Language Processing in Biomedicine and its Applications (NLPBA), 2004.

A demo of the system can be downloaded here.

As the wealth of biomedical knowledge in the form of literature increases, there is a rising need for effective natural language processing tools to assist in organizing, curating, and retrieving this information. To that end, named entity recognition (the task of identifying words and phrases in free text that belong to certain classes of interest) is an important first step for many of these larger information management goals. In recent years, much attention has been focused on the problem of recognizing gene and protein mentions in biomedical abstracts. This paper presents a framework for simultaneously recognizing occurrences of PROTEIN, DNA, RNA, CELL-LINE, and CELL-TYPE entity classes using Conditional Random Fields with a variety of traditional and novel features. I show that this approach can achieve an overall F measure around 70, which seems to be the current state of the art.

Charles Sutton, Khashayar Rohanimanesh and Andrew McCallum. Dynamic Conditional Random Fields: Factorized Probabilistic Models for Labeling and Segmenting Sequence Data. In Proceedings of the Twenty-First International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML 2004), 2004.

In sequence modeling, we often wish to represent complex interaction between labels, such as when performing multiple, cascaded labeling tasks on the same sequence, or when long-range dependencies exist. We present dynamic conditional random fields (DCRFs), a generalization of linear-chain conditional random fields (CRFs) in which each time slice contains a set of state variables and edges—a distributed state representation as in dynamic Bayesian networks (DBNs)—and parameters are tied across slices. Since exact inference can be intractable in such models, we perform approximate inference using several schedules for belief propagation, including tree-based reparameterization (TRP). On a natural-language chunking task, we show that a DCRF performs better than a series of linear-chain CRFs, achieving comparable performance using only half the training data.

John Lafferty, Xiaojin Zhu and Yan Liu. Kernel conditional random fields: representation and clique selection. In Proceedings of the Twenty-First International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML 2004), 2004.

Kernel conditional random fields (KCRFs) are introduced as a framework for discriminative modeling of graph-structured data. A representer theorem for conditional graphical models is given which shows how kernel conditional random fields arise from risk minimization procedures defined using Mercer kernels on labeled graphs. A procedure for greedily selecting cliques in the dual representation is then proposed, which allows sparse representations. By incorporating kernels and implicit feature spaces into conditional graphical models, the framework enables semi-supervised learning algorithms for structured data through the use of graph kernels. The framework and clique selection methods are demonstrated in synthetic data experiments, and are also applied to the problem of protein secondary structure prediction.

Xuming He, Richard Zemel, and Miguel Á. Carreira-Perpiñán. Multiscale conditional random fields for image labelling. In Proceedings of the 2004 IEEE Computer Society Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR 2004), 2004.

We propose an approach to include contextual features for labeling images, in which each pixel is assigned to one of a finite set of labels. The features are incorporated into a probabilistic framework which combines the outputs of several components. Components differ in the information they encode. Some focus on the image-label mapping, while others focus solely on patterns within the label field. Components also differ in their scale, as some focus on fine-resolution patterns while others on coarser, more global structure. A supervised version of the contrastive divergence algorithm is applied to learn these features from labeled image data. We demonstrate performance on two real-world image databases and compare it to a classifier and a Markov random field.

Yasemin Altun, Alex J. Smola, Thomas Hofmann. Exponential Families for Conditional Random Fields. In Proceedings of the 20th Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI-2004), 2004.

In this paper we define conditional random fields in reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces and show connections to Gaussian Process classification. More specifically, we prove decomposition results for undirected graphical models and we give constructions for kernels. Finally we present efficient means of solving the optimization problem using reduced rank decompositions and we show how stationarity can be exploited efficiently in the optimization process.

Michelle L. Gregory and Yasemin Altun. Using Conditional Random Fields to Predict Pitch Accents in Conversational Speech. In Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL 2004), 2004.

The detection of prosodic characteristics is an important aspect of both speech synthesis and speech recognition. Correct placement of pitch accents aids in more natural sounding speech, while automatic detection of accents can contribute to better word-level recognition and better textual understanding. In this paper we investigate probabilistic, contextual, and phonological factors that influence pitch accent placement in natural, conversational speech in a sequence labeling setting. We introduce Conditional Random Fields (CRFs) to pitch accent prediction task in order to incorporate these factors efficiently in a sequence model. We demonstrate the usefulness and the incremental effect of these factors in a sequence model by performing experiments on hand labeled data from the Switchboard Corpus. Our model outperforms the baseline and previous models of pitch accent prediction on the Switchboard Corpus.

Brian Roark, Murat Saraclar, Michael Collins and Mark Johnson. Discriminative Language Modeling with Conditional Random Fields and the Perceptron Algorithm. In Proceedings of the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL 2004), 2004.

This paper describes discriminative language modeling for a large vocabulary speech recognition task. We contrast two parameter estimation methods: the perceptron algorithm, and a method based on conditional random fields (CRFs). The models are encoded as deterministic weighted finite state automata, and are applied by intersecting the automata with word-lattices that are the output from a baseline recognizer. The perceptron algorithm has the benefit of automatically selecting a relatively small feature set in just a couple of passes over the training data. However, using the feature set output from the perceptron algorithm (initialized with their weights), CRF training provides an additional 0.5% reduction in word error rate, for a total 1.8% absolute reduction from the baseline of 39.2%.

Ryan McDonald and Fernando Pereira. Identifying Gene and Protein Mentions in Text Using Conditional Random Fields. BioCreative, 2004.

Trausti T. Kristjansson, Aron Culotta, Paul Viola and Andrew McCallum. Interactive Information Extraction with Constrained Conditional Random Fields. In Proceedings of the Nineteenth National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI 2004), 2004.

Information Extraction methods can be used to automatically "fill-in" database forms from unstructured data such as Web documents or email. State-of-the-art methods have achieved low error rates but invariably make a number of errors. The goal of an interactive information extraction system is to assist the user in filling in database fields while giving the user confidence in the integrity of the data. The user is presented with an interactive interface that allows both the rapid verification of automatic field assignments and the correction of errors. In cases where there are multiple errors, our system takes into account user corrections, and immediately propagates these constraints such that other fields are often corrected automatically. Linear-chain conditional random fields (CRFs) have been shown to perform well for information extraction and other language modelling tasks due to their ability to capture arbitrary, overlapping features of the input in a Markov model. We apply this framework with two extensions: a constrained Viterbi decoding which finds the optimal field assignments consistent with the fields explicitly specified or corrected by the user; and a mechanism for estimating the confidence of each extracted field, so that low-confidence extractions can be highlighted. Both of these mechanisms are incorporated in a novel user interface for form filling that is intuitive and speeds the entry of data—providing a 23% reduction in error due to automated corrections.

Thomas G. Dietterich, Adam Ashenfelter and Yaroslav Bulatov. Training Conditional Random Fields via Gradient Tree Boosting. In Proceedings of the Twenty-First International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML 2004), 2004.

Conditional Random Fields (CRFs; Lafferty, McCallum, & Pereira, 2001) provide a flexible and powerful model for learning to assign labels to elements of sequences in such applications as part-of-speech tagging, text-to-speech mapping, protein and DNA sequence analysis, and information extraction from web pages. However, existing learning algorithms are slow, particularly in problems with large numbers of potential input features. This paper describes a new method for training CRFs by applying Friedman's (1999) gradient tree boosting method. In tree boosting, the CRF potential functions are represented as weighted sums of regression trees. Regression trees are learned by stage-wise optimizations similar to Adaboost, but with the objective of maximizing the conditional likelihood P(Y|X) of the CRF model. By growing regression trees, interactions among features are introduced only as needed, so although the parameter space is potentially immense, the search algorithm does not explicitly consider the large space. As a result, gradient tree boosting scales linearly in the order of the Markov model and in the order of the feature interactions, rather than exponentially like previous algorithms based on iterative scaling and gradient descent.

John Lafferty, Yan Liu and Xiaojin Zhu. Kernel Conditional Random Fields: Representation, Clique Selection, and Semi-Supervised Learning. Technical Report CMU-CS-04-115, Carnegie Mellon University, 2004.

Kernel conditional random fields are introduced as a framework for discriminative modeling of graph-structured data. A representer theorem for conditional graphical models is given which shows how kernel conditional random fields arise from risk minimization procedures defined using Mercer kernels on labeled graphs. A procedure for greedily selecting cliques in the dual representation is then proposed, which allows sparse representations. By incorporating kernels and implicit feature spaces into conditional graphical models, the framework enables semi-supervised learning algorithms for structured data through the use of graph kernels. The clique selection and semi-supervised methods are demonstrated in synthetic data experiments, and are also applied to the problem of protein secondary structure prediction.

Fuchun Peng and Andrew McCallum (2004). Accurate Information Extraction from Research Papers using Conditional Random Fields. In Proceedings of Human Language Technology Conference and North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (HLT/NAACL-04), 2004.

With the increasing use of research paper search engines, such as CiteSeer, for both literature search and hiring decisions, the accuracy of such systems is of paramount importance. This paper employs Conditional Random Fields (CRFs) for the task of extracting various common fields from the headers and citation of research papers. The basic theory of CRFs is becoming well-understood, but best-practices for applying them to real-world data requires additional exploration. This paper makes an empirical exploration of several factors, including variations on Gaussian, exponential and hyperbolic priors for improved regularization, and several classes of features and Markov order. On a standard benchmark data set, we achieve new state-of-the-art performance, reducing error in average F1 by 36%, and word error rate by 78% in comparison with the previous best SVM results. Accuracy compares even more favorably against HMMs.

Yasemin Altun, Thomas Hofmann and Alexander J. Smola. Gaussian process classification for segmenting and annotating sequences. In Proceedings of the Twenty-First International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML 2004), 2004.

Many real-world classification tasks involve the prediction of multiple, inter-dependent class labels. A prototypical case of this sort deals with prediction of a sequence of labels for a sequence of observations. Such problems arise naturally in the context of annotating and segmenting observation sequences. This paper generalizes Gaussian Process classification to predict multiple labels by taking dependencies between neighboring labels into account. Our approach is motivated by the desire to retain rigorous probabilistic semantics, while overcoming limitations of parametric methods like Conditional Random Fields, which exhibit conceptual and computational difficulties in high-dimensional input spaces. Experiments on named entity recognition and pitch accent prediction tasks demonstrate the competitiveness of our approach.

Yasemin Altun and Thomas Hofmann. Gaussian Process Classification for Segmenting and Annotating Sequences. Technical Report CS-04-12, Department of Computer Science, Brown University, 2004.

Multiclass classification refers to the problem of assigning labels to instances where labels belong to some finite set of elements. Often, however, the instances to be labeled do not occur in isolation, but rather in observation sequences. One is then interested in predicting the joint label configuration, i.e. the sequence of labels, using models that take possible interdependencies between label variables into account. This scenario subsumes problems of sequence segmentation and annotation. In this paper, we investigate the use of Gaussian Process (GP) classification for label sequences.


Cristian Smimchisescu, Atul Kanaujia, Zhiguo Li and Dimitris Metaxus. Conditional Models for Contextual Human Motion Recognition. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Computer Vision, (ICCV 2005), Beijing, China, 2005.

We present algorithms for recognizing human motion in monocular video sequences, based on discriminative Conditional Random Field (CRF) and Maximum Entropy Markov Models (MEMM). Existing approaches to this problem typically use generative (joint) structures like the Hidden Markov Model (HMM). Therefore they have to make simplifying, often unrealistic assumptions on the conditional independence of observations given the motion class labels and cannot accommodate overlapping features or long term contextual dependencies in the observation sequence. In contrast, conditional models like the CRFs seamlessly represent contextual dependencies, support efficient, exact inference using dynamic programming, and their parameters can be trained using convex optimization. We introduce conditional graphical models as complementary tools for human motion recognition and present an extensive set of experiments that show how these typically outperform HMMs in classifying not only diverse human activities like walking, jumping, running, picking or dancing, but also for discriminating among subtle motion styles like normal walk and wander walk.

Ariadna Quattoni, Michael Collins and Trevor Darrel. Conditional Random Fields for Object Recognition. In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 17 (NIPS 2004), 2005.

We present a discriminative part-based approach for the recognition of object classes from unsegmented cluttered scenes. Objects are modeled as flexible constellations of parts conditioned on local observations found by an interest operator. For each object class the probability of a given assignment of parts to local features is modeled by a Conditional Random Field (CRF). We propose an extension of the CRF framework that incorporates hidden variables and combines class conditional CRFs into a unified framework for part-based object recognition. The parameters of the CRF are estimated in a maximum likelihood framework and recognition proceeds by finding the most likely class under our model. The main advantage of the proposed CRF framework is that it allows us to relax the assumption of conditional independence of the observed data (i.e. local features) often used in generative approaches, an assumption that might be too restrictive for a considerable number of object classes. We illustrate the potential of the model in the task of recognizing cars from rear and side views.

Jospeh Bockhorst and Mark Craven. Markov Networks for Detecting Overlapping Elements in Sequence Data. In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 17 (NIPS 2004), 2005.

Many sequential prediction tasks involve locating instances of pat- terns in sequences. Generative probabilistic language models, such as hidden Markov models (HMMs), have been successfully applied to many of these tasks. A limitation of these models however, is that they cannot naturally handle cases in which pattern instances overlap in arbitrary ways. We present an alternative approach, based on conditional Markov networks, that can naturally represent arbitrarily overlapping elements. We show how to efficiently train and perform inference with these models. Experimental results from a genomics domain show that our models are more accurate at locating instances of overlapping patterns than are baseline models based on HMMs.

Antonio Torralba, Kevin P. Murphy, William T. Freeman. Contextual models for object detection using boosted random fields. In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 17 (NIPS 2004), 2005.

We seek to both detect and segment objects in images. To exploit both local image data as well as contextual information, we introduce Boosted Random Fields (BRFs), which uses Boosting to learn the graph structure and local evidence of a conditional random field (CRF). The graph structure is learned by assembling graph fragments in an additive model. The connections between individual pixels are not very informative, but by using dense graphs, we can pool information from large regions of the image; dense models also support efficient inference. We show how contextual information from other objects can improve detection performance, both in terms of accuracy and speed, by using a computational cascade. We apply our system to detect stuff and things in office and street scenes.

Sunita Sarawagi and William W. Cohen. Semi-Markov Conditional Random Fields for Information Extraction. In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 17 (NIPS 2004), 2005.

We describe semi-Markov conditional random fields (semi-CRFs), a conditionally trained version of semi-Markov chains. Intuitively, a semi-CRF on an input sequence x outputs a "segmentation" of x, in which labels are assigned to segments (i.e., subsequences) of x rather than to individual elements xi of x. Importantly, features for semi-CRFs can measure properties of segments, and transitions within a segment can be non-Markovian. In spite of this additional power, exact learning and inference algorithms for semi-CRFs are polynomial-time—often only a small constant factor slower than conventional CRFs. In experiments on five named entity recognition problems, semi-CRFs generally outperform conventional CRFs.

Yuan Qi, Martin Szummer and Thomas P. Minka. Bayesian Conditional Random Fields. To appear in Proceedings of the Tenth International W\orkshop on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS 2005), 2005.

We propose Bayesian Conditional Random Fields (BCRFs) for classifying interdependent and structured data, such as sequences, images or webs. BCRFs are a Bayesian approach to training and inference with conditional random fields, which were previously trained by maximizing likelihood (ML) (Lafferty et al., 2001). Our framework eliminates the problem of overfitting, and offers the full advantages of a Bayesian treatment. Unlike the ML approach, we estimate the posterior distribution of the model parameters during training, and average over this posterior during inference. We apply an extension of EP method, the power EP method, to incorporate the partition function. For algorithmic stability and accuracy, we flatten the approximation structures to avoid two-level approximations. We demonstrate the superior prediction accuracy of BCRFs over conditional random fields trained with ML or MAP on synthetic and real datasets.

Aron Culotta, David Kulp and Andrew McCallum. Gene Prediction with Conditional Random Fields. Technical Report UM-CS-2005-028. University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2005.

Given a sequence of DNA nucleotide bases, the task of gene prediction is to find subsequences of bases that encode proteins. Reasonable performance on this task has been achieved using generatively trained sequence models, such as hidden Markov models. We propose instead the use of a discriminitively trained sequence model, the conditional random field (CRF). CRFs can naturally incorporate arbitrary, non-independent features of the input without making conditional independence assumptions among the features. This can be particularly important for gene finding, where including evidence from protein databases, EST data, or tiling arrays may improve accuracy. We eval- uate our model on human genomic data, and show that CRFs perform better than HMM-based models at incorporating homology evidence from protein databases, achieving a 10% reduction in base-level errors.

Yang Wang and Qiang Ji. A Dynamic Conditional Random Field Model for Object Segmentation in Image Sequences. In IEEE Computer Society Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR 2005), Volume 1, 2005.

This paper presents a dynamic conditional random field (DCRF) model to integrate contextual constraints for object segmentation in image sequences. Spatial and temporal dependencies within the segmentation process are unified by a dynamic probabilistic framework based on the conditional random field (CRF). An efficient approximate filtering algorithm is derived for the DCRF model to recursively estimate the segmentation field from the history of video frames. The segmentation method employs both intensity and motion cues, and it combines dynamic information and spatial interaction of the observed data. Experimental results show that the proposed approach effectively fuses contextual constraints in video sequences and improves the accuracy of object segmentation.


MALLET: A Machine Learning for Language Toolkit.

MALLET is an integrated collection of Java code useful for statistical natural language processing, document classification, clustering, information extraction, and other machine learning applications to text.

ABNER: A Biomedical Named Entity Recognizer.

ABNER is a text analysis tool for molecular biology. It is essentially an interactive, user-friendly interface to a system designed as part of the NLPBA/BioNLP 2004 Shared Task challenge.


MinorThird is a collection of Java classes for storing text, annotating text, and learning to extract entities and categorize text.

Kevin Murphy's MATLAB CRF code.

Conditional random fields (chains, trees and general graphs; includes BP code).

Sunita Sarawagi's CRF package.

The CRF package is a Java implementation of conditional random fields for sequential labeling.