Learning local and global contexts using a convolutional recurrent network model for relation classification in biomedical text

Learning local and global contexts using a convolutional recurrent network model for relation classification in biomedical text

Desh Raj and Sunil Kumar Sahu and Ashish Anand Department of Computer Science and Engineering Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati Guwahati, India



The task of relation classification in the biomedical domain is complex due to the presence of samples obtained from het- erogeneous sources such as research ar- ticles, discharge summaries, or electronic health records. It is also a constraint for classifiers which employ manual fea- ture engineering. In this paper, we pro- pose a convolutional recurrent neural net- work (CRNN) architecture that combines RNNs and CNNs in sequence to solve this problem. The rationale behind our ap- proach is that CNNs can effectively iden- tify coarse-grained local features in a sen- tence, while RNNs are more suited for long-term dependencies. We compare our CRNN model with several baselines on two biomedical datasets, namely the i2b2- 2010 clinical relation extraction challenge dataset, and the SemEval-2013 DDI ex- traction dataset. We also evaluate an at- tentive pooling technique and report its performance in comparison with the con- ventional max pooling method. Our re- sults indicate that the proposed model achieves state-of-the-art performance on both datasets.1

1 Introduction

Relation classification is the task of identifying the semantic relation present between a given pair of entities in a piece of text. Since most search queries are some forms of binary fac- toids (Agichtein et al., 2005), modern question- answering systems rely heavily upon relation clas- sification as a preprocessing step (Fleischman

et al., 2003; Lee et al., 2007). Accurate relation classification also facilitates discourse processing and precise sentence interpretations. Hence, this task has witnessed a great deal of attention over the last decade (Mintz et al., 2009; Surdeanu et al., 2012).

In the biomedical domain, in particular, extract- ing such tuples from data may be essential for identifying protein and drug interactions, symp- toms and causes of diseases, among others. Fur- ther, since clinical data tends to be obtained from multiple (and diverse) information sources such as journal articles, discharge summaries, and elec- tronic patient records, relation classification be- comes a more challenging task.

To identify relations between entities, a vari- ety of lexical, syntactic, or pragmatic cues may be exploited, which results in a challenging vari- ability in the type of features used for classifi- cation purpose. Due to this variability, a num- ber of approaches have been suggested, some of which rely on features extracted from POS tag- ging, morphological analysis, dependency pars- ing, and world knowledge (Kambhatla, 2004; San- tos et al., 2015; Suchanek et al., 2006; Mooney and Bunescu, 2005; Bunescu and Mooney, 2005). Deep learning architectures have recently gathered much interest because of their ability to conve- niently extract relevant features without the need of explicit feature engineering. For this reason, a number of convolutional and recurrent neural net- work models (Zeng et al., 2014; Xu et al., 2015b) have been used for this task.

In this paper, we propose a model that uses recurrent neural networks (RNNs) and convolu- tional neural networks (CNNs) in sequence to learn global and local context, respectively. We re- fer to this as CRNN, following the naming conven- tion used in (Huynh et al., 2016). We argue that in order for any classification task to be effective, the

1The code for the can be

https://github.com/desh2608/ crnn-relation-classification.

found at:


Proceedings of the 21st Conference on Computational Natural Language Learning (CoNLL 2017), pages 311–321, Vancouver, Canada, August 3 – August 4, 2017. ⃝c 2017 Association for Computational Linguistics

regression layer must see a complete representa- tion of the sentence, i.e., both short and long-term dependencies must be appropriately represented in the sentence embedding. This argument forms the basis of our approach. In a deep learning frame- work, since the complete information available to the classifier at the top-level is obtained through manipulation of the sentence embedding itself, the task of relation classification essentially emulates other popular objectives such as text classification and sentiment analysis if the representation for the entity types are integrated in the sentence. Al- though our proposed model uses RNNs and CNNs in sequence, it is only two layers deep, as op- posed to the very deep architectures proposed ear- lier (Conneau et al., 2016). This simplicity al- lows for intuitive understanding of each level of the model, while still learning a sufficiently com- plex representation of the input sentence.

In addition to local and global contexts, we also experiment with attention for relation classifica- tion. Although attention as a concept is relatively well-known, especially in computational neuro- science (Itti et al., 1998; Desimone and Duncan, 1995), it became popular only recently with appli- cations to image captioning and machine transla- tion (Xu et al., 2015a; Vinyals et al., 2015; Bah- danau et al., 2014). Attention has also been em- ployed to some success in relation classification tasks (Wang et al., 2016a; Zhou et al., 2016a). In our experiments, we use an attention-based pool- ing strategy and compare the results with those ob- tained using conventional pooling methods. Our model variants are accordingly named CRNN- Max and CRNN-Att, depending upong the pool- ing scheme used.

Our model is distinctive in that it does not rely upon any linguistic feature for relation clas- sification. In domains such as biomedicine, texts may not always be written in syntacti- cally/grammatically correct form. Furthermore, lack of necessary training data may not provide good feature extractors such as those in generic domains. Hence, we explored only models with- out any extra features. Of course, adding other fea- tures such as part-of-speech taggers or dependency parsers, if they are available easily, may improve the performance further. Our key contributions in this paper are as follows:

• We propose and validate a two-layer archi- tecture comprising RNNs and CNNs in se-

quence for relation classification in biomed- ical text. Our model’s performance is com- parable to the state-of-the-art on two bench- mark datasets, namely the i2b2-2010 clin- ical relation extraction challenge, and the SemEval-2013 DDI extraction dataset, with- out any need for handcrafted features.

We analyze and discuss why such a model ef- fectively captures short and long-term depen- dencies in a sentence, and demonstrate why this representation facilitates classification.

We evaluate an attention-based pooling tech- nique and compare its performance with con- ventional pooling strategies.

We provide evidence to further the argument in favor of using RNNs to obtain regional em- beddings in a sentence.

Related Research



CNNs have been effectively employed in NLP tasks such as text classification (Kim, 2014), sen- timent analysis (Dos Santos and Gatti, 2014), re- lation classification (Zeng et al., 2014; Nguyen and Grishman, 2015b), and so on. Similarly, RNN models have also been used for similar tasks (Johnson and Zhang, 2016). The improved performance of these models is due to several rea- sons:

  1. Pretrained word vectors are used as inputs for most of these models. These embed- dings capture the semantic similarity between words in a global context better than one-hot representations.
  2. CNNs are capable of learning local features such as short phrases or recurring n-grams, similar to the way they provide translational, rotational and scale invariance in vision.
  3. RNNs utilize the word order in the sentence, and are also able to learn the long-term de- pendencies.

These observations amply motivate a model which captures both short-term and long-term de- pendencies using a combination of CNNs and RNNs to form a robust representation of the sen- tence. Earlier, researchers have proposed RCNN models that compute “regional embeddings” us- ing a CNN at the first level, and these embeddings

(a) CRNN-Max (b) CRNN-Att
Figure 1: Architecture of the proposed models. For representation purpose, the following configuration has been used: d = nO

=3,f1 =f2 =2,nc =4,and|C|=3.

are then fed into an RNN layer which uses se- quence information to generate the sentence repre- sentation (Huynh et al., 2016; Wang et al., 2016b; Chen et al., 2017; Nguyen and Grishman, 2015a). These models are similar to ones that have also been employed to some success for visual recog- nition (Donahue et al., 2015). However, such mod- els are still limited because the RNN may “forget” features that occurred in the past if the sequence is very long.

We solve this problem by obtaining the output of the RNN at each time step (or word), and then pooling small phrases. This method of using a “re- current+pooling” module for regional embedding is inspired from (Johnson and Zhang, 2016), who showed that for text categorization, embeddings of text regions, which can convey higher-level con- cepts than single words in isolation, are more use- ful than word embeddings. We also experiment with attention-pooling to integrate weighted fea- tures from discontinuous regions in the sentence.

3 Proposed Method

Given a sentence S with marked entities e1 and e2, belonging to entity types t1 and t2, respectively, and a set of relation classes C = {c1,…,cm} we formulate the task of identifying the semantic re- lation as a supervised classification problem, i.e., we learn a function f : (S,E,T) → C, where S is the set of all sentences, E is the set of en- tity pairs, and T denotes the set of entity types. Our training objective is to learn a joint represen- tation of the sentence and the entity types, such that a softmax regression layer predicts the cor- rect label. To learn such an embedding, we pro- pose a two-layer neural network architecture con-

sisting of a “recurrent+pooling” layer and a “con- volutional+pooling” layer in sequence. This ar- chitecture is diagrammatically described in Fig. 1, and the remainder of this section explains each of the layers in detail.

3.1 Embedding layer

The only features we use from S are the words themselves. The vector representation of these words is obtained using the GloVe method (Pen- nington et al., 2014).

Pre-trained word vectors are used for the word embeddings and the words not present in the em- beddings list are initialized randomly. All the word vectors are updated during training.

3.2 Recurrent layer

RNN is a class of artificial neural networks which utilizes sequential information and maintains his- tory through its intermediate layers (Graves et al., 2009). We use long short-term memory (LSTM) based model (Hochreiter and Schmidhuber, 1997), which uses memory and gated mechanism to com- pute the hidden state. In particular we use a bidi- rectional LSTM model (Bi-LSTM) similar to the ones used in (Graves, 2013; Huang et al., 2015).

Let h(t) and h(t) be the outputs obtained from lr

the forward and backward direction of the LSTM at time t. Then the combined output is given as

z(t) = h(t) : h(t), z(t) ∈ RnO . (1) lr

where : denotes the concatenation operation. We obtain the output at each word and pass it to the first pooling layer.


3.3 First pooling layer

The recurrent layer generates word-level embed- dings that incorporate information from the past and future context. Sometimes the word itself may not be important for the sentence representation, and in such cases, it may be better to extract the most important features from short phrases using a pooling technique. If f1 denotes the length of the filter used for pooling, and (z1, . . . , zm) is the sequence of vectors obtained from the previous layer, then

p = (p1,p2,…,pm−f1+1), (2) where pi ∈ RnO is given as

pi = max [zi+j ], (3) 1≤j ≤f1

i.e. the maximum among all vectors zi+1 to zi+f1 . 3.4 Convolutional layer

We apply convolution on p to get local features from each part of the sentence (Collobert and Weston, 2008). Consider a convolutional filter parametrized by weight vector wc ∈ RnO ∗f2 , where f2 is the length of filter. Then the output sequence of convolution layer would be

hi =f(w ·pi:i+f2−1 +b ), (4) ccc

where i = 1,2,…,m − f1 − f2 + 2, · is dot

product, f is the rectifier linear unit (ReLU) func-


term. The parameters wc and bc are shared across

all convolutions i = 1,2,…,m − f1 − f2 + 2.

On applying nc such filters, we obtain an output matrix Hc ∈ Rnc×(m−f1−f2+2).

3.5 Second pooling layer

The output of the convolutional layer is of vari- able length (m − f1 − f2 + 2), since it depends on the length m of the input sentence. To ob- tain fixed length global features for the entire sen- tence, we apply pooling over the entire sequence. For this, we experiment with two different pool- ing schemes based on which our model has two variations, namely CRNN-Max and CRNN-Att.

3.5.1 Max pooling over time

Max pooling over time (Collobert and Weston, 2008) takes the maximum over the entire sentence, with the assumption that all the relevant informa- tion is accumulated in that position. Since the in- put to this layer are the local convolved vectors,

this strategy essentially extracts the most impor- tant features from several short phrases. The out- put is then given as


pool i mum over all hc ’s.

zpool = max [hic], 1≤i≤(m−f1 −f2 +2)

(5) where z ∈ Rnc is the dimension-wise maxi-

3.5.2 Attention-based pooling

A max pooling scheme may fail when impor- tant cues are distributed across different clauses in the sentence. We solve this problem by us- ing an attention-based pooling scheme, which ob- tains an optimal feature dimension-wise by tak- ing weighted linear combinations of the vec- tors. These weights are trained using an atten- tion mechanism such that more important fea- tures are weighed higher (Bahdanau et al., 2014; Yang et al., 2016; Zhou et al., 2016b). The at- tention mechanism produces a vector α of size m−f1 −f2 +2,andthevaluesinthisvector are the weights for each phrase obtained from the convolutional layer feature vectors.

Hatt = tanh(W1αHc)
α = Softmax(W2αT Hatt)
zatt = αHcT (6)

Here, Hc is the matrix of CNN output vec- tors, W1α , W2α ∈ Rnc ×nc is the parameter matrix, α ∈ Rm−f1 −f2 +2 are the attention weights, and zatt ∈ Rnc is the output of the pooling layer. The attention weights are a function of the input sen- tence, and hence α is different for every sentence.

3.6 Fully connected and softmax

To obtain a classifier over the extracted global fea- tures, we use a fully connected layer consisting of |C| nodes, where C is the set of all possible rela- tion classes, followed by a softmax layer to gen- erate a probability distribution over the set of all possible labels. The final output is given as

p(ci|x) = Softmax(Wioz + boi ), (7)

where W o and bo are the weight and bias param- eters, and z may be either zpool or zatt, depend- ing on the second pooling layer scheme. The pre- dicted output y′ is obtained as

y′ = arg max p(ci|x). (8) ci ∈C








Mechanism Effect Advice


1318 1685 826 189 23756

1264 1620 820 140 12651

302 360 221 96 4737

302 360 221 96 3046







Train size

Test size






Table 1: Number of training and testing instances for each relation type in the i2b2 dataset.

4 Experiments 4.1 Datasets

We have used 2 datasets for experimentation, namely the i2b2-2010 clinical relation extrac- tion challenge dataset (Sun et al., 2013), and the SemEval-2013 DDI extraction dataset (Se- gura Bedmar et al., 2013).

i2b2-2010 relation extraction

This dataset contains sentences from discharge summaries collected from three different hospi- tals and have 8 relation types: treatment caused medical problems (TrCP), treatment administered medical problem (TrAP), treatment worsen med- ical problem (TrWP), treatment improve or cure medical problem (TrIP), treatment was not ad- ministered because of medical problem (TrNAP), test reveal medical problem (TeRP), test con- ducted to investigate medical problem (TeCP), and medical problem indicates medical problem (PIP). If a sentence has more than two entities, we make an instance for each pair. Since only 170 of the 394 original training documents and 256 of the 477 testing documents were available for down- load, we combined all the training and testing in- stances, and then split it in a 80:20 ratio for train- ing and test sets respectively. The statistics of the dataset are described in Table 1.

SemEval 2013 DDI extraction

This dataset contains annotated sentences from two sources, Medline abstracts (biomedical re- search articles) and DrugBank database (docu- ments written by medical practitioners). The dataset is annotated with following four kinds of interactions: advice (opinion or consultation re- lated to the simultaneous use of the two drugs), effect (effect of the DDI together with pharma- codynamic effect or mechanism of interaction),

Table 2: Number of training and testing instances for each relation type in the DDI extraction dataset.

mechanism (pharmacokinetic mechanism), and int (drug interaction without any other information). Dataset provides the training and test instances by sentences. Similar to i2b2 relation extrac- tion dataset if a sentence has more than two drug names, all possible pairs of drugs in the sentence have been separately annotated, such that a single sentence having multiple drug names leads to sep- arate instances of drug pairs and corresponding in- teraction. Statistics of the dataset (along with neg- ative instance filtering, discussed in Section 4.1.1) is shown in Table 2.

4.1.1 Preprocessing

As a preprocessing step, we replace the enti- ties in the i2b2 dataset with the corresponding entity types. For instance, the sentence: “He was given Lasix to prevent him from conges- tive heart failure.” was converted to: “He was given TREATMENT A to prevent him from PROB- LEM B.” Similarly, for the DDI extraction dataset, the two targeted drug names are replaced with DRUG-A and DRUG-B respectively, and other drug names in the same sentence are replaced with DRUG-N. Further, all numbers were replaced with the keyword NUM. Similar to the earlier studies (Sahu and Anand, 2017; Liu et al., 2016; Rastegar-Mojarad et al., 2013), negative instances were filtered from training sets.

4.2 Implementation details

Pretrained 100-dimensional word vectors in the embedding layer are obtained using the GloVe method (Pennington et al., 2014) trained on a corpus of PubMed open source articles (Muneeb et al., 2015), and are updated during the train- ing process. We use both l2 regularization and dropout (Srivastava et al., 2014) techniques for regularization. Dropout is applied only on the out- put of the second pooling layer, and it prevents co-adaptation of hidden units by randomly drop- ping few nodes. After tuning the hyperparameters on a validation set (20% of training set), the val-


f1 \f2
























ues of 0.01 (0.001) and 0.7 (0.5) were found op- timal for the regularization parameter and dropout for the i2b2 (DDI extraction) dataset, respectively. We use Adam technique (Kingma and Ba, 2014) to optimize our loss function, with a learning rate of 0.01. For all the models, nO and nC were tuned on the validation set, and values of 200 and 100 were found to be optimal. Hyperparameters of baseline methods were taken from the values sug- gested in the respective papers. Entire neural net- work parameters and feature vectors are updated while training. We have implemented the pro- posed model in Python language using the Tensor- flow package (Abadi et al., 2016). We experiment with different filter sizes for f1 and f2 and discuss the results in Section 5.1.

4.3 Baseline methods

We compare our models with 5 methods that have earlier been used for relation classification to satis- factory results. These baselines were selected for one of the following three purposes.

Feature-based methods

We selected a feature-based SVM classifier (Rink et al., 2011) that uses several handcrafted features such as distance of word from entities, POS tags, chunk tags, etc., to compare whether our mod- els were able to outperform classifiers with rigor- ous feature engineering. It is to be noted that we use our own implementation of the SVM classifier (using the scikit-learn (Pedregosa et al., 2011) li- brary), using features as described in (Sahu et al., 2016).

Single-layer neural networks

We selected a multiple-filter CNN with max- pooling (Sahu et al., 2016) and an LSTM model with max and attentive pooling (Sahu and Anand, 2017). In Section 5.5, we compare our models with these single layer models to justify using a combination of RNN and CNN to learn long-term and short-term dependencies, respectively. To ob- serve the effect of the network model independent of the feature set, we use only the word embed- dings as features for each of these models. Further, we used the same hyperparameters as mentioned in the respective papers.

Recurrent convolutional neural network

This model, inspired from (Wang et al., 2016b), obtains regional embeddings using a convolutional

Table 3: Average F1 scores on varying filter sizes f1 and f2 in the CRNN-Att model for i2b2 dataset.

layer. These are then fed into a recurrent layer and a single output is obtained after traversing the en- tire sequence. We compare our models with this RCNN model to observe the effect of obtaining outputs at every word, as opposed to at the end of the sequence.


5 5.1

Results and Discussion Effect of filter sizes f1 and f2

We experiment with various combinations of fil- ter sizes f1 and f2 on the i2b2 dataset using our CRNN-Att model. Since f1 denotes the size of the first pooling filter, it essentially represents the amount of information present in a regional em- bedding that is fed into the convolutional layer. If f1 is too small (f1 = 1, i.e., no pooling), em- beddings from seemingly unimportant words may get through, and if it is large (f1 ≥ 3), individ- ual embeddings may get pooled such that a few words dominate the majority of regions. For the filter size f2 in the convolutional layer, a mid- range value (4 to 6) was found to work well. This may be because this layer learns to identify short phrases which are usually of this length. These observations were common for both datasets. The F1 scores for various combinations of filter sizes on the i2b2 data are shown in Table 3. In the re- maining experiments, we choose (f1,f2) = (2,5) for both our model variants.

5.2 Initialization and tuning of word embeddings

The only feature used in our models is the word vectors for every word in the sentence. We per- form several experiments on the i2b2 data to ob- serve the effect of word vector initialization and update on the model performance. The results are summarized in Table 5.

Interestingly, the best performing model uses randomly initialized word embeddings that are not updated during training. This is in contrast to earlier studies (Sahu and Anand, 2017; Collobert and Weston, 2008) where pretrained embeddings



DDI extraction



F1 score



F1 score

SVM (Rink et al., 2011)







CNN-Max (Sahu et al., 2016)







LSTM-Max (Sahu and Anand, 2017)







LSTM-Att (Sahu and Anand, 2017)







RCNN (Wang et al., 2016b)


















Table 4: Comparison of our proposed models CRNN-Max and CRNN-Att, with baselines, on the i2b2-2010 and DDI extraction datasets.





















Table 5: Effect of initialization and update of word embed- dings in our proposed models, in terms of F1 score, using the i2b2-2010 datset.

Table 6: Classwise performance (in terms of F1 score) of various models on the i2b2 dataset.

usually improved model performances by 3-4%. However, this result aligns with the observations made in (Johnson and Zhang, 2015) and supports the argument for one-hot LSTMs. It may be en- lightening to discuss why such a result is obtained.

First, we note that in the formulas for LSTM, e.g., ut = tanh(W(u)xt + U(u)ht−1 + b(u)), if xt is the one-hot representation of a word, the term W(u)xt serves as a word embedding. Thus, a one-hot LSTM inherently includes a word em- bedding in its computation. Further, a word vector lookup is a linear operation, and hence it may be merged into the LSTM layer itself by multiplying the LSTM weights by the word embedding matrix. This means that the expressive power of an LSTM which uses pretrained vectors is the same as that of one which uses randomly initialized word em- beddings. It has also been shown in earlier stud- ies that pretrained embeddings do not improve the performance of networks as the number of layers increases.

Johnson et al. (2015) even argued that the em- bedding layer can be replaced with a one-hot

representation without compromising on the per- formance. Empirically, inclusion of an embed- ding layer makes training from scratch more diffi- cult, even with the help of adaptive learning rates. Similar observations have been made regarding CNNs (Kim, 2014; Johnson and Zhang, 2014).

5.3 Comparison with baseline methods

Table 4 shows the results obtained on the i2b2 and DDI extraction datasets using our proposed mod- els, as compared to the baseline methods. Our models outperform the baselines even without the need for explicit feature engineering. It is interest- ing to note that our CRNN-Max performs better than the CRNN-Att, and a similar result has also been observed earlier in (Sahu and Anand, 2017).

Class-wise performance analysis

We compare class-wise performance of our mod- els on the i2b2 dataset with some of the baselines, and this is summarized in Table 6. It is evident that performances improve with training size, and from the confusion matrices (not shown here), we found that samples of a lower frequency class were misclassified into a higher frequency class com- prising the same entity types. For instance, sam- ples belonging to TrWP (Treatment Worsen medi- cal Problem) were often classified as TrAP (Treat- ment Administered medical Problem).

5.4 Effect of attention-based pooling

Our CRNN-Att model uses an attention-based technique in the final pooling layer, i.e. it obtains a weighted linear combination of different phrases depending upon their relative importance in the sentence embedding. To confirm this, we visual- ize attention weights in a CRNN-Att model with (f1, f2) = (1, 3), for 5 samples in the i2b2 dataset through a heat map as shown in Figure 2. Since weights are assigned to phrases rather than words, to obtain attention for each word we take the mean










































































Figure 2: Attention heatmap for 5 sentences selected from the i2b2-2010 dataset. A darker background corresponds to a larger attention weight.

of weights of all phrases that the word is present in. The figure shows that the attentive pooling scheme is able to select important phrases depend- ing upon the classification label. It is evident that the model assigns a higher weight to semantically relevant words such as “showed,” “question,” and “revealed”.

5.5 Long and short term dependencies

We conjecture that our proposed CRNN models perform better than single layer CNNs or RNNs because they capture both local and global con- texts efficiently. To confirm our hypothesis, we determine the average sentence lengths and entity separations for several sets of sentences belong- ing to classes where our models performed well, and for classes where either the CNN model or the LSTM-Max model performed relatively well, for the i2b2-2010 dataset. These results are visualized in the box plots shown in Fig. 3.

From the figure, we note that our models CRNN-Max and CRNN-Att perform significantly better than a CNN model in classifying long sen- tences with large entity separation, while CNN models work well with shorter sentences where the entities are less separated. This is evident by observing the median and range of lower to up- per quartile values in the figure. This confirms our conjecture that our models learn long-term dependencies better than a simple CNN model. Similarly, our proposed models perform better on a larger range of sentence lengths than LSTMs, which may be due to more effective modeling of local contexts.



Figure 3: Box plots for distribution of (a) sentence lengths and (b) entity separation for sentence sets. A representation of the form {X}\{ ̃Y} denotes the set of sentences correctly classified by model X but wrongly classified by model Y. The numbers at the top are the median values for each box.

5.6 Effect of linguistic features

The SVM baseline model described earlier con- sists of the following features obtained for each word in the sentence: word embedding, part-of- speech (POS) tag, chunk tag, distance from first entity, distance from second entity, and entity type. Of these, the entity type feature is already used in our CRNN model in the preprocessing step






























































Table 7: Classwise performance comparison between SVM and CRNN-Max using linguistic features. #1 denotes num- ber of sentences of a class classified correctly by SVM but incorrectly by CRNN-Max; #2 denotes vice-versa.

by replacing the entities with their corresponding types. Furthermore, we have also described ex- periments with initialization and update of word embeddings.

In this section, we add the four other linguis- tic features in our proposed model to observe its performance in comparison with the SVM model. Table 7 summarizes this comparison.

Although the F1 scores for the models are rel- atively close, the precision (P) and recall (R) vary significantly: P is 67.44 and 61.00, while R is 57.85 and 67.54, for the SVM and CRNN-Max models, respectively. Our CRNN-Max model, therefore, is more sensitive while the SVM clas- sifier has a higher specificity. Furthermore, it is evident that SVM outperforms our model only on classes with a disproportionately low instance count. We may argue that due to the presence of more features and less number of records, our model gets over-trained only on the larger classes. This problem may then be avoided with better reg- ularization, to achieve even higher performance.

6 Conclusion

In this work, we proposed and evaluated a two- layer architecture comprising recurrent and con- volutional layers in sequence to learn global and local contexts in a sentence, which was then used for relation classification. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first attempt at com- bining CNNs and RNNs in sequence for a re- lation classification task in biomedical domain. Two variants of the model, namely CRNN-Max and CRNN-Att, were evaluated on the i2b2-2010 dataset and the SemEval 2013 DDI extraction dataset, and max-pooling was found to perform better than attentive pooling. Even though our method employed only word embeddings as in-

put feature, it was able to conveniently outper- form state-of-the-art techniques that use extensive feature engineering. Finally, our results indicated that a “recurrent+pooling” layer effectively gener- ates regional embedding without the need for pre- trained word vectors. It would be interesting to see whether one-hot word vectors perform better than randomly initialized embeddings. We may also benefit from probing whether tree-based or non-continuous convolutions work as well as our CRNN models for learning long and short term de- pendencies for relation classification.


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