BEIR: A Heterogeneous Benchmark for Zero-shot Evaluation of Information Retrieval Models

Part of Proceedings of the Neural Information Processing Systems Track on Datasets and Benchmarks 1 (NeurIPS Datasets and Benchmarks 2021)

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Nandan Thakur, Nils Reimers, Andreas Rücklé, Abhishek Srivastava, Iryna Gurevych


Existing neural information retrieval (IR) models have often been studied in homogeneous and narrow settings, which has considerably limited insights into their out-of-distribution (OOD) generalization capabilities. To address this, and to facilitate researchers to broadly evaluate the effectiveness of their models, we introduce Benchmarking-IR (BEIR), a robust and heterogeneous evaluation benchmark for information retrieval. We leverage a careful selection of 18 publicly available datasets from diverse text retrieval tasks and domains and evaluate 10 state-of-the-art retrieval systems including lexical, sparse, dense, late-interaction, and re-ranking architectures on the BEIR benchmark. Our results show BM25 is a robust baseline and re-ranking and late-interaction based models on average achieve the best zero-shot performances, however, at high computational costs. In contrast, dense and sparse-retrieval models are computationally more efficient but often underperform other approaches, highlighting the considerable room for improvement in their generalization capabilities. We hope this framework allows us to better evaluate and understand existing retrieval systems and contributes to accelerating progress towards more robust and generalizable systems in the future. BEIR is publicly available at