Tabular Functional Block Detection with Embedding-based Agglomerative Cell Clustering


Kexuan Sun, Fei Wang, Muhao Chen, Jay Pujara


Tables are a widely-used format for data curation. The diversity of domains, layouts, and content of tables makes knowledge extraction challenging. Understanding table layouts is an important step for automatically harvesting knowledge from tabular data. Since table cells are spatially organized into regions, correctly identifying such regions and inferring their functional roles, referred to as functional block detection, is a critical part of understanding table layouts. Earlier functional block detection approaches fail to leverage spatial relationships and higher-level structure, either depending on cell-level predictions or relying on data types as signals for identifying blocks. In this paper, we introduce a flexible functional block detection method by applying agglomerative clustering techniques which merge smaller blocks into larger blocks using two merging strategies. Our proposed method uses cell embeddings with a customized dissimilarity function which utilizes local and margin distances, as well as block coherence metrics to capture cell, block, and table scoped features. Given the diversity of tables in real-world corpora, we also introduce a sampling-based approach for automatically tuning distance thresholds for each table. Experimental results show that our method improves over the earlier state-of-the-art method in terms of several evaluation metrics.

In Proceedings of the 30th ACM International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management
Kexuan Sun
PhD student

My research interests are mainly on table understanding, knowledge graphs, and some other subfields of Artificial Intelligence (AI).