Rethinking Importance Weighting for Deep Learning under Distribution Shift

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Tongtong Fang, Nan Lu, Gang Niu, Masashi Sugiyama


Under distribution shift (DS) where the training data distribution differs from the test one, a powerful technique is importance weighting (IW) which handles DS in two separate steps: weight estimation (WE) estimates the test-over-training density ratio and weighted classification (WC) trains the classifier from weighted training data. However, IW cannot work well on complex data, since WE is incompatible with deep learning. In this paper, we rethink IW and theoretically show it suffers from a circular dependency: we need not only WE for WC, but also WC for WE where a trained deep classifier is used as the feature extractor (FE). To cut off the dependency, we try to pretrain FE from unweighted training data, which leads to biased FE. To overcome the bias, we propose an end-to-end solution dynamic IW that iterates between WE and WC and combines them in a seamless manner, and hence our WE can also enjoy deep networks and stochastic optimizers indirectly. Experiments with two representative types of DS on three popular datasets show that our dynamic IW compares favorably with state-of-the-art methods.