Scalable Neural Data Server: A Data Recommender for Transfer Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 34 pre-proceedings (NeurIPS 2021)

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Tianshi Cao, Sasha (Alexandre) Doubov, David Acuna, Sanja Fidler


Absence of large-scale labeled data in the practitioner's target domain can be a bottleneck to applying machine learning algorithms in practice. Transfer learning is a popular strategy for leveraging additional data to improve the downstream performance, but finding the most relevant data to transfer from can be challenging. Neural Data Server (NDS), a search engine that recommends relevant data for a given downstream task, has been previously proposed to address this problem (Yan et al., 2020). NDS uses a mixture of experts trained on data sources to estimate similarity between each source and the downstream task. Thus, the computational cost to each user grows with the number of sources and requires an expensive training step for each data provider.To address these issues, we propose Scalable Neural Data Server (SNDS), a large-scale search engine that can theoretically index thousands of datasets to serve relevant ML data to end users. SNDS trains the mixture of experts on intermediary datasets during initialization, and represents both data sources and downstream tasks by their proximity to the intermediary datasets. As such, computational cost incurred by users of SNDS remains fixed as new datasets are added to the server, without pre-training for the data providers.We validate SNDS on a plethora of real world tasks and find that data recommended by SNDS improves downstream task performance over baselines. We also demonstrate the scalability of our system by demonstrating its ability to select relevant data for transfer outside of the natural image setting.