Actively Testing Your Model While It Learns: Realizing Label-Efficient Learning in Practice

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Dayou Yu, Weishi Shi, Qi Yu


In active learning (AL), we focus on reducing the data annotation cost from the model training perspective. However, "testing'', which often refers to the model evaluation process of using empirical risk to estimate the intractable true generalization risk, also requires data annotations. The annotation cost for "testing'' (model evaluation) is under-explored. Even in works that study active model evaluation or active testing (AT), the learning and testing ends are disconnected. In this paper, we propose a novel active testing while learning (ATL) framework that integrates active learning with active testing. ATL provides an unbiased sample-efficient estimation of the model risk during active learning. It leverages test samples annotated from different periods of a dynamic active learning process to achieve fair model evaluations based on a theoretically guaranteed optimal integration of different test samples. Periodic testing also enables effective early-stopping to further save the total annotation cost. ATL further integrates an "active feedback'' mechanism, which is inspired by human learning, where the teacher (active tester) provides immediate guidance given by the prior performance of the student (active learner). Our theoretical result reveals that active feedback maintains the label complexity of the integrated learning-testing objective, while improving the model's generalization capability. We study the realistic setting where we maximize the performance gain from choosing "testing'' samples for feedback without sacrificing the risk estimation accuracy. An agnostic-style analysis and empirical evaluations on real-world datasets demonstrate that the ATL framework can effectively improve the annotation efficiency of both active learning and evaluation tasks.