A Realistic Evaluation of Semi-Supervised Learning for Fine-Grained Classification

Jong-Chyi Su, Zezhou Cheng, Subhransu Maji

We evaluate the effectiveness of semi-supervised learning (SSL) on a realistic benchmark where data exhibits considerable class imbalance and contains images from novel classes. Our benchmark consists of two fine-grained classification datasets obtained by sampling classes from the Aves and Fungi taxonomy. We find that recently proposed SSL methods provide significant benefits, and can effectively use out-of-class data to improve performance when deep networks are trained from scratch. Yet their performance pales in comparison to a transfer learning baseline, an alternative approach for learning from a few examples. Furthermore, in the transfer setting, while existing SSL methods provide improvements, the presence of out-of-class is often detrimental. In this setting, standard fine-tuning followed by distillation-based self-training is the most robust. Our work suggests that semi-supervised learning with experts on realistic datasets may require different strategies than those currently prevalent in the literature.

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