A critical look at the current train/test split in machine learning

Jimin Tan, Jianan Yang, Sai Wu, Gang Chen, Jake Zhao

The randomized or cross-validated split of training and testing sets has been adopted as the gold standard of machine learning for decades. The establishment of these split protocols are based on two assumptions: (i)-fixing the dataset to be eternally static so we could evaluate different machine learning algorithms or models; (ii)-there is a complete set of annotated data available to researchers or industrial practitioners. However, in this article, we intend to take a closer and critical look at the split protocol itself and point out its weakness and limitation, especially for industrial applications. In many real-world problems, we must acknowledge that there are numerous situations where assumption (ii) does not hold. For instance, for interdisciplinary applications like drug discovery, it often requires real lab experiments to annotate data which poses huge costs in both time and financial considerations. In other words, it can be very difficult or even impossible to satisfy assumption (ii). In this article, we intend to access this problem and reiterate the paradigm of active learning, and investigate its potential on solving problems under unconventional train/test split protocols. We further propose a new adaptive active learning architecture (AAL) which involves an adaptation policy, in comparison with the traditional active learning that only unidirectionally adds data points to the training pool. We primarily justify our points by extensively investigating an interdisciplinary drug-protein binding problem. We additionally evaluate AAL on more conventional machine learning benchmarking datasets like CIFAR-10 to demonstrate the generalizability and efficacy of the new framework.

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