Learning to Rank Ace Neural Architectures via Normalized Discounted Cumulative Gain


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One of the key challenges in Neural Architecture Search (NAS) is to efficiently rank the performances of architectures. The mainstream assessment of performance rankers uses ranking correlations (e.g., Kendall's tau), which pay equal attention to the whole space. However, the optimization goal of NAS is identifying top architectures while paying less attention on other architectures in the search space. In this paper, we show both empirically and theoretically that Normalized Discounted Cumulative Gain (NDCG) is a better metric for rankers. Subsequently, we propose a new algorithm, AceNAS, which directly optimizes NDCG with LambdaRank. It also leverages weak labels produced by weight-sharing NAS to pre-train the ranker, so as to further reduce search cost. Extensive experiments on 12 NAS benchmarks and a large-scale search space demonstrate that our approach consistently outperforms SOTA NAS methods, with up to 3.67% accuracy improvement and 8x reduction on search cost.
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