Pervasive Label Errors in Test Sets Destabilize Machine Learning Benchmarks

Part of Proceedings of the Neural Information Processing Systems Track on Datasets and Benchmarks 1 (NeurIPS Datasets and Benchmarks 2021)

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Authors

Curtis Northcutt, Anish Athalye, Jonas Mueller

Abstract

We identify label errors in the test sets of 10 of the most commonly-used computer vision, natural language, and audio datasets, and subsequently study the potential for these label errors to affect benchmark results. Errors in test sets are numerous and widespread: we estimate an average of at least 3.3% errors across the 10 datasets, where for example label errors comprise at least 6% of the ImageNet validation set. Putative label errors are identified using confident learning algorithms and then human-validated via crowdsourcing (51% of the algorithmically-flagged candidates are indeed erroneously labeled, on average across the datasets). Traditionally, machine learning practitioners choose which model to deploy based on test accuracy -- our findings advise caution here, proposing that judging models over correctly labeled test sets may be more useful, especially for noisy real-world datasets. Surprisingly, we find that lower capacity models may be practically more useful than higher capacity models in real-world datasets with high proportions of erroneously labeled data. For example, on ImageNet with corrected labels: ResNet-18 outperforms ResNet-50 if the prevalence of originally mislabeled test examples increases by just 6%. On CIFAR-10 with corrected labels: VGG-11 outperforms VGG-19 if the prevalence of originally mislabeled test examples increases by just 5%. Test set errors across the 10 datasets can be viewed at https://labelerrors.com and all label errors can be reproduced by https://github.com/cleanlab/label-errors.