Keywords: Distribution shift, sequential testing
Abstract: When deployed in the real world, machine learning models inevitably encounter changes in the data distribution, and certain---but not all---distribution shifts could result in significant performance degradation. In practice, it may make sense to ignore benign shifts, under which the performance of a deployed model does not degrade substantially, making interventions by a human expert (or model retraining) unnecessary. While several works have developed tests for distribution shifts, these typically either use non-sequential methods, or detect arbitrary shifts (benign or harmful), or both. We argue that a sensible method for firing off a warning has to both (a) detect harmful shifts while ignoring benign ones, and (b) allow continuous monitoring of model performance without increasing the false alarm rate. In this work, we design simple sequential tools for testing if the difference between source (training) and target (test) distributions leads to a significant increase in a risk function of interest, like accuracy or calibration. Recent advances in constructing time-uniform confidence sequences allow efficient aggregation of statistical evidence accumulated during the tracking process. The designed framework is applicable in settings where (some) true labels are revealed after the prediction is performed, or when batches of labels become available in a delayed fashion. We demonstrate the efficacy of the proposed framework through an extensive empirical study on a collection of simulated and real datasets.
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