Carnegie Mellon University
chiragg_phd_mld_2023.pdf (6.57 MB)

Post-hoc calibration without distributional assumptions

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posted on 2023-10-20, 18:45 authored by Chirag GuptaChirag Gupta

Machine learning classifiers typically provide scores for the different classes. These scores are supplementary to class predictions and may be crucial for downstream decision-making. However, can they be interpreted as probabilities? Scores produced by a calibrated classifier satisfy such a probabilistic property, informally described as follows. For binary classification with labels 0 and 1, a classifier is calibrated if on the instances where it predicts a score s (in [0,1]), the probability of the true label being 1 equals s.

The primary goal of this thesis is to demonstrate that a miscalibrated classifier can be provably “post-hoc” calibrated using a small set of held-out datapoints, such as a validation dataset. Such calibration can be achieved in two different senses: (a) model calibration of a given classifier for a fixed data-generating distribution; and (b) forecast calibration of a sequence of probabilistic forecasts for an online data stream. These two views have been studied by two largely independent bodies of literature; we draw from and contribute to both. In particular, we derive the first calibration method that uses both model and forecast calibration techniques. 

The algorithms we develop come with theoretical guarantees that hold under mild or no assumptions. A majority of our work is in the “distribution-free” setting, where we assume that the data is i.i.d., but make no parametric or smoothness assumptions on the data-generating distribution. We show that using discretized or binned scores is necessary and sufficient to achieve distribution-free calibration (Chapters 3–5). The culminating work of this thesis goes beyond distribution-free by altogether dispensing with the requirement that data is being generated from a distribution. We show that even if the data is “adversarial”, calibration can be provably achieved in a practically meaningful manner (Chapters 6 and 7). 


High-dimensional Clustering: Theory and Methods

Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences

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Bloomberg Data Science Ph.D. Fellowship




Degree Type

  • Dissertation


  • Machine Learning

Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Aaditya Ramdas