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Statistical Consistency of Top-k Ranking
fen xia · Tie-Yan Liu · Hang Li

Wed Dec 09 07:00 PM -- 11:59 PM (PST) @

This paper is concerned with the consistency analysis on listwise ranking methods. Among various ranking methods, the listwise methods have competitive performances on benchmark datasets and are regarded as one of the state-of-the-art approaches. Most listwise ranking methods manage to optimize ranking on the whole list (permutation) of objects, however, in practical applications such as information retrieval, correct ranking at the top k positions is much more important. This paper aims to analyze whether existing listwise ranking methods are statistically consistent in the top-k setting. For this purpose, we define a top-k ranking framework, where the true loss (and thus the risks) are defined on the basis of top-k subgroup of permutations. This framework can include the permutation-level ranking framework proposed in previous work as a special case. Based on the new framework, we derive sufficient conditions for a listwise ranking method to be consistent with the top-k true loss, and show an effective way of modifying the surrogate loss functions in existing methods to satisfy these conditions. Experimental results show that after the modifications, the methods can work significantly better than their original versions.

Author Information

fen xia (Baidu, Inc.)
Tie-Yan Liu (Microsoft Research)

Tie-Yan Liu is an assistant managing director of Microsoft Research Asia, leading the machine learning research area. He is very well known for his pioneer work on learning to rank and computational advertising, and his recent research interests include deep learning, reinforcement learning, and distributed machine learning. Many of his technologies have been transferred to Microsoft’s products and online services (such as Bing, Microsoft Advertising, Windows, Xbox, and Azure), and open-sourced through Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit (CNTK), Microsoft Distributed Machine Learning Toolkit (DMTK), and Microsoft Graph Engine. He has also been actively contributing to academic communities. He is an adjunct/honorary professor at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), University of Nottingham, and several other universities in China. He has published 200+ papers in refereed conferences and journals, with over 17000 citations. He has won quite a few awards, including the best student paper award at SIGIR (2008), the most cited paper award at Journal of Visual Communications and Image Representation (2004-2006), the research break-through award (2012) and research-team-of-the-year award (2017) at Microsoft Research, and Top-10 Springer Computer Science books by Chinese authors (2015), and the most cited Chinese researcher by Elsevier (2017). He has been invited to serve as general chair, program committee chair, local chair, or area chair for a dozen of top conferences including SIGIR, WWW, KDD, ICML, NIPS, IJCAI, AAAI, ACL, ICTIR, as well as associate editor of ACM Transactions on Information Systems, ACM Transactions on the Web, and Neurocomputing. Tie-Yan Liu is a fellow of the IEEE, and a distinguished member of the ACM.

Hang Li (Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.)

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