Journal of Zhejiang University SCIENCE C

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 107–118 | Cite as

Transfer active learning by querying committee



In real applications of inductive learning for classification, labeled instances are often deficient, and labeling them by an oracle is often expensive and time-consuming. Active learning on a single task aims to select only informative unlabeled instances for querying to improve the classification accuracy while decreasing the querying cost. However, an inevitable problem in active learning is that the informative measures for selecting queries are commonly based on the initial hypotheses sampled from only a few labeled instances. In such a circumstance, the initial hypotheses are not reliable and may deviate from the true distribution underlying the target task. Consequently, the informative measures will possibly select irrelevant instances. A promising way to compensate this problem is to borrow useful knowledge from other sources with abundant labeled information, which is called transfer learning. However, a significant challenge in transfer learning is how to measure the similarity between the source and the target tasks. One needs to be aware of different distributions or label assignments from unrelated source tasks; otherwise, they will lead to degenerated performance while transferring. Also, how to design an effective strategy to avoid selecting irrelevant samples to query is still an open question. To tackle these issues, we propose a hybrid algorithm for active learning with the help of transfer learning by adopting a divergence measure to alleviate the negative transfer caused by distribution differences. To avoid querying irrelevant instances, we also present an adaptive strategy which could eliminate unnecessary instances in the input space and models in the model space. Extensive experiments on both the synthetic and the real data sets show that the proposed algorithm is able to query fewer instances with a higher accuracy and that it converges faster than the state-of-the-art methods.

Key words

Active learning Transfer learning Classification 

CLC number



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Copyright information

© Journal of Zhejiang University Science Editorial Office and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of WTO Research & EducationShanghai University of International Business and EconomicsShanghaiChina
  2. 2.School of BusinessEast China University of Science and TechnologyShanghaiChina
  3. 3.School of Computer Science and TechnologyUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiChina

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