Unreproducible Research is Reproducible

International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML)

By: Xavier Bouthillier, Cesar Laurent, Pascal Vincent

Abstract

The apparent contradiction in the title is a wordplay on the different meanings attributed to the word reproducible across different scientific fields. What we imply is that unreproducible findings can be built upon reproducible methods. Without denying the importance of facilitating the reproduction of methods, we deem important to reassert that reproduction of findings is a fundamental step of the scientific inquiry. We argue that the commendable quest towards easy deterministic reproducibility of methods and numerical results should not have us forget the even more important necessity of ensuring the reproducibility of empirical conclusions and findings by properly accounting for essential sources of variations. We provide experiments to exemplify the brittleness of current common practice in the evaluation of models in the field of deep learning, showing that even if the results could be reproduced, a slightly different experiment would not support the findings. We hope to help clarify the distinction between exploratory and empirical research in the field of deep learning and believe more energy should be devoted to proper empirical research in our community. This work is an attempt to promote the use of more rigorous and diversified methodologies. It is not an attempt to impose a new methodology and it is not a critique on the nature of exploratory research.