Needlestacks for Haystacks: Tackling Large-Scale Class-Imbalance

Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)
Reference Code
How to Apply

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Application Deadline
2/28/2022 6:00:00 PM Eastern Time Zone

Research Topic Description, including Problem Statement:

There is a vast amount of literature around imbalanced learning. Solving imbalanced learning problems is critical in numerous data-intensive networked systems, including surveillance, security, cyber, finance, biomedical, defense, and more. Some recommendations to tackle the class-imbalance problem are collecting more labeled data, changing performance metric, resampling of data, generating synthetic samples, trying various classification algorithms and penalizing the models for mistakes on minority classes. Almost all of these solutions utilize an element of randomization, which leads to different detection outcomes from a single classification algorithm. This topic aims at embedding supervised learning practice in preprocessing to build a deterministic data resampling for the benefit of underlying anomaly detection methods. It is like building a stack of hay-aware needles alongside the existing haystack to hugely increase the chance of picking the lost needle.

Example Approaches:

Under-sampling mainly involves random selection of majority samples to balance them with the minority ones. In contrast, oversampling mostly generates random samples considering the statistics in minority samples to balance them with the majority ones. This topic intends to employ majority statistics plus minority guidelines to train a novel supervised resampling model ahead of conventional classification or anomaly detection phase in the pipeline.

The core idea is that generating augmented minority samples should minimize inter-class variance while maximizing intra-class discrepancy (Fisher Discrimination). Roughly speaking, synthetic samples should mimic both minority and majority patterns to build a high-quality deterministic class-balanced data fed to the classification/detection phase.

Relevance to the Intelligence Community:

Intelligence agencies frequently deal with ‘incomplete’ datasets with few identified targets. Efforts to resolve the imbalanced learning problem may help agencies improve the accuracy of their analytic approaches to identify ‘unknown known’ targets within collected datasets despite the challenges of incomplete data. Real-world intelligence practice deals with few hostile anomalies compared to the large number of legitimate actions. Detection of these anomalies is critical due to the possible damage that they can impose to the national interests and community well-being.

Due to infinitesimal ratio of anomalies to normal behaviors i.e. passengers importing illicit goods vs all other travelers, machine learning techniques usually suffer from class-imbalance syndrome and cannot produce viable detections. This research will address this shortcoming by applying supervised learning to build context-aware class-balanced training data for maximizing detection performance to find needles in haystack.

Key Words: Machine Learning, Imbalanced Learning, Anomaly Detection, Statistics, Synthetic Sampling, Supervised Learning, ML


Postdoc Eligibility

  • U.S. citizens only
  • Ph.D. in a relevant field must be completed before beginning the appointment and within five years of the application deadline
  • Proposal must be associated with an accredited U.S. university, college, or U.S. government laboratory
  • Eligible candidates may only receive one award from the IC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program

Research Advisor Eligibility

  • Must be an employee of an accredited U.S. university, college or U.S. government laboratory
  • Are not required to be U.S. citizens
Eligibility Requirements
  • Citizenship: U.S. Citizen Only
  • Degree: Doctoral Degree.
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