Skip to yearly menu bar Skip to main content


Compositional Training for End-to-End Deep AUC Maximization

Zhuoning Yuan · Zhishuai Guo · Nitesh Chawla · Tianbao Yang


Recently, deep AUC maximization (DAM) has achieved great success in different domains (e.g., medical image classification). However, the end-to-end training for deep AUC maximization still remains a challenging problem. Previous studies employ an ad-hoc two-stage approach that first trains the network by optimizing a traditional loss (e.g., cross-entropy loss) and then finetunes the network by optimizing an AUC loss. This is because that training a deep neural network from scratch by maximizing an AUC loss usually does not yield a satisfactory performance. This phenomenon can be attributed to the degraded feature representations learned by maximizing the AUC loss from scratch. To address this issue, we propose a novel compositional training framework for end-to-end DAM, namely compositional DAM. The key idea of compositional training is to minimize a compositional objective function, where the outer function corresponds to an AUC loss and the inner function represents a gradient descent step for minimizing a traditional loss, e.g., the cross-entropy (CE) loss. To optimize the non-standard compositional objective, we propose an efficient and provable stochastic optimization algorithm. The proposed algorithm enhances the capabilities of both robust feature learning and robust classifier learning by alternatively taking a gradient descent step for the CE loss and for the AUC loss in a systematic way. We conduct extensive empirical studies on imbalanced benchmark and medical image datasets, which unanimously verify the effectiveness of the proposed method. Our results show that the compositional training approach dramatically improves both the feature representations and the testing AUC score compared with traditional deep learning approaches, and yields better performance than the two-stage approaches for DAM as well. The proposed method is implemented in our open-sourced library LibAUC ( and code is available at

Chat is not available.