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FairTune: Optimizing Parameter Efficient Fine Tuning for Fairness in Medical Image Analysis

Raman Dutt · Ondrej Bohdal · Sotirios Tsaftaris · Timothy Hospedales

Halle B #228
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Thu 9 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT


Training models with robust group fairness properties is crucial in ethically sensitive application areas such as medical diagnosis. Despite the growing body of work aiming to minimise demographic bias in AI, this problem remains challenging. A key reason for this challenge is the fairness generalisation gap: High-capacity deep learning models can fit all training data nearly perfectly, and thus also exhibit perfect fairness during training. In this case, bias emerges only during testing when generalisation performance differs across sub-groups. This motivates us to take a bi-level optimisation perspective on fair learning: Optimising the learning strategy based on validation fairness. Specifically, we consider the highly effective workflow of adapting pre-trained models to downstream medical imaging tasks using parameter-efficient fine-tuning (PEFT) techniques. There is a trade-off between updating more parameters, enabling a better fit to the task of interest vs. fewer parameters, potentially reducing the generalisation gap. To manage this tradeoff, we propose FairTune, a framework to optimise the choice of PEFT parameters with respect to fairness. We demonstrate empirically that FairTune leads to improved fairness on a range of medical imaging datasets. The code is available at

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