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Data Cleaning and AutoML: Would an Optimizer Choose to Clean?

Felix Neutatz
Binger Chen
Yazan Alkhatib
Jingwen Ye
Ziawasch Abedjan

May 13, 2022

Data cleaning is widely acknowledged as an important yet tedious task when dealing with large amounts of data. Thus, there is always a cost-benefit trade-off to consider. In particular, it is important to assess this trade-off when not every data point and data error is equally important for a task. This is often the case when statistical analysis or machine learning (ML) models derive knowledge about data. If we only care about maximizing the utility score of the applications, such as accuracy or F1 scores, many tasks can afford some degree of data quality problems. Recent studies analyzed the impact of various data error types on vanilla ML tasks, showing that missing values and outliers significantly impact the outcome of such models. In this paper, we expand the setting to one where data cleaning is not considered in isolation but as an equal parameter among many other hyper-parameters that influence feature selection, regularization, and model selection. In particular, we use state-of-the-art AutoML frameworks to automatically learn the parameters that benefit a particular ML binary classification task. In our study, we see that specific cleaning routines still play a significant role but can also be entirely avoided if the choice of a specific model or the filtering of specific features diminishes the overall impact.