Learning Feature Engineering for Classification

August, 2017


Feature engineering is the task of improving predictive modelling performance on a dataset by transforming its feature space. Existing approaches to automate this process rely on either transformed feature space exploration through evaluation-guided search, or explicit expansion of datasets with all transformed features followed by feature selection. Such approaches incur high computational costs in runtime and/or memory. We present a novel technique, called Learning Feature Engineering (LFE), for automating feature engineering in classification tasks. LFE is based on learning the effectiveness of applying a transformation (e.g., arithmetic or aggregate operators) on numerical features, from past feature engineering experiences. Given a new dataset, LFE recommends a set of useful transformations to be applied on features without relying on model evaluation or explicit feature expansion and selection. Using a collection of datasets, we train a set of neural networks, which aim at predicting the transformation that impacts classification performance positively. Our empirical results show that LFE outperforms other feature engineering approaches for an overwhelming majority (89%) of the datasets from various sources while incurring a substantially lower computational cost.

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