Default Hyperparameter Configuration

Run the default hyperparameter configuration of learners as a baseline.


January 31, 2023


The predictive performance of modern machine learning algorithms is highly dependent on the choice of their hyperparameter configuration. Options for setting hyperparameters are tuning, manual selection by the user, and using the default configuration of the algorithm. The default configurations are chosen to work with a wide range of data sets but they usually do not achieve the best predictive performance. When tuning a learner in mlr3, we can run the default configuration as a baseline. Seeing how well it performs will tell us whether tuning pays off. If the optimized configurations perform worse, we could expand the search space or try a different optimization algorithm. Of course, it could also be that tuning on the given data set is simply not worth it.

Probst, Boulesteix, and Bischl (2019) studied the tunability of machine learning algorithms. They found that the tunability of algorithms varies widely. Algorithms like glmnet and XGBoost are highly tunable, while algorithms like random forests work well with their default configuration. The highly tunable algorithms should thus beat their baselines more easily with optimized hyperparameters. In this article, we will tune the hyperparameters of a random forest and compare the performance of the default configuration with the optimized configurations.


We tune the hyperparameters of the ranger learner on the spam data set. The search space is taken from Bischl et al. (2021).


learner = lrn("classif.ranger",
  mtry.ratio      = to_tune(0, 1),
  replace         = to_tune(),
  sample.fraction = to_tune(1e-1, 1),
  num.trees       = to_tune(1, 2000)

When creating the tuning instance, we set evaluate_default = TRUE to test the default hyperparameter configuration. The default configuration is evaluated in the first batch of the tuning run. The other batches use the specified tuning method. In this example, they are randomly drawn configurations.

instance = tune(
  tuner = tnr("random_search", batch_size = 5),
  task = tsk("spam"),
  learner = learner,
  resampling = rsmp ("holdout"),
  measures = msr("classif.ce"),
  term_evals = 51,
  evaluate_default = TRUE

The default configuration is recorded in the first row of the archive. The other rows contain the results of the random search.$archive)[, .(batch_nr, mtry.ratio, replace, sample.fraction, num.trees, classif.ce)]
    batch_nr  mtry.ratio replace sample.fraction num.trees classif.ce
 1:        1 0.122807018    TRUE       1.0000000       500 0.04954368
 2:        2 0.285388074    TRUE       0.1794772       204 0.06584094
 3:        2 0.097424099   FALSE       0.9475526      1441 0.04237288
 4:        2 0.008888587   FALSE       0.3216562      1868 0.08409387
 5:        2 0.335543330    TRUE       0.8122653       106 0.05345502
47:       11 0.788995735   FALSE       0.3692454       344 0.06258149
48:       11 0.459305038    TRUE       0.3153485      1354 0.06258149
49:       11 0.220334408    TRUE       0.9357554       817 0.05345502
50:       11 0.868385877    TRUE       0.6743246      1040 0.06127771
51:       11 0.015417312   FALSE       0.5627943      1836 0.08213820

We plot the performances of the evaluated hyperparameter configurations. The blue line connects the best configuration of each batch. We see that the default configuration already performs well and the optimized configurations can not beat it.


autoplot(instance, type = "performance")


The time required to test the default configuration is negligible compared to the time required to run the hyperparameter optimization. It gives us a valuable indication of whether our tuning is properly configured. Running the default configuration as a baseline is a good practice that should be used in every tuning run.


Bischl, Bernd, Martin Binder, Michel Lang, Tobias Pielok, Jakob Richter, Stefan Coors, Janek Thomas, et al. 2021. “Hyperparameter Optimization: Foundations, Algorithms, Best Practices and Open Challenges.” arXiv:2107.05847 [Cs, Stat], July.
Probst, Philipp, Anne-Laure Boulesteix, and Bernd Bischl. 2019. “Tunability: Importance of Hyperparameters of Machine Learning Algorithms.” Journal of Machine Learning Research 20 (53): 1–32.