Parameter tuning with mlrHyperopt

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Tutorial on mlrHyperopt

Hyperparameter tuning with mlr is rich in options as they are multiple tuning methods:

Also the search space is easily definable and customizable for each of the 60+ learners of mlr using the ParamSets from the ParamHelpers Package.

The only drawback and shortcoming of mlr in comparison to caret in this regard is that mlr itself does not have defaults for the search spaces. This is where mlrHyperopt comes into play.

mlrHyperopt offers


# version >= 1.11 needed.
devtools::install_github("jakob-r/mlrHyperopt", dependencies = TRUE)

Tuning in one line

Tuning can be done in one line relying on the defaults. The default will automatically minimize the missclassification rate.

res = hyperopt(iris.task, learner = "classif.svm")
Tune result:
Op. pars: cost=14; gamma=0.0283

We can find out what hyperopt did by inspecting the res object.

Depending on the parameter space mlrHyperopt will automatically decide for a suitable tuning method:

         Type len Def    Constr Req Tunable Trafo
cost  numeric   -   0 -15 to 15   -    TRUE     Y
gamma numeric   -  -2 -15 to 15   -    TRUE     Y
Tune control: TuneControlMBO
Same resampling instance: TRUE
Imputation value: 1
Start: <NULL>

Tune threshold: FALSE
Further arguments: list()

As the search space defined in the ParamSet is only numeric, sequential Bayesian optimization was chosen. We can look into the evaluated parameter configurations and we can visualize the optimization run.

        cost      gamma mmce.test.mean dob eol error.message
20  6.765857  -8.093945     0.02666667  20  NA          <NA>
21 14.999526  -4.683249     0.08666667  21  NA          <NA>
22  8.389924 -10.269355     0.03333333  22  NA          <NA>
23  5.391570  -5.933230     0.02666667  23  NA          <NA>
24 11.816269 -11.207203     0.03333333  24  NA          <NA>
25  2.860877  -2.296974     0.02666667  25  NA          <NA>
20     0.101
21     0.112
22     0.103
23     0.110
24     0.098
25     0.106

The upper left plot shows the distribution of the tried settings in the search space and contour lines indicate where regions of good configurations are located. The lower right plot shows the value of the objective (the miss-classification rate) and how it decreases over the time. This also shows nicely that wrong settings can lead to bad results.

Using the mlrHyperopt API with mlr

If you just want to use mlrHyperopt to access the default parameter search spaces from the Often you don’t want to rely on the default procedures of mlrHyperopt and just incorporate it into your mlr-workflow. Here is one example how you can use the default search spaces for an easy benchmark:

lrns = c("classif.xgboost", "classif.nnet")
lrns = makeLearners(lrns)
tsk = pid.task
rr = makeResampleDesc('CV', stratify = TRUE, iters = 10)
lrns.tuned = lapply(lrns, function(lrn) {
  if (getLearnerName(lrn) == "xgboost") {
    # for xgboost we download a custom ParConfig from the Database
    pcs = downloadParConfigs( = getLearnerName(lrn))
    pc = pcs[[1]]
  } else {
    pc = getDefaultParConfig(learner = lrn)
  ps = getParConfigParSet(pc)
  # some parameters are dependend on the data (eg. the number of columns)
  ps = evaluateParamExpressions(ps, 
    dict = mlrHyperopt::getTaskDictionary(task = tsk))
  lrn = setHyperPars(lrn, par.vals = getParConfigParVals(pc))
  ctrl = makeTuneControlRandom(maxit = 20)
  makeTuneWrapper(learner = lrn, resampling = rr, par.set = ps, 
                  control = ctrl)
res = benchmark(learners = c(lrns, lrns.tuned), tasks = tsk, 
                resamplings = cv10)

As we can see we were able to improve the performance of xgboost and the nnet without any additional knowledge on what parameters we should tune. Especially for nnet improved performance is noticable.

Additional Information

Some recommended additional reads


For attribution, please cite this work as

Richter (2017, July 19). mlr-org: Parameter tuning with mlrHyperopt. Retrieved from

BibTeX citation

  author = {Richter, Jakob},
  title = {mlr-org: Parameter tuning with mlrHyperopt},
  url = {},
  year = {2017}