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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 19, 2025
  2. Federated Learning (FL) under distributed concept drift is a largely unexplored area. Although concept drift is itself a well-studied phenomenon, it poses particular challenges for FL, because drifts arise staggered in time and space (across clients). Our work is the first to explicitly study data heterogeneity in both dimensions. We first demonstrate that prior solutions to drift adaptation, with their single global model, are ill-suited to staggered drifts, necessitating multiple-model solutions. We identify the problem of drift adaptation as a time-varying clustering problem, and we propose two new clustering algorithms for reacting to drifts based on local drift detection and hierarchical clustering. Empirical evaluation shows that our solutions achieve significantly higher accuracy than existing baselines, and are comparable to an idealized algorithm with oracle knowledge of the ground-truth clustering of clients to concepts at each time step. 
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  3. Prompting has shown impressive success in enabling large pre-trained language models (LMs) to perform diverse NLP tasks, especially with only few downstream data. Automatically finding the optimal prompt for each task, however, is challenging. Most existing work resorts to tuning *soft* prompts (e.g., embeddings) which fall short of interpretability, reusability across LMs, and applicability when gradients are not accessible. *Discrete* prompts, on the other hand, are difficult to optimize, and are often created by “enumeration (e.g., paraphrasing)-then-selection” heuristics that do not explore the prompt space systematically. This paper proposes RLPrompt, an efficient discrete prompt optimization approach with reinforcement learning (RL). RLPrompt formulates a parameter-efficient policy network that generates the optimized discrete prompt after training with reward. To harness the complex and stochastic reward signals from the large LM environment, we incorporate effective reward stabilization that substantially enhances training efficiency. RLPrompt is flexibly applicable to different types of LMs, such as masked (e.g., BERT) and left-to-right models (e.g., GPTs), for both classification and generation tasks. Experiments on few-shot classification and unsupervised text style transfer show superior performance over a wide range of existing fine-tuning or prompting methods. Interestingly, the resulting optimized prompts are often ungrammatical gibberish text; and surprisingly, those gibberish prompts are transferrable between different LMs to retain significant performance, indicating that LM prompting may not follow human language patterns. 
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  4. Federated Learning (FL) under distributed concept drift is a largely unexplored area. Although concept drift is itself a well-studied phenomenon, it poses particular challenges for FL, because drifts arise staggered in time and space (across clients). Our work is the first to explicitly study data heterogeneity in both dimensions. We first demonstrate that prior solutions to drift adaptation, with their single global model, are ill-suited to staggered drifts, necessitating multiple-model solutions. We identify the problem of drift adaptation as a time-varying clustering problem, and we propose two new clustering algorithms for reacting to drifts based on local drift detection and hierarchical clustering. Empirical evaluation shows that our solutions achieve significantly higher accuracy than existing baselines, and are comparable to an idealized algorithm with oracle knowledge of the ground-truth clustering of clients to concepts at each time step. 
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  6. When training machine learning models using stochastic gradient descent (SGD) with a large number of nodes or massive edge devices, the communication cost of synchronizing gradients at every iteration is a key bottleneck that limits the scalability of the system and hinders the benefit of parallel computation. Local-update SGD algorithms, where worker nodes perform local iterations of SGD and periodically synchronize their local models, can effectively reduce the communication frequency and save the communication delay. In this paper, we propose a powerful framework, named Cooperative SGD, that subsumes a variety of local-update SGD algorithms (such as local SGD, elastic averaging SGD, and decentralized parallel SGD) and provides a unified convergence analysis. Notably, special cases of the unified convergence analysis provided by the cooperative SGD framework yield 1) the first convergence analysis of elastic averaging SGD for general non-convex objectives, and 2) improvements upon previous analyses of local SGD and decentralized parallel SGD. Moreover, we design new algorithms such as elastic averaging SGD with overlapped computation and communication, and decentralized periodic averaging which are shown to be 4x or more faster than the baseline in reaching the same training loss. 
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