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Fair DARTS: Eliminating Unfair Advantages in Differentiable Architecture Search
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Fair DARTS: Eliminating Unfair Advantages in Differentiable Architecture Search

Differentiable Architecture Search (DARTS) is now a widely disseminated weight-sharing neural architecture search method. However, there are two fundamental weaknesses remain untackled. First, we observe that the well-known aggregation of skip connections during optimization is caused by an unfair advantage in an exclusive competition. Second, there is a non-negligible incongruence when discretizing continuous architectural weights to a one-hot representation. Because of these two reasons, DARTS delivers a biased solution that might not even be suboptimal. In this paper, we present a novel approach to curing both frailties. Specifically, as unfair advantages in a pure exclusive competition easily induce a monopoly, we relax the choice of operations to be collaborative, where we let each operation have an equal opportunity to develop its strength. We thus call our method Fair DARTS. Moreover, we propose a zero-one loss to directly reduce the discretization gap. Experiments are performed on two mainstream search spaces, in which we achieve new state-of-the-art networks on ImageNet.

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User Guide


Python 3

pip install -r requirements.txt

The fairdarts folder includes our search, train and evaluation code. The darts folder consists of random and noise experiments on the original DARTS.

Run Search

python --aux_loss_weight 10 --learning_rate 0.005 --batch_size 128 --parse_method threshold_sparse --save 'EXP-lr_0005_alw_10'

Default batch-size is 128

Single Model Training

python --auxiliary --cutout --arch FairDARTS_a --parse_method threshold --batch_size 128 --epoch 600

Single Model Evaluation

python  --arch FairDARTS_b --model_path ../best_model/FairDARTS-b.tar --parse_method threshold

Searched Architectures by FairDARTS

Note that we select architecture by barring with threshold σ, and |edge| <= 2 per node.




DCO_SPARSE_3_normal DCO_SPARSE_3_reduce


DCO_SPARSE_1_normal DCO_SPARSE_1_reduce


DCO_SPARSE_2_normal DCO_SPARSE_2_reduce


DCO_SPARSE_4_normal DCO_SPARSE_4_reduce


DCO_SPARSE_5_normal DCO_SPARSE_5_reduce


DCO_SPARSE_6_normal DCO_SPARSE_6_reduce

The isolated nodes (in gray) are ignored after parsing the genotypes.

Evaluation Results on CIFAR-10

Performance Stability

We run FairDARTS 7 times, all searched architectures have close performance.

Model Flops Params Performance
FairDARTS_a 373M 2.83M 97.46
FairDARTS_b 536M 3.88M 97.49
FairDARTS_c 400M 2.59M 97.50
FairDARTS_d 532M 3.84M 97.51
FairDARTS_e 414M 3.12M 97.47
FairDARTS_f 497M 3.62M 97.35
FairDARTS_g 453M 3.38M 97.46
mean,var ~457.85M ~3.32M 97.46±0.049

Note: We remove batch normalization for FLOPs' calculation in thop package. This is to follow status quo treamtment.

Comparison with Other State-of-the-art Results (CIFAR-10)

Model FLOPs Params Batch size lr DP Optimizer Performance
FairDARTS-a 373M 2.83 96 0.025 0.2 SGD+CosineAnnealingLR 97.46
FairDARTS-b 536M 3.88 96 0.025 0.2 SGD+CosineAnnealingLR 97.49
DARTS_V2 522M 3.36 96 0.025 0.2 SGD+CosineAnnealingLR 96.94*
PC-DARTS 558M 3.63 96 0.025 0.2 SGD+CosineAnnealingLR 97.31*
PDARTS 532M 3.43 96 0.025 0.2 SGD+CosineAnnealingLR 97.53*

*: Results obtained by training their published code.


    title={{Fair DARTS: Eliminating Unfair Advantages in Differentiable Architecture Search}},
    author={Chu, Xiangxiang and Zhou, Tianbao and Zhang, Bo and Li, Jixiang},
    journal={arXiv preprint arXiv:1911.12126},


This code is based on the implementation of DARTS.

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