Adaptive Sparsity Level during Training for Efficient Time Series Forecasting with Transformers

Zahra Atashgahi, Mykola Pechenizkiy, Raymond Veldhuis, Decebal Constantin Mocanu

Research output: Working paperPreprintAcademic

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Efficient time series forecasting has become critical for real-world applications, particularly with deep neural networks (DNNs). Efficiency in DNNs can be achieved through sparse connectivity and reducing the model size. However, finding the sparsity level automatically during training remains a challenging task due to the heterogeneity in the loss-sparsity tradeoffs across the datasets. In this paper, we propose \enquote{\textbf{P}runing with \textbf{A}daptive \textbf{S}parsity \textbf{L}evel} (\textbf{PALS}), to automatically seek an optimal balance between loss and sparsity, all without the need for a predefined sparsity level. PALS draws inspiration from both sparse training and during-training methods. It introduces the novel "expand" mechanism in training sparse neural networks, allowing the model to dynamically shrink, expand, or remain stable to find a proper sparsity level. In this paper, we focus on achieving efficiency in transformers known for their excellent time series forecasting performance but high computational cost. Nevertheless, PALS can be applied directly to any DNN. In the scope of these arguments, we demonstrate its effectiveness also on the DLinear model. Experimental results on six benchmark datasets and five state-of-the-art transformer variants show that PALS substantially reduces model size while maintaining comparable performance to the dense model. More interestingly, PALS even outperforms the dense model, in 12 and 14 cases out of 30 cases in terms of MSE and MAE loss, respectively, while reducing 65% parameter count and 63% FLOPs on average. Our code will be publicly available upon acceptance of the paper.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 May 2023


  • cs.LG


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