Efficient Clustering of High-Dimensional Data Sets with Application to Reference Matching

Andrew McCallum


Many important problems involve clustering large datasets. Although naive implementations of clustering are computationally expensive, there are established efficient techniques for clustering when the dataset has either (1) a limited number of clusters, (2) a low feature dimensionality, or (3) a small number of data points. However, there has been much less work on methods of efficiently clustering datasets that are large in all three ways at once---for example, having millions of data points that exist in many thousands of dimensions representing many thousands of clusters.

We present a new technique for clustering these large, high-dimensional datasets. The key idea involves using a cheap, approximate distance measure to efficiently divide the data into overlapping subsets we call ``canopies.'' Then clustering is performed by measuring exact distances only between points that occur in a common canopy. Using canopies, large clustering problems that were formerly impossible become practical. Under reasonable assumptions about the cheap distance metric, this reduction in computational cost comes without any loss in clustering accuracy. Canopies can be applied to many domains and used with a variety of clustering approaches, including Greedy Agglomerative Clustering, K-means and Expectation-Maximization. I'll present experimental results on grouping bibliographic citations from the reference sections of research papers. Here the canopy approach reduces computation time over a traditional clustering approach by more than an order of magnitude and decreases error in comparison to a previously used algorithm by 25%.

Joint work with Kamal Nigam (CMU) and Lyle Ungar (UPenn).

Charles Rosenberg
Last modified: Fri Mar 9 11:58:50 EST 2001