DeepMutation: mutation testing of deep learning systems

Lei Ma, Fuyuan Zhang, Jiyuan Sun, Minhui Xue, Bo Li, Felix Juefei-Xu, Chao Xie, Li Li, Yang Liu, Jianjun Zhao, Yadong Wang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


Deep learning (DL) defines a new data-driven programming paradigm where the internal system logic is largely shaped by the training data. The standard way of evaluating DL models is to examine their performance on a test dataset. The quality of the test dataset is of great importance to gain confidence of the trained models. Using an inadequate test dataset, DL models that have achieved high test accuracy may still lack generality and robustness. In traditional software testing, mutation testing is a well-established technique for quality evaluation of test suites, which analyzes to what extent a test suite detects the injected faults. However, due to the fundamental difference between traditional software and deep learning-based software, traditional mutation testing techniques cannot be directly applied to DL systems. In this paper, we propose a mutation testing framework specialized for DL systems to measure the quality of test data. To do this, by sharing the same spirit of mutation testing in traditional software, we first define a set of source-level mutation operators to inject faults to the source of DL (i.e., training data and training programs). Then we design a set of model-level mutation operators that directly inject faults into DL models without a training process. Eventually, the quality of test data could be evaluated from the analysis on to what extent the injected faults could be detected. The usefulness of the proposed mutation testing techniques is demonstrated on two public datasets, namely MNIST and CIFAR-10, with three DL models.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - 29th IEEE International Symposium on Software Reliability Engineering, ISSRE 201818
Subtitle of host publication15–18 October 2018 Memphis, Tennessee, USA
EditorsSudipto Ghosh, Roberto Natella, Bojan Cukic, Robin Poston, Nuno Laranjeiro
Place of PublicationPiscataway NJ USA
PublisherIEEE, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781538683217
ISBN (Print)9781538683224
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventInternational Symposium on Software Reliability Engineering 2018 - Memphis, United States of America
Duration: 15 Oct 201818 Oct 2018
Conference number: 29th


ConferenceInternational Symposium on Software Reliability Engineering 2018
Abbreviated titleISSRE 2018
CountryUnited States of America
Internet address


  • Deep learning, Software testing, Deep neural networks, Mutation testing

Cite this