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Abstract:Training a deep neural network often involves stochastic optimization, meaning each run will produce a different model. The seed used to initialize random elements of the optimization procedure heavily influences the quality of a trained model, which may be obscure from many commonly reported summary statistics, like accuracy. However, random seed is often not included in hyper-parameter optimization, perhaps because the relationship between seed and model quality is hard to describe. This work attempts to describe the relationship between deep net models trained with different random seeds and the behavior of the expected model. We adopt robust hypothesis testing to propose a novel summary statistic for network similarity, referred to as the $\alpha$-trimming level. We use the $\alpha$-trimming level to show that the empirical cumulative distribution function of an ensemble model created from a collection of trained models with different random seeds approximates the average of these functions as the number of models in the collection grows large. This insight provides guidance for how many random seeds should be sampled to ensure that an ensemble of these trained models is a reliable representative. We also show that the $\alpha$-trimming level is more expressive than different performance metrics like validation accuracy, churn, or expected calibration error when taken alone and may help with random seed selection in a more principled fashion. We demonstrate the value of the proposed statistic in real experiments and illustrate the advantage of fine-tuning over random seed with an experiment in transfer learning.