This is an interestingly pragmatic paper that makes a super simple observation. Often, we may want a usable network with fewer parameters, to make our network more easily usable on small devices. It's been observed (by these same authors, in fact), that pruned networks can achieve comparable weights to their fully trained counterparts if you rewind and retrain from early in the training process, to compensate for the loss of the (not ultimately important) pruned weights. This observation has been dubbed the "Lottery Ticket Hypothesis", after the idea that there's some small effective subnetwork you can find if you sample enough networks.
Given these two facts - the usefulness of pruning, and the success of weight rewinding - the authors explore the effectiveness of various ways to train after pruning. Current standard practice is to prune low-magnitude weights, and then continue training remaining weights from values they had at pruning time, keeping the final learning rate of the network constant. The authors find that:
1. Weight rewinding, where you rewind weights to *near* their starting value, and then retrain using the learning rates of early in training, outperforms fine tuning from the place weights were when you pruned
2. Learning rate rewinding, where you keep weights as they are, but rewind learning rates to what they were early in training, are actually the most effective for a given amount of training time/search cost
To me, this feels a little bit like burying the lede: the takeaway seems to be that when you prune, it's beneficial to make your network more "elastic" (in the metaphor-to-neuroscience sense) so it can more effectively learn to compensate for the removed neurons. So, what was really valuable in weight rewinding was the ability to "heat up" learning on a smaller set of weights, so they could adapt more quickly. And the fact that learning rate rewinding works better than weight rewinding suggests that there is value in the learned weights after all, that value is just outstripped by the benefit of rolling back to old learning rates.
All in all, not a super radical conclusion, but a useful and practical one to have so clearly laid out in a paper.