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[Perspective] Measurement error and the replication crisis

Science

Measurement error adds noise to predictions, increases uncertainty in parameter estimates, and makes it more difficult to discover new phenomena or to distinguish among competing theories. A common view is that any study finding an effect under noisy conditions provides evidence that the underlying effect is particularly strong and robust. Yet, statistical significance conveys very little information when measurements are noisy. In noisy research settings, poor measurement can contribute to exaggerated estimates of effect size. This problem and related misunderstandings are key components in a feedback loop that perpetuates the replication crisis in science.


Measurement error and the replication crisis

#artificialintelligence

Alison McCook from Retraction Watch interviewed Eric Loken and me regarding our recent article, "Measurement error and the replication crisis." We talked about why traditional statistics are often counterproductive to research in the human sciences. Retraction Watch: Your article focuses on the "noise" that's present in research studies. What is "noise" and how is it created during an experiment? Andrew Gelman: Noise is random error that interferes with our ability to observe a clear signal.


Errors-in-variables models with dependent measurements

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Suppose that we observe $y \in \mathbb{R}^n$ and $X \in \mathbb{R}^{n \times m}$ in the following errors-in-variables model: \begin{eqnarray*} y & = & X_0 \beta^* +\epsilon \\ X & = & X_0 + W, \end{eqnarray*} where $X_0$ is an $n \times m$ design matrix with independent subgaussian row vectors, $\epsilon \in \mathbb{R}^n$ is a noise vector and $W$ is a mean zero $n \times m$ random noise matrix with independent subgaussian column vectors, independent of $X_0$ and $\epsilon$. This model is significantly different from those analyzed in the literature in the sense that we allow the measurement error for each covariate to be a dependent vector across its $n$ observations. Such error structures appear in the science literature when modeling the trial-to-trial fluctuations in response strength shared across a set of neurons. Under sparsity and restrictive eigenvalue type of conditions, we show that one is able to recover a sparse vector $\beta^* \in \mathbb{R}^m$ from the model given a single observation matrix $X$ and the response vector $y$. We establish consistency in estimating $\beta^*$ and obtain the rates of convergence in the $\ell_q$ norm, where $q = 1, 2$. We show error bounds which approach that of the regular Lasso and the Dantzig selector in case the errors in $W$ are tending to 0. We analyze the convergence rates of the gradient descent methods for solving the nonconvex programs and show that the composite gradient descent algorithm is guaranteed to converge at a geometric rate to a neighborhood of the global minimizers: the size of the neighborhood is bounded by the statistical error in the $\ell_2$ norm. Our analysis reveals interesting connections between computational and statistical efficiency and the concentration of measure phenomenon in random matrix theory. We provide simulation evidence illuminating the theoretical predictions.


An Algorithmic Framework for Computing Validation Performance Bounds by Using Suboptimal Models

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Practical model building processes are often time-consuming because many different models must be trained and validated. In this paper, we introduce a novel algorithm that can be used for computing the lower and the upper bounds of model validation errors without actually training the model itself. A key idea behind our algorithm is using a side information available from a suboptimal model. If a reasonably good suboptimal model is available, our algorithm can compute lower and upper bounds of many useful quantities for making inferences on the unknown target model. We demonstrate the advantage of our algorithm in the context of model selection for regularized learning problems.


Data-driven Algorithm Selection and Parameter Tuning: Two Case studies in Optimization and Signal Processing

arXiv.org Machine Learning

Machine learning algorithms typically rely on optimization subroutines and are well-known to provide very effective outcomes for many types of problems. Here, we flip the reliance and ask the reverse question: can machine learning algorithms lead to more effective outcomes for optimization problems? Our goal is to train machine learning methods to automatically improve the performance of optimization and signal processing algorithms. As a proof of concept, we use our approach to improve two popular data processing subroutines in data science: stochastic gradient descent and greedy methods in compressed sensing. We provide experimental results that demonstrate the answer is ``yes'', machine learning algorithms do lead to more effective outcomes for optimization problems, and show the future potential for this research direction.