Collaborating Authors

Bischl, Bernd

Semi-Structured Deep Piecewise Exponential Models Artificial Intelligence

We propose a versatile framework for survival analysis that combines advanced concepts from statistics with deep learning. The presented framework is based on piecewise exponential models and thereby supports various survival tasks, such as competing risks and multi-state modeling, and further allows for estimation of time-varying effects and time-varying features. To also include multiple data sources and higher-order interaction effects into the model, we embed the model class in a neural network and thereby enable the simultaneous estimation of both inherently interpretable structured regression inputs as well as deep neural network components which can potentially process additional unstructured data sources. A proof of concept is provided by using the framework to predict Alzheimer's disease progression based on tabular and 3D point cloud data and applying it to synthetic data.

Interpretable Machine Learning -- A Brief History, State-of-the-Art and Challenges Machine Learning

We present a brief history of the field of interpretable machine learning (IML), give an overview of state-of-the-art interpretation methods, and discuss challenges. Research in IML has boomed in recent years. As young as the field is, it has over 200 years old roots in regression modeling and rule-based machine learning, starting in the 1960s. Recently, many new IML methods have been proposed, many of them model-agnostic, but also interpretation techniques specific to deep learning and tree-based ensembles. IML methods either directly analyze model components, study sensitivity to input perturbations, or analyze local or global surrogate approximations of the ML model. The field approaches a state of readiness and stability, with many methods not only proposed in research, but also implemented in open-source software. But many important challenges remain for IML, such as dealing with dependent features, causal interpretation, and uncertainty estimation, which need to be resolved for its successful application to scientific problems. A further challenge is a missing rigorous definition of interpretability, which is accepted by the community. To address the challenges and advance the field, we urge to recall our roots of interpretable, data-driven modeling in statistics and (rule-based) ML, but also to consider other areas such as sensitivity analysis, causal inference, and the social sciences.

Neural Mixture Distributional Regression Machine Learning

We present neural mixture distributional regression (NMDR), a holistic framework to estimate complex finite mixtures of distributional regressions defined by flexible additive predictors. Our framework is able to handle a large number of mixtures of potentially different distributions in high-dimensional settings, allows for efficient and scalable optimization and can be applied to recent concepts that combine structured regression models with deep neural networks. While many existing approaches for mixture models address challenges in optimization of such and provide results for convergence under specific model assumptions, our approach is assumption-free and instead makes use of optimizers well-established in deep learning. Through extensive numerical experiments and a high-dimensional deep learning application we provide evidence that the proposed approach is competitive to existing approaches and works well in more complex scenarios.

Symplectic Gaussian Process Regression of Hamiltonian Flow Maps Machine Learning

We present an approach to construct appropriate and efficient emulators for Hamiltonian flow maps. Intended future applications are long-term tracing of fast charged particles in accelerators and magnetic plasma confinement configurations. The method is based on multi-output Gaussian process regression on scattered training data. To obtain long-term stability the symplectic property is enforced via the choice of the matrix-valued covariance function. Based on earlier work on spline interpolation we observe derivatives of the generating function of a canonical transformation. A product kernel produces an accurate implicit method, whereas a sum kernel results in a fast explicit method from this approach. Both correspond to a symplectic Euler method in terms of numerical integration. These methods are applied to the pendulum and the H\'enon-Heiles system and results compared to an symmetric regression with orthogonal polynomials. In the limit of small mapping times, the Hamiltonian function can be identified with a part of the generating function and thereby learned from observed time-series data of the system's evolution. Besides comparable performance of implicit kernel and spectral regression for symplectic maps, we demonstrate a substantial increase in performance for learning the Hamiltonian function compared to existing approaches.

mlr3proba: Machine Learning Survival Analysis in R Machine Learning

As machine learning has become increasingly popular over the last few decades, so too has the number of machine learning interfaces for implementing these models. However, no consistent interface for evaluation and modelling of survival analysis has emerged despite its vital importance in many fields, including medicine, economics, and engineering. \texttt{mlr3proba} is part of the \texttt{mlr3} ecosystem of machine learning packages for R and facilitates \texttt{mlr3}'s general model tuning and benchmarking by providing a multitude of performance measures and learners for survival analysis with a clean and systematic infrastructure for their evaluation. \texttt{mlr3proba} provides a comprehensive machine learning interface for survival analysis, which allows survival modelling to finally be up to the state-of-art.

Relative Feature Importance Machine Learning

Interpretable Machine Learning (IML) methods are used to gain insight into the relevance of a feature of interest for the performance of a model. Commonly used IML methods differ in whether they consider features of interest in isolation, e.g., Permutation Feature Importance (PFI), or in relation to all remaining feature variables, e.g., Conditional Feature Importance (CFI). As such, the perturbation mechanisms inherent to PFI and CFI represent extreme reference points. We introduce Relative Feature Importance (RFI), a generalization of PFI and CFI that allows for a more nuanced feature importance computation beyond the PFI versus CFI dichotomy. With RFI, the importance of a feature relative to any other subset of features can be assessed, including variables that were not available at training time. We derive general interpretation rules for RFI based on a detailed theoretical analysis of the implications of relative feature relevance, and demonstrate the method's usefulness on simulated examples.

Pitfalls to Avoid when Interpreting Machine Learning Models Machine Learning

Modern requirements for machine learning (ML) models include both high predictive performance and model interpretability. A growing number of techniques provide model interpretations, but can lead to wrong conclusions if applied incorrectly. We illustrate pitfalls of ML model interpretation such as bad model generalization, dependent features, feature interactions or unjustified causal interpretations. Our paper addresses ML practitioners by raising awareness of pitfalls and pointing out solutions for correct model interpretation, as well as ML researchers by discussing open issues for further research.

A General Machine Learning Framework for Survival Analysis Machine Learning

The modeling of time-to-event data, also known as survival analysis, requires specialized methods that can deal with censoring and truncation, time-varying features and effects, and that extend to settings with multiple competing events. However, many machine learning methods for survival analysis only consider the standard setting with right-censored data and proportional hazards assumption. The methods that do provide extensions usually address at most a subset of these challenges and often require specialized software that can not be integrated into standard machine learning workflows directly. In this work, we present a very general machine learning framework for time-to-event analysis that uses a data augmentation strategy to reduce complex survival tasks to standard Poisson regression tasks. This reformulation is based on well developed statistical theory. With the proposed approach, any algorithm that can optimize a Poisson (log-)likelihood, such as gradient boosted trees, deep neural networks, model-based boosting and many more can be used in the context of time-to-event analysis. The proposed technique does not require any assumptions with respect to the distribution of event times or the functional shapes of feature and interaction effects. Based on the proposed framework we develop new methods that are competitive with specialized state of the art approaches in terms of accuracy, and versatility, but with comparatively small investments of programming effort or requirements for specialized methodological know-how.

Multi-Objective Counterfactual Explanations Machine Learning

Counterfactual explanations are one of the most popular methods to make predictions of black box machine learning models interpretable by providing explanations in the form of `what-if scenarios'. Most current approaches optimize a collapsed, weighted sum of multiple objectives, which are naturally difficult to balance a-priori. We propose the Multi-Objective Counterfactuals (MOC) method, which translates the counterfactual search into a multi-objective optimization problem. Our approach not only returns a diverse set of counterfactuals with different trade-offs between the proposed objectives, but also maintains diversity in feature space. This enables a more detailed post-hoc analysis to facilitate better understanding and also more options for actionable user responses to change the predicted outcome. Our approach is also model-agnostic and works for numerical and categorical input features. We show the usefulness of MOC in concrete cases and compare our approach with state-of-the-art methods for counterfactual explanations.

Model-agnostic Feature Importance and Effects with Dependent Features -- A Conditional Subgroup Approach Machine Learning

Partial dependence plots and permutation feature importance are popular model-agnostic interpretation methods. Both methods are based on predicting artificially created data points. When features are dependent, both methods extrapolate to feature areas with low data density. The extrapolation can cause misleading interpretations. To overcome extrapolation, we propose conditional variants of partial dependence plots and permutation feature importance. Our approach is based on perturbations in subgroups. The subgroups partition the feature space to make the feature distribution within a group more homogeneous and between the groups more heterogeneous. The interpretable subgroups enable additional local, nuanced interpretations of the feature dependence structure as well as the feature effects and importance values within the subgroups. We also introduce a data fidelity measure that captures the degree of extrapolation when data is transformed with a certain perturbation. In simulations and benchmarks on real data we show that our conditional interpretation methods reduce extrapolation. In an application we show that these methods provide more nuanced and richer explanations.