Applied Stats Workshop (Gov 3009)


Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


CGIS Knafel K354

The Applied Statistics Workshop (Gov 3009) meets all academic year, Wednesdays, 12pm-1:30pm, in CGIS K354. This workshop is a forum for advanced graduate students, faculty, and visiting scholars to present and discuss methodological or empirical work in progress in an interdisciplinary setting. The workshop features a tour of Harvard's statistical innovations and applications with weekly stops in different fields and disciplines and includes occasional presentations by invited speakers.  Free lunch is provided.


Lucas Janson presents "Using Knockoffs to find important variables with statistical guarantees"


Title: Using Knockoffs to find important variables with statistical guarantees

Abstract: Many contemporary large-scale applications, from genomics to advertising, involve linking a response of interest to a large set of potential explanatory variables in a nonlinear fashion, such as when the response is binary. Although this modeling problem has been extensively studied, it remains unclear how to effectively select important variables while controlling the fraction of false discoveries, even in high-dimensional logistic regression, not to mention general high-dimensional nonlinear models. To address such a practical problem, we propose a new framework of model-X knockoffs, which reads from a different perspective the knockoff procedure (Barber and Candès, 2015) originally designed for controlling the false discovery rate in linear models. Model-X knockoffs can deal with arbitrary (and unknown) conditional models and any dimensions, including when the number of explanatory variables p exceeds the sample size n. Our approach requires the design matrix be random (independent and identically distributed rows) with a known distribution for the explanatory variables, although we show preliminary evidence that our procedure is robust to unknown/estimated distributions. As we require no knowledge/assumptions about the conditional distribution of the response, we effectively shift the burden of knowledge from the response to the explanatory variables, in contrast to the canonical model-based approach which assumes a parametric model for the response but very little about the explanatory variables. To our knowledge, no other procedure solves the controlled variable selection problem in such generality, but in the restricted settings where competitors exist, we demonstrate the superior power of knockoffs through simulations. Finally, we apply our procedure to data from a case-control study of Crohn’s disease in the United Kingdom, making twice as many discoveries as the original analysis of the same data.