Get our free extension to see links to code for papers anywhere online!Free add-on: code for papers everywhere!Free add-on: See code for papers anywhere!

Estimates of causal parameters such as conditional average treatment effects and conditional quantile treatment effects play an important role in real-world decision making. Given this importance, one should ensure these estimators are calibrated. While there is a rich literature on calibrating estimators of non-causal parameters, very few methods have been derived for calibrating estimators of causal parameters, or more generally estimators of quantities involving nuisance parameters. In this work, we provide a general framework for calibrating predictors involving nuisance estimation. We consider a notion of calibration defined with respect to an arbitrary, nuisance-dependent loss $\ell$, under which we say an estimator $\theta$ is calibrated if its predictions cannot be changed on any level set to decrease loss. We prove generic upper bounds on the calibration error of any causal parameter estimate $\theta$ with respect to any loss $\ell$ using a concept called Neyman Orthogonality. Our bounds involve two decoupled terms - one measuring the error in estimating the unknown nuisance parameters, and the other representing the calibration error in a hypothetical world where the learned nuisance estimates were true. We use our bound to analyze the convergence of two sample splitting algorithms for causal calibration. One algorithm, which applies to universally orthogonalizable loss functions, transforms the data into generalized pseudo-outcomes and applies an off-the-shelf calibration procedure. The other algorithm, which applies to conditionally orthogonalizable loss functions, extends the classical uniform mass binning algorithm to include nuisance estimation. Our results are exceedingly general, showing that essentially any existing calibration algorithm can be used in causal settings, with additional loss only arising from errors in nuisance estimation.

Via

A fundamental problem in decision-making systems is the presence of inequity across demographic lines. However, inequity can be difficult to quantify, particularly if our notion of equity relies on hard-to-measure notions like risk (e.g., equal access to treatment for those who would die without it). Auditing such inequity requires accurate measurements of individual risk, which is difficult to estimate in the realistic setting of unobserved confounding. In the case that these unobservables "explain" an apparent disparity, we may understate or overstate inequity. In this paper, we show that one can still give informative bounds on allocation rates among high-risk individuals, even while relaxing or (surprisingly) even when eliminating the assumption that all relevant risk factors are observed. We utilize the fact that in many real-world settings (e.g., the introduction of a novel treatment) we have data from a period prior to any allocation, to derive unbiased estimates of risk. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our framework on a real-world study of Paxlovid allocation to COVID-19 patients, finding that observed racial inequity cannot be explained by unobserved confounders of the same strength as important observed covariates.

Via

Disease control experts inspect public health data streams daily for outliers worth investigating, like those corresponding to data quality issues or disease outbreaks. However, they can only examine a few of the thousands of maximally-tied outliers returned by univariate outlier detection methods applied to large-scale public health data streams. To help experts distinguish the most important outliers from these thousands of tied outliers, we propose a new task for algorithms to rank the outputs of any univariate method applied to each of many streams. Our novel algorithm for this task, which leverages hierarchical networks and extreme value analysis, performed the best across traditional outlier detection metrics in a human-expert evaluation using public health data streams. Most importantly, experts have used our open-source Python implementation since April 2023 and report identifying outliers worth investigating 9.1x faster than their prior baseline. Other organizations can readily adapt this implementation to create rankings from the outputs of their tailored univariate methods across large-scale streams.

Via

The surveillance of a pandemic is a challenging task, especially when crucial data is distributed and stakeholders cannot or are unwilling to share. To overcome this obstacle, federated methodologies should be developed to incorporate less sensitive evidence that entities are willing to provide. This study aims to explore the feasibility of pushing hypothesis tests behind each custodian's firewall and then meta-analysis to combine the results, and to determine the optimal approach for reconstructing the hypothesis test and optimizing the inference. We propose a hypothesis testing framework to identify a surge in the indicators and conduct power analyses and experiments on real and semi-synthetic data to showcase the properties of our proposed hypothesis test and suggest suitable methods for combining $p$-values. Our findings highlight the potential of using $p$-value combination as a federated methodology for pandemic surveillance and provide valuable insights into integrating available data sources.

Via

Irregularities in public health data streams (like COVID-19 Cases) hamper data-driven decision-making for public health stakeholders. A real-time, computer-generated list of the most important, outlying data points from thousands of daily-updated public health data streams could assist an expert reviewer in identifying these irregularities. However, existing outlier detection frameworks perform poorly on this task because they do not account for the data volume or for the statistical properties of public health streams. Accordingly, we developed FlaSH (Flagging Streams in public Health), a practical outlier detection framework for public health data users that uses simple, scalable models to capture these statistical properties explicitly. In an experiment where human experts evaluate FlaSH and existing methods (including deep learning approaches), FlaSH scales to the data volume of this task, matches or exceeds these other methods in mean accuracy, and identifies the outlier points that users empirically rate as more helpful. Based on these results, FlaSH has been deployed on data streams used by public health stakeholders.

Via

We provide practical, efficient, and nonparametric methods for auditing the fairness of deployed classification and regression models. Whereas previous work relies on a fixed-sample size, our methods are sequential and allow for the continuous monitoring of incoming data, making them highly amenable to tracking the fairness of real-world systems. We also allow the data to be collected by a probabilistic policy as opposed to sampled uniformly from the population. This enables auditing to be conducted on data gathered for another purpose. Moreover, this policy may change over time and different policies may be used on different subpopulations. Finally, our methods can handle distribution shift resulting from either changes to the model or changes in the underlying population. Our approach is based on recent progress in anytime-valid inference and game-theoretic statistics-the "testing by betting" framework in particular. These connections ensure that our methods are interpretable, fast, and easy to implement. We demonstrate the efficacy of our methods on several benchmark fairness datasets.

Via

Predict-then-Optimize is a framework for using machine learning to perform decision-making under uncertainty. The central research question it asks is, "How can the structure of a decision-making task be used to tailor ML models for that specific task?" To this end, recent work has proposed learning task-specific loss functions that capture this underlying structure. However, current approaches make restrictive assumptions about the form of these losses and their impact on ML model behavior. These assumptions both lead to approaches with high computational cost, and when they are violated in practice, poor performance. In this paper, we propose solutions to these issues, avoiding the aforementioned assumptions and utilizing the ML model's features to increase the sample efficiency of learning loss functions. We empirically show that our method achieves state-of-the-art results in four domains from the literature, often requiring an order of magnitude fewer samples than comparable methods from past work. Moreover, our approach outperforms the best existing method by nearly 200% when the localness assumption is broken.

Via

We present a methodology for formulating simplifying abstractions in machine learning systems by identifying and harnessing the utility structure of decisions. Machine learning tasks commonly involve high-dimensional output spaces (e.g., predictions for every pixel in an image or node in a graph), even though a coarser output would often suffice for downstream decision-making (e.g., regions of an image instead of pixels). Developers often hand-engineer abstractions of the output space, but numerous abstractions are possible and it is unclear how the choice of output space for a model impacts its usefulness in downstream decision-making. We propose a method that configures the output space automatically in order to minimize the loss of decision-relevant information. Taking a geometric perspective, we formulate a step of the algorithm as a projection of the probability simplex, termed fold, that minimizes the total loss of decision-related information in the H-entropy sense. Crucially, learning in the abstracted outcome space requires less data, leading to a net improvement in decision quality. We demonstrate the method in two domains: data acquisition for deep neural network training and a closed-loop wildfire management task.

Via

We consider the task of evaluating policies of algorithmic resource allocation through randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Such policies are tasked with optimizing the utilization of limited intervention resources, with the goal of maximizing the benefits derived. Evaluation of such allocation policies through RCTs proves difficult, notwithstanding the scale of the trial, because the individuals' outcomes are inextricably interlinked through resource constraints controlling the policy decisions. Our key contribution is to present a new estimator leveraging our proposed novel concept, that involves retrospective reshuffling of participants across experimental arms at the end of an RCT. We identify conditions under which such reassignments are permissible and can be leveraged to construct counterfactual trials, whose outcomes can be accurately ascertained, for free. We prove theoretically that such an estimator is more accurate than common estimators based on sample means -- we show that it returns an unbiased estimate and simultaneously reduces variance. We demonstrate the value of our approach through empirical experiments on synthetic, semi-synthetic as well as real case study data and show improved estimation accuracy across the board.

Via

Decision-Focused Learning (DFL) is a paradigm for tailoring a predictive model to a downstream optimisation task that uses its predictions, so that it can perform better on that specific task. The main technical challenge associated with DFL is that it requires being able to differentiate through $argmin$ operations to work. However, these $argmin$ optimisations are often piecewise constant and, as a result, naively differentiating through them would provide uninformative gradients. Past work has largely focused on getting around this issue by handcrafting task-specific surrogates to the original optimisation problem that provide informative gradients when differentiated through. However, finding these surrogates can be challenging and the need to handcraft surrogates for each new task limits the usability of DFL. In addition, even after applying these relaxation techniques, there are no guarantees that the resulting surrogates are convex and, as a result, training a predictive model on them may lead to said model getting stuck in local minimas. In this paper, we provide an approach to learn faithful task-specific surrogates which (a) only requires access to a black-box oracle that can solve the optimisation problem and is thus generalizable, and (b) can be convex by construction and so can be easily optimized over. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work on using learning to find good surrogates for DFL. We evaluate our approach on a budget allocation problem from the literature and find that our approach outperforms even the hand-crafted (non-convex) surrogate loss proposed by the original paper. Taking a step back, we hope that the generality and simplicity of our approach will help lower the barrier associated with implementing DFL-based solutions in practice. To that end, we are currently working on extending our experiments to more domains.

Via