International benchmarking competitions have become fundamental for the comparative performance assessment of image analysis methods. However, little attention has been given to investigating what can be learnt from these competitions. Do they really generate scientific progress? What are common and successful participation strategies? What makes a solution superior to a competing method? To address this gap in the literature, we performed a multi-center study with all 80 competitions that were conducted in the scope of IEEE ISBI 2021 and MICCAI 2021. Statistical analyses performed based on comprehensive descriptions of the submitted algorithms linked to their rank as well as the underlying participation strategies revealed common characteristics of winning solutions. These typically include the use of multi-task learning (63%) and/or multi-stage pipelines (61%), and a focus on augmentation (100%), image preprocessing (97%), data curation (79%), and postprocessing (66%). The "typical" lead of a winning team is a computer scientist with a doctoral degree, five years of experience in biomedical image analysis, and four years of experience in deep learning. Two core general development strategies stood out for highly-ranked teams: the reflection of the metrics in the method design and the focus on analyzing and handling failure cases. According to the organizers, 43% of the winning algorithms exceeded the state of the art but only 11% completely solved the respective domain problem. The insights of our study could help researchers (1) improve algorithm development strategies when approaching new problems, and (2) focus on open research questions revealed by this work.
Validation metrics are key for the reliable tracking of scientific progress and for bridging the current chasm between artificial intelligence (AI) research and its translation into practice. However, increasing evidence shows that particularly in image analysis, metrics are often chosen inadequately in relation to the underlying research problem. This could be attributed to a lack of accessibility of metric-related knowledge: While taking into account the individual strengths, weaknesses, and limitations of validation metrics is a critical prerequisite to making educated choices, the relevant knowledge is currently scattered and poorly accessible to individual researchers. Based on a multi-stage Delphi process conducted by a multidisciplinary expert consortium as well as extensive community feedback, the present work provides the first reliable and comprehensive common point of access to information on pitfalls related to validation metrics in image analysis. Focusing on biomedical image analysis but with the potential of transfer to other fields, the addressed pitfalls generalize across application domains and are categorized according to a newly created, domain-agnostic taxonomy. To facilitate comprehension, illustrations and specific examples accompany each pitfall. As a structured body of information accessible to researchers of all levels of expertise, this work enhances global comprehension of a key topic in image analysis validation.
The number of international benchmarking competitions is steadily increasing in various fields of machine learning (ML) research and practice. So far, however, little is known about the common practice as well as bottlenecks faced by the community in tackling the research questions posed. To shed light on the status quo of algorithm development in the specific field of biomedical imaging analysis, we designed an international survey that was issued to all participants of challenges conducted in conjunction with the IEEE ISBI 2021 and MICCAI 2021 conferences (80 competitions in total). The survey covered participants' expertise and working environments, their chosen strategies, as well as algorithm characteristics. A median of 72% challenge participants took part in the survey. According to our results, knowledge exchange was the primary incentive (70%) for participation, while the reception of prize money played only a minor role (16%). While a median of 80 working hours was spent on method development, a large portion of participants stated that they did not have enough time for method development (32%). 25% perceived the infrastructure to be a bottleneck. Overall, 94% of all solutions were deep learning-based. Of these, 84% were based on standard architectures. 43% of the respondents reported that the data samples (e.g., images) were too large to be processed at once. This was most commonly addressed by patch-based training (69%), downsampling (37%), and solving 3D analysis tasks as a series of 2D tasks. K-fold cross-validation on the training set was performed by only 37% of the participants and only 50% of the participants performed ensembling based on multiple identical models (61%) or heterogeneous models (39%). 48% of the respondents applied postprocessing steps.
The field of automatic biomedical image analysis crucially depends on robust and meaningful performance metrics for algorithm validation. Current metric usage, however, is often ill-informed and does not reflect the underlying domain interest. Here, we present a comprehensive framework that guides researchers towards choosing performance metrics in a problem-aware manner. Specifically, we focus on biomedical image analysis problems that can be interpreted as a classification task at image, object or pixel level. The framework first compiles domain interest-, target structure-, data set- and algorithm output-related properties of a given problem into a problem fingerprint, while also mapping it to the appropriate problem category, namely image-level classification, semantic segmentation, instance segmentation, or object detection. It then guides users through the process of selecting and applying a set of appropriate validation metrics while making them aware of potential pitfalls related to individual choices. In this paper, we describe the current status of the Metrics Reloaded recommendation framework, with the goal of obtaining constructive feedback from the image analysis community. The current version has been developed within an international consortium of more than 60 image analysis experts and will be made openly available as a user-friendly toolkit after community-driven optimization.
While the importance of automatic image analysis is increasing at an enormous pace, recent meta-research revealed major flaws with respect to algorithm validation. Specifically, performance metrics are key for objective, transparent and comparative performance assessment, but relatively little attention has been given to the practical pitfalls when using specific metrics for a given image analysis task. A common mission of several international initiatives is therefore to provide researchers with guidelines and tools to choose the performance metrics in a problem-aware manner. This dynamically updated document has the purpose to illustrate important limitations of performance metrics commonly applied in the field of image analysis. The current version is based on a Delphi process on metrics conducted by an international consortium of image analysis experts.
Recent developments in data science in general and machine learning in particular have transformed the way experts envision the future of surgery. Surgical data science is a new research field that aims to improve the quality of interventional healthcare through the capture, organization, analysis and modeling of data. While an increasing number of data-driven approaches and clinical applications have been studied in the fields of radiological and clinical data science, translational success stories are still lacking in surgery. In this publication, we shed light on the underlying reasons and provide a roadmap for future advances in the field. Based on an international workshop involving leading researchers in the field of surgical data science, we review current practice, key achievements and initiatives as well as available standards and tools for a number of topics relevant to the field, namely (1) technical infrastructure for data acquisition, storage and access in the presence of regulatory constraints, (2) data annotation and sharing and (3) data analytics. Drawing from this extensive review, we present current challenges for technology development and (4) describe a roadmap for faster clinical translation and exploitation of the full potential of surgical data science.
Image-based tracking of medical instruments is an integral part of many surgical data science applications. Previous research has addressed the tasks of detecting, segmenting and tracking medical instruments based on laparoscopic video data. However, the methods proposed still tend to fail when applied to challenging images and do not generalize well to data they have not been trained on. This paper introduces the Heidelberg Colorectal (HeiCo) data set - the first publicly available data set enabling comprehensive benchmarking of medical instrument detection and segmentation algorithms with a specific emphasis on robustness and generalization capabilities of the methods. Our data set comprises 30 laparoscopic videos and corresponding sensor data from medical devices in the operating room for three different types of laparoscopic surgery. Annotations include surgical phase labels for all frames in the videos as well as instance-wise segmentation masks for surgical instruments in more than 10,000 individual frames. The data has successfully been used to organize international competitions in the scope of the Endoscopic Vision Challenges (EndoVis) 2017 and 2019.