Computational Methods for the Analysis of Complex Data

  1. Sillero Denamiel, María Remedios
Supervised by:
  1. Rafael Blanquero Bravo Director
  2. Emilio Carrizosa Priego Director
  3. Josefa Ramírez Cobo Director

Defence university: Universidad de Sevilla

Fecha de defensa: 07 July 2021

Type: Thesis


This PhD dissertation bridges the disciplines of Operations Research and Statistics to develop novel computational methods for the extraction of knowledge from complex data. In this research, complex data stands for datasets with many instances and/or variables, with different types of variables, with dependence structures among the variables, collected from different sources (heterogeneous), possibly with non-identical population class sizes, with different misclassification costs, or characterized by extreme instances (heavy-tailed data), among others. Recently, the complexity of the raw data in addition to new requests posed by practitioners (interpretable models, cost-sensitive models or models which are efficient in terms of running times) entail a challenge from a scientific perspective. The main contributions of this PhD dissertation are encompassed in three different research frameworks: Regression, Classification and Bayesian inference. Concerning the first, we consider linear regression models, where a continuous outcome variable is to be predicted by a set of features. On the one hand, seeking for interpretable solutions in heterogeneous datasets, we propose a novel version of the Lasso in which the performance of the method on groups of interest is controlled. On the other hand, we use mathematical optimization tools to propose a sparse linear regression model (that is, a model whose solution only depends on a subset of predictors) specifically designed for datasets with categorical and hierarchical features. Regarding the task of Classification, in this PhD dissertation we have explored in depth the Naïve Bayes classifier. This method has been adapted to obtain a sparse solution and also, it has been modified to deal with cost-sensitive datasets. For both problems, novel strategies for reducing high running times are presented. Finally, the last contribution of this dissertation concerns Bayesian inference methods. In particular, in the setting of heavy-tailed data, we consider a semi-parametric Bayesian approach to estimate the Elliptical distribution. The structure of this dissertation is as follows. Chapter 1 contains the theoretical background needed to develop the following chapters. In particular, two main research areas are reviewed: sparse and cost-sensitive statistical learning and Bayesian Statistics. Chapter 2 proposes a Lasso-based method in which quadratic performance constraints to bound the prediction errors in the individuals of interest are added to Lasso-based objective functions. This constrained sparse regression model is defined by a nonlinear optimization problem. Specifically, it has a direct application in heterogeneous samples where data are collected from distinct sources, as it is standard in many biomedical contexts. Chapter 3 studies linear regression models built on categorical predictor variables that have a hierarchical structure. The model is flexible in the sense that the user decides the level of detail in the information used to build it, having into account data privacy considerations. To trade off the accuracy of the linear regression model and its complexity, a Mixed Integer Convex Quadratic Problem with Linear Constraints is solved. In Chapter 4, a sparse version of the Naïve Bayes classifier, which is characterized by the following three properties, is proposed. On the one hand, the selection of the subset of variables is done in terms of the correlation structure of the predictor variables. On the other hand, such selection can be based on different performance measures. Additionally, performance constraints on groups of higher interest can be included. This smart search integrates the flexibility in terms of performance for classification, yielding competitive running times. The approach introduced in Chapter 2 is also explored in Chapter 5 for improving the performance of the Naïve Bayes classifier in the classes of most interest to the user. Unlike the traditional version of the classifier, which is a two-step classifier (estimation first and classification next), the novel approach integrates both stages. The method is formulated via an optimization problem where the likelihood function is maximized with constraints on the classification rates for the groups of interest. When dealing with datasets of especial characteristics (for example, heavy tails in contexts as Economics and Finance), Bayesian statistical techniques have shown their potential in the literature. In Chapter 6, Elliptical distributions, which are generalizations of the multivariate normal distribution to both longer tails and elliptical contours, are examined, and Bayesian methods to perform semi-parametric inference for them are used. Finally, Chapter 7 closes the thesis with general conclusions and future lines of research.