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Sample Selection Bias in Evaluation of Prediction Performance of Causal Models

by   James P. Long, et al.

Causal models are notoriously difficult to validate because they make untestable assumptions regarding confounding. New scientific experiments offer the possibility of evaluating causal models using prediction performance. Prediction performance measures are typically robust to violations in causal assumptions. However prediction performance does depend on the selection of training and test sets. In particular biased training sets can lead to optimistic assessments of model performance. In this work, we revisit the prediction performance of several recently proposed causal models tested on a genetic perturbation data set of Kemmeren [Kemmeren et al., 2014]. We find that sample selection bias is likely a key driver of model performance. We propose using a less-biased evaluation set for assessing prediction performance on Kemmeren and compare models on this new set. In this setting, the causal model tested have similar performance to standard association based estimators such as Lasso. Finally we compare the performance of causal estimators in simulation studies which reproduce the Kemmeren structure of genetic knockout experiments but without any sample selection bias. These results provide an improved understanding of the performance of several causal models and offer guidance on how future studies should use Kemmeren.


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