Biostatistics Weekly Seminar

Musings on Statistical Models vs. Machine Learning in Health Research

Frank Harrell, PhD
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Health researchers and practicing clinicians are with increasing frequency hearing about machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence applications. They, along with many statisticians, are unsure of when to use traditional statistical models (SM) as opposed to ML to solve analytical problems related to diagnosis, prognosis, treatment selection, and health outcomes. And many advocates of ML do not know enough about SM to be able to appropriately compare performance of SM and ML. ML experts are particularly prone to not grasp the impact of the choice of measures of predictive performance. In this talk I attempt to define what makes ML distinct from SM, and to define the characteristics of applications for which ML is likely to offer advantages over SM, and vice-versa. The talk will also touch on the vast difference between prediction and classification and how this leads to many misunderstandings in the ML world. Other topics to be convered include the minimum sample size needed for ML, and problems ML algorithms have with absolute predictive accuracy (calibration).

MRBIII, Room 1220
9 January 2019

Topic revision: r1 - 09 Jan 2019, ThomasStewart

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