Paper: Characterization of Overlap in Observational Studies

Overlap between treatment groups is required for nonparametric estimation of causal effects. If a subgroup of subjects always receives (or never receives) a given intervention, we cannot estimate the effect of intervention changes on that subgroup without further assumptions. When overlap does not hold globally, characterizing local regions of overlap can inform the relevance of any causal conclusions for new subjects, and can help guide additional data collection. To have impact, these descriptions must be interpretable for downstream users who are not machine learning experts, such as clinicians. We formalize overlap estimation as a problem of finding minimum volume sets and give a method to solve it by reduction to binary classification with Boolean rules. We also generalize our method to estimate overlap in off-policy policy evaluation. Using data from real-world applications, we demonstrate that these rules have comparable accuracy to black-box estimators while maintaining a simple description. In one case study, we perform a user study with clinicians to evaluate rules learned to describe treatment group overlap in post-surgical opioid prescriptions. In another, we estimate overlap in policy evaluation of antibiotic prescription for urinary tract infections.

Article: Correlation and Causation – How Alcohol Affects Life Expectancy

We hear this sentence over and over again. But what does that actually mean? This small analysis uncovers this topic with the help of R, and simple regressions, focusing on how alcohol impacts health.

Library: Conditional Distance Correlation and Its Related Feature Screening Method (cdcsis)

Gives conditional distance correlation and performs the conditional distance correlation sure independence screening procedure for ultrahigh dimensional data. The conditional distance correlation is a novel conditional dependence measurement of two random variables given a third variable. The conditional distance correlation sure independence screening is used for screening variables in ultrahigh dimensional setting.

Article: Relational inductive biases, deep learning, and graph networks

Artificial intelligence (AI) has undergone a renaissance recently, making major progress in key domains such as vision, language, control, and decision-making. This has been due, in part, to cheap data and cheap compute resources, which have fit the natural strengths of deep learning. However, many defining characteristics of human intelligence, which developed under much different pressures, remain out of reach for current approaches. In particular, generalizing beyond one’s experiences–a hallmark of human intelligence from infancy–remains a formidable challenge for modern AI. The following is part position paper, part review, and part unification. We argue that combinatorial generalization must be a top priority for AI to achieve human-like abilities, and that structured representations and computations are key to realizing this objective. Just as biology uses nature and nurture cooperatively, we reject the false choice between ‘hand-engineering’ and ‘end-to-end’ learning, and instead advocate for an approach which benefits from their complementary strengths. We explore how using relational inductive biases within deep learning architectures can facilitate learning about entities, relations, and rules for composing them. We present a new building block for the AI toolkit with a strong relational inductive bias–the graph network–which generalizes and extends various approaches for neural networks that operate on graphs, and provides a straightforward interface for manipulating structured knowledge and producing structured behaviors. We discuss how graph networks can support relational reasoning and combinatorial generalization, laying the foundation for more sophisticated, interpretable, and flexible patterns of reasoning. As a companion to this paper, we have released an open-source software library for building graph networks, with demonstrations of how to use them in practice.

Paper: Quantifying Error in the Presence of Confounders for Causal Inference

Estimating average causal effect (ACE) is useful whenever we want to know the effect of an intervention on a given outcome. In the absence of a randomized experiment, many methods such as stratification and inverse propensity weighting have been proposed to estimate ACE. However, it is hard to know which method is optimal for a given dataset or which hyperparameters to use for a chosen method. To this end, we provide a framework to characterize the loss of a causal inference method against the true ACE, by framing causal inference as a representation learning problem. We show that many popular methods, including back-door methods can be considered as weighting or representation learning algorithms, and provide general error bounds for their causal estimates. In addition, we consider the case when unobserved variables can confound the causal estimate and extend proposed bounds using principles of robust statistics, considering confounding as contamination under the Huber contamination model. These bounds are also estimable; as an example, we provide empirical bounds for the Inverse Propensity Weighting (IPW) estimator and show how the bounds can be used to optimize the threshold of clipping extreme propensity scores. Our work provides a new way to reason about competing estimators, and opens up the potential of deriving new methods by minimizing the proposed error bounds.

Paper: Identifying mediating variables with graphical models: an application to the study of causal pathways in people living with HIV

We empirically demonstrate that graphical models can be a valuable tool in the identification of mediating variables in causal pathways. We make use of graphical models to elucidate the causal pathway through which the treatment influences the levels of fatigue and weakness in people living with HIV (PLHIV) based on a secondary analysis of a categorical dataset collected in a behavioral clinical trial: is weakness a mediator for the treatment and fatigue, or is fatigue a mediator for the treatment and weakness? Causal mediation analysis could not offer any definite answers to these questions.\\ KEYWORDS: Contingency tables; graphical models; loglinear models; HIV; mediation