Simulation studies as designed experiments: The comparison of penalized regression models in the "large p, small n " setting

Elias Chaibub Neto, J. Christopher Bare, Adam A. Margolin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


New algorithms are continuously proposed in computational biology. Performance evaluation of novel methods is important in practice. Nonetheless, the field experiences a lack of rigorous methodology aimed to systematically and objectively evaluate competing approaches. Simulation studies are frequently used to show that a particular method outperforms another. Often times, however, simulation studies are not well designed, and it is hard to characterize the particular conditions under which different methods perform better. In this paper we propose the adoption of well established techniques in the design of computer and physical experiments for developing effective simulation studies. By following best practices in planning of experiments we are better able to understand the strengths and weaknesses of competing algorithms leading to more informed decisions about which method to use for a particular task. We illustrate the application of our proposed simulation framework with a detailed comparison of the ridge-regression, lasso and elastic-net algorithms in a large scale study investigating the effects on predictive performance of sample size, number of features, true model sparsity, signal-to-noise ratio, and feature correlation, in situations where the number of covariates is usually much larger than sample size. Analysis of data sets containing tens of thousands of features but only a few hundred samples is nowadays routine in computational biology, where "omics" features such as gene expression, copy number variation and sequence data are frequently used in the predictive modeling of complex phenotypes such as anticancer drug response. The penalized regression approaches investigated in this study are popular choices in this setting and our simulations corroborate well established results concerning the conditions under which each one of these methods is expected to perform best while providing several novel insights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere107957
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 7 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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