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Bernau, Christoph; Augustin, Thomas; Boulesteix, Anne-Laure (April 2011): Correcting the optimally selected resampling-based error rate: A smooth analytical alternative to nested cross-validation. Department of Statistics: Technical Reports, No.105


High-dimensional binary classification tasks, e.g. the classification of microarray samples into normal and cancer tissues, usually involve a tuning parameter adjusting the complexity of the applied method to the examined data set. By reporting the performance of the best tuning parameter value only, over-optimistic prediction errors are published. The contribution of this paper is two-fold. Firstly, we develop a new method for tuning bias correction which can be motivated by decision theoretic considerations. The method is based on the decomposition of the unconditional error rate involving the tuning procedure. Our corrected error estimator can be written as a weighted mean of the errors obtained using the different tuning parameter values. It can be interpreted as a smooth version of nested cross-validation (NCV) which is the standard approach for avoiding tuning bias. In contrast to NCV, the weighting scheme of our method guarantees intuitive bounds for the corrected error. Secondly, we suggest to use bias correction methods also to address the bias resulting from the optimal choice of the classification method among several competitors. This method selection bias is particularly relevant to prediction problems in high-dimensional data. In the absence of standards, it is common practice to try several methods successively, which can lead to an optimistic bias similar to the tuning bias. We demonstrate the performance of our method to address both types of bias based on microarray data sets and compare it to existing methods. This study confirms that our approach yields estimates competitive to NCV at a much lower computational price.