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Causality and clustering in complex settings




Gibbs, Connor P., author
Keller, Kayleigh, advisor
Fosdick, Bailey, advisor
Koslovsky, Matthew, committee member
Kaplan, Andee, committee member
Anderson, Brooke, committee member

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Causality and clustering are at the forefront of many problems in statistics. In this dissertation, we present new methods and approaches for drawing causal inference with temporally dependent units and clustering nodes in heterogeneous networks. To begin, we investigate the causal effect of a timeout at stopping an opposing team's run in the National Basketball Association (NBA). After formalizing the notion of a run in the NBA and in light of the temporal dependence among runs, we define the units under study with careful consideration of the stable unit-treatment-value assumption pertinent to the Rubin causal model. After introducing a novel, interpretable outcome based on the score difference, we conclude that while comebacks frequently occur after a run, it is slightly disadvantageous to call a timeout during a run by the opposing team. Further, we demonstrate that the magnitude of this effect varies by franchise, lending clarity to an oft-debated topic among sports' fans. Following, we represent the known relationships among and between genetic variants and phenotypic abnormalities as a heterogeneous network and introduce a novel analytic pipeline to identify clusters containing undiscovered gene to phenotype relations (ICCUR) from the network. ICCUR identifies, scores, and ranks small heterogeneous clusters according to their potential for future discovery in a large temporal biological network. We train an ensemble model of boosted regression trees to predict clusters' potential for future discovery using observable cluster features, and show the resulting clusters contain significantly more undiscovered gene to phenotype relations than expected by chance. To demonstrate its use as a diagnostic aid, we apply the results of the ICCUR pipeline to real, undiagnosed patients with rare diseases, identifying clusters containing patients' co-occurring yet otherwise unconnected genotypic and phenotypic information, some connections which have since been validated by human curation. Motivated by ICCUR and its application, we introduce a novel method called ECoHeN (pronounced "eco-hen") to extract communities from heterogeneous networks in a statistically meaningful way. Using a heterogeneous configuration model as a reference distribution, ECoHeN identifies communities that are significantly more densely connected than expected given the node types and connectivity of its membership without imposing constraints on the type composition of the extracted communities. The ECoHeN algorithm identifies communities one at a time through a dynamic set of iterative updating rules and is guaranteed to converge. To our knowledge this is the first discovery method that distinguishes and identifies both homogeneous and heterogeneous, possibly overlapping, community structure in a network. We demonstrate the performance of ECoHeN through simulation and in application to a political blogs network to identify collections of blogs which reference one another more than expected considering the ideology of its' members. Along with small partisan communities, we demonstrate ECoHeN's ability to identify a large, bipartisan community undetectable by canonical community detection methods and denser than modern, competing methods.


Includes bibliographical references.
2023 Spring.

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community detection
heterogeneous network
sports statistics
community extraction
causal inference
link prediction


Associated Publications