I’ve been thinking a lot about validating statistical models. My disease models are complicated, there are many places to make a little mistake. And people care about the numbers, so they will care if I make mistakes. My concern is grounded in experience; when I was re-implementing my disease modeling system, I realized that I mis-parameterized a bit of the model, giving undue influence to observations with small sample size. Good thing I caught it before
anything was published based on the resultsI published anything based on the results!
How do I avoid this trouble going forwards? A well-timed blog post from Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science highlights one way, described in a paper linked there. I like this and I partially replicated in PyMC. But I’m concerned about something, which the authors mention in their conclusion:
To help ensure that errors, when present, are apparent from the simulation results, we caution against using “nice” numbers for fixed inputs or “balanced” dimensions in these simulations. For example, consider a generic hyperprior scale parameter s. If software were incorrectly written to use s^2 instead of s, the software could still appear to work correctly if tested with the fixed value of s set to 1 (or very close to 1), but would not work correctly for other values of s.
How do I avoid nice numbers in practice? I have an idea, but I’m not sure I like it. Does anyone else have ideas?