# Monthly Archives: January 2012

## Parameterizing Negative Binomial distributions

The negative binomial distribution is cool. Sometimes I think that.

Sometimes I think it is more trouble than it’s worth, a complicated mess.

Today, both.

Wikipedia and PyMC parameterize it differently, and it is a source of continuing confusion for me, so I’m just going to write it out here and have my own reference. (Which will match with PyMC, I hope!)

The important thing about the negative binomial, as far as I’m concerned, is that it is like a Poisson distribution, but “over-dispersed”. That is to say that the standard deviation is not always the square root of the mean. So I’d like to parameterize it with a parameter $\mu$ for the mean and $\delta$ for the dispersion. This is almost what PyMC does, except it calls the dispersion parameter $\alpha$ instead of $\delta$.

The slightly less important, but still informative, thing about the negative binomial, as far as I’m concerned, is that the way it is like a Poisson distribution is very direct. A negative binomial is a Poisson that has a Gamma-distributed random variable for its rate. In other words (symbols?), $Y \sim \text{NegativeBinomial}(\mu, \delta)$ is just shorthand for $Y \sim \text{Poisson}(\lambda),$ $\lambda \sim \text{Gamma}(\mu, \delta).$

Unfortunately, nobody parameterizes the Gamma distribution this way. And so things get really confusing.

The way to get unconfused is to write out the distributions, although after they’re written, you might doubt me:

The negative binomial distribution is $f(k \mid \mu, \delta) = \frac{\Gamma(k+\delta)}{k! \Gamma(\delta)} (\delta/(\mu+\delta))^\delta (\mu/(\mu+\delta))^k$
and the Poisson distribution is $f(k \mid \lambda) = \frac{e^{-\lambda}\lambda^k}{k!}$
and the Gamma distribution is $f(x \mid \alpha, \beta) = \frac{\beta^{\alpha}x^{\alpha-1}e^{-\beta x}}{\Gamma(\alpha)}$

Hmm, does that help yet? If $\alpha = \delta$ and $\beta = \delta/\mu$, it all works out: $\frac{\Gamma(k+\delta)}{\Gamma(\delta)k!} \left(\frac{\delta}{\pi+\delta}\right)^\delta \left(\frac{\pi}{\pi+\delta}\right)^k = \int_0^\infty \frac{e^{-\lambda}\lambda^k}{k!} \lambda^{\delta-1} e^{-\lambda \delta/\mu} \frac{(\delta/\mu)^{\delta}}{\Gamma(\delta)}d \lambda.$

But instead of integrating it analytically (or in addition to), I am extra re-assured by seeing the results of a little PyMC model for this: I put a notebook for making this plot in my pymc-examples repository. Love those notebooks. [pdf] [ipynb]

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Filed under statistics

## PyMC+Pandas: Poisson Regression Example

When I was gushing about the python data package pandas, commenter Rafael S. Calsaverini asked about combining it with PyMC, the python MCMC package that I usually gush about. I had a few minutes free and gave it a try. And just for fun I gave it a try in the new ipython notebook. It works, but it could work even better. See attached: [pdf] [ipynb]

Filed under MCMC, software engineering

## My new favorite for pythonic data wrangling

I’ve written before about my search for the way to deal with data in python. It’s time to write again, though because I have a new favorite: pandas, the panel data package.

There is copious, and growing documentation for pandas, but it assumes a level of familiarity with python and numpy. I thought I’d write some little examples calculations that I’ve done with pandas recently to complement the real docs with some “recipes”. You don’t really need to know python to use these, let alone numpy.

To begin, here are the creation and subset routines in pandas that do the same work that my last foray into this subject accomplished with the rec_array:

import pandas
a = ['USA','USA','CAN']
b = [1,6,4]
c = [1990.1,2005.,1995.]
d = ['x','y','z']
df = pandas.DataFrame({'country': a, 'age': b, 'year': c, 'data': d})


This is cooler than a rec_array because you don’t have to dig in the docs for the constructor, and you can use a dictionary to name each column.

You can select the subset of data relevant to a particular country-year-age thusly:

df[(df['country']=='USA') & (df['age']==6) & (df['year']==2005)]


This is not as cool as a rec_array, because writing df['age'] has more characters than df.age, but I feel churlish to complain about it.
It’s good that I complained about my uncool df['age'] business, because I learned that df.age works, too, as long as you are using an up-to-date pandas.

More substantial recipe to come. Is there already a cookbook out there?