A Robust Functional EM Algorithm for Incomplete Panel Count Data

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Alexander Moreno, Zhenke Wu, Jamie Roslyn Yap, Cho Lam, David Wetter, Inbal Nahum-Shani, Walter Dempsey, James M. Rehg


Panel count data describes aggregated counts of recurrent events observed at discrete time points. To understand dynamics of health behaviors and predict future negative events, the field of quantitative behavioral research has evolved to increasingly rely upon panel count data collected via multiple self reports, for example, about frequencies of smoking using in-the-moment surveys on mobile devices. However, missing reports are common and present a major barrier to downstream statistical learning. As a first step, under a missing completely at random assumption (MCAR), we propose a simple yet widely applicable functional EM algorithm to estimate the counting process mean function, which is of central interest to behavioral scientists. The proposed approach wraps several popular panel count inference methods, seamlessly deals with incomplete counts and is robust to misspecification of the Poisson process assumption. Theoretical analysis of the proposed algorithm provides finite-sample guarantees by extending parametric EM theory to the general non-parametric setting. We illustrate the utility of the proposed algorithm through numerical experiments and an analysis of smoking cessation data. We also discuss useful extensions to address deviations from the MCAR assumption and covariate effects.