Active learning and decision making with varying treatment effects!

In a new paper, Iiris Sundin, Peter Schulam, Eero Siivola, Aki Vehtari, Suchi Saria, and Samuel Kaski write:

Machine learning can help personalized decision support by learning models to predict individual treatment effects (ITE). This work studies the reliability of prediction-based decision-making in a task of deciding which action a to take for a target unit after observing its covariates x̃ and predicted outcomes p̂(ỹ∣x̃,a). An example case is personalized medicine and the decision of which treatment to give to a patient. A common problem when learning these models from observational data is imbalance, that is, difference in treated/control covariate distributions, which is known to increase the upper bound of the expected ITE estimation error. We propose to assess the decision-making reliability by estimating the ITE model’s Type S error rate, which is the probability of the model inferring the sign of the treatment effect wrong. Furthermore, we use the estimated reliability as a criterion for active learning, in order to collect new (possibly expensive) observations, instead of making a forced choice based on unreliable predictions. We demonstrate the effectiveness of this decision-making aware active learning in two decision-making tasks: in simulated data with binary outcomes and in a medical dataset with synthetic and continuous treatment outcomes.

Decision making, varying treatment effects, type S errors, Stan, validation. . . this paper has all of my favorite things!