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  1. Machine learning models frequently experience performance drops under distribution shifts. The underlying cause of such shifts may be multiple simultaneous factors such as changes in data quality, differences in specific covariate distributions, or changes in the relationship between label and features. When a model does fail during deployment, attributing performance change to these factors is critical for the model developer to identify the root cause and take mitigating actions. In this work, we introduce the problem of attributing performance differences between environments to distribution shifts in the underlying data generating mechanisms. We formulate the problem as a cooperative game where the players are distributions. We define the value of a set of distributions to be the change in model performance when only this set of distributions has changed between environments, and derive an importance weighting method for computing the value of an arbitrary set of distributions. The contribution of each distribution to the total performance change is then quantified as its Shapley value. We demonstrate the correctness and utility of our method on synthetic, semi-synthetic, and real-world case studies, showing its effectiveness in attributing performance changes to a wide range of distribution shifts. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 15, 2024
  2. Minimax-fair machine learning minimizes the error for the worst-off group. However, empirical evidence suggests that when sophisticated models are trained with standard empirical risk minimization (ERM), they often have the same performance on the worst-off group as a minimax-trained model. Our work makes this counter-intuitive observation concrete. We prove that if the hypothesis class is sufficiently expressive and the group information is recoverable from the features, ERM and minimax-fairness learning formulations indeed have the same performance on the worst-off group. We provide additional empirical evidence of how this observation holds on a wide range of datasets and hypothesis classes. Since ERM is fundamentally easier than minimax optimization, our findings have implications on the practice of fair machine learning. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 15, 2024
  3. Minimax-fair machine learning minimizes the error for the worst-off group. However, empirical evidence suggests that when sophisticated models are trained with standard empirical risk minimization (ERM), they often have the same performance on the worst-off group as a minimax-trained model. Our work makes this counter-intuitive observation concrete. We prove that if the hypothesis class is sufficiently expressive and the group information is recoverable from the features, ERM and minimax-fairness learning formulations indeed have the same performance on the worst-off group. We provide additional empirical evidence of how this observation holds on a wide range of datasets and hypothesis classes. Since ERM is fundamentally easier than minimax optimization, our findings have implications on the practice of fair machine learning. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 24, 2024
  4. Pollard, Tom J. (Ed.)
    Modern predictive models require large amounts of data for training and evaluation, absence of which may result in models that are specific to certain locations, populations in them and clinical practices. Yet, best practices for clinical risk prediction models have not yet considered such challenges to generalizability. Here we ask whether population- and group-level performance of mortality prediction models vary significantly when applied to hospitals or geographies different from the ones in which they are developed. Further, what characteristics of the datasets explain the performance variation? In this multi-center cross-sectional study, we analyzed electronic health records from 179 hospitals across the US with 70,126 hospitalizations from 2014 to 2015. Generalization gap, defined as difference between model performance metrics across hospitals, is computed for area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) and calibration slope. To assess model performance by the race variable, we report differences in false negative rates across groups. Data were also analyzed using a causal discovery algorithm “Fast Causal Inference” that infers paths of causal influence while identifying potential influences associated with unmeasured variables. When transferring models across hospitals, AUC at the test hospital ranged from 0.777 to 0.832 (1st-3rd quartile or IQR; median 0.801); calibration slope from 0.725 to 0.983 (IQR; median 0.853); and disparity in false negative rates from 0.046 to 0.168 (IQR; median 0.092). Distribution of all variable types (demography, vitals, and labs) differed significantly across hospitals and regions. The race variable also mediated differences in the relationship between clinical variables and mortality, by hospital/region. In conclusion, group-level performance should be assessed during generalizability checks to identify potential harms to the groups. Moreover, for developing methods to improve model performance in new environments, a better understanding and documentation of provenance of data and health processes are needed to identify and mitigate sources of variation. 
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  5. null (Ed.)