### Assessment of Maching Learning Classifiers

I heard another interesting episode of the Data Skeptic podcast. They were discussing how a classifier could be assessed (episode 121). Many machine learning models are so complex that a human being can't really interpret the meaning of the model. This can lead to problems.

They gave an example of a problem where they had a bunch of posts from two discussion boards. One was atheist and the other board was composed of Christians. They tried to classify each post as being from one or the other board. There was one poster who posted heavily on the Christian board. His name was Keith. Sadly, the model learned that if the person who was posting was named Keith, then they were Christian. The problem is that this isn't very useful for prediction. It's an artifact of the input data. Even cross-validation would eliminate this problem. A human being can see the issue, but a model can't.

In any event, the proposed solution was to build interpretable models in local areas of the predictions. If a series of these local models make sense to a human being, then it is likely that the overall model is a good classifier for prediction problems.

I thought this was interesting as it really shows the need for theory in all kinds of modeling problems. There ought to be some substantive theory in which at least elements of the model are grounded.

I also had the opportunity to re-read Groves, Cialdini, and Couper and the decision to participate in a survey. There is some theory development on the survey response process, but there is also room to grow in this area. I wouldn't want an emphasis on using machine learning techniques for weight development or other purposes to distract us from the need to keep working on the theory development problem as well.

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### "Responsive Design" and "Adaptive Design"

My dissertation was entitled "Adaptive Survey Design to Reduce Nonresponse Bias." I had been working for several years on "responsive designs" before that. As I was preparing my dissertation, I really saw "adaptive" design as a subset of responsive design.

Since then, I've seen both terms used in different places. As both terms are relatively new, there is likely to be confusion about the meanings. I thought I might offer my understanding of the terms, for what it's worth.

The term "responsive design" was developed by Groves and Heeringa (2006). They coined the term, so I think their definition is the one that should be used. They defined "responsive design" in the following way:

1. Preidentify a set of design features that affect cost and error tradeoffs.
2. Identify indicators for these costs and errors. Monitor these during data collection.
3. Alter the design features based on pre-identified decision rules based on the indi…

### Future of Responsive and Adaptive Design

A special issue of the Journal of Official Statistics on responsive and adaptive design recently appeared. I was an associate editor for the issue and helped draft an editorial that raised issues for future research in this area. The last chapter of our book on Adaptive Survey Design also defines a set of questions that may be of issue.

I think one of the more important areas of research is to identify targeted design strategies. This differs from current procedures that often sequence the same protocol across all cases. For example, everyone gets web, then those who haven't responded to  web get mail. The targeted approach, on the other hand, would find a subgroup amenable to web and another amenable to mail.

This is a difficult task as most design features have been explored with respect to the entire population, but we know less about subgroups. Further, we often have very little information with which to define these groups. We may not even have basic household or person chara…

### An Experimental Adaptive Contact Strategy

I'm running an experiment on contact methods in a telephone survey. I'm going to present the results of the experiment at the FCSM conference in November. Here's the basic idea.

Multi-level models are fit daily with the household being a grouping factor. The models provide household-specific estimates of the probability of contact for each of four call windows. The predictor variables in this model are the geographic context variables available for an RDD sample.

Let $\mathbf{X_{ij}}$ denote a $k_j \times 1$ vector of demographic variables for the $i^{th}$ person and $j^{th}$ call. The data records are calls. There may be zero, one, or multiple calls to household in each window. The outcome variable is an indicator for whether contact was achieved on the call. This contact indicator is denoted $R_{ijl}$ for the $i^{th}$ person on the $j^{th}$ call to the $l^{th}$ window. Then for each of the four call windows denoted $l$, a separate model is fit where each household is assum…