A decision theory paradigm for evaluating identifier mapping and filtering methods using data integration

Day RS, McDade KK. (2013). A decision theory paradigm for evaluating identifier mapping and filtering methods using data integration. BMC Bioinformatics, 14, 223.  PMID: 23855655 PMCID: PMC3734162 DOI: 10.1186/1471-2105-14-223



In bioinformatics, we pre-process raw data into a format ready for answering medical and biological questions. A key step in processing is labeling the measured features with the identities of the molecules purportedly assayed: "molecular identification" (MI). Biological meaning comes from identifying these molecular measurements correctly with actual molecular species. But MI can be incorrect. Identifier filtering (IDF) selects features with more trusted MI, leaving a smaller, but more correct dataset. Identifier mapping (IDM) is needed when an analyst is combining two high-throughput (HT) measurement platforms on the same samples. IDM produces ID pairs, one ID from each platform, where the mapping declares that the two analytes are associated through a causal path, direct or indirect (example: pairing an ID for an mRNA species with an ID for a protein species that is its putative translation). Many competing solutions for IDF and IDM exist. Analysts need a rigorous method for evaluating and comparing all these choices.


We describe a paradigm for critically evaluating and comparing IDF and IDM methods, guided by data on biological samples. The requirements are: a large set of biological samples, measurements on those samples from at least two high-throughput platforms, a model family connecting features from the platforms, and an association measure. From these ingredients, one fits a mixture model coupled to a decision framework. We demonstrate this evaluation paradigm in three settings: comparing performance of several bioinformatics resources for IDM between transcripts and proteins, comparing several published microarray probeset IDF methods and their combinations, and selecting optimal quality thresholds for tandem mass spectrometry spectral events.


The paradigm outlined here provides a data-grounded approach for evaluating the quality not just of IDM and IDF, but of any pre-processing step or pipeline. The results will help researchers to semantically integrate or filter data optimally, and help bioinformatics database curators to track changes in quality over time and even to troubleshoot causes of MI errors.

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Day, R. S., & McDade, K. K.