Random Forests (RF from here onwards) is a widely used pure-prediction algorithm. This post assumes good familiarity with RF. If you are not familiar with this algorithm, stop here and see the first reference below for an easy tutorial. If you used RF before and you are familiar with it, then you probably encountered those “importance of the variables” plots. We start with a brief explanation of those plots, and the concept of *importance scores* calculation. Main takeaway from the post: don’t use those *importance scores* plots, because they are simply misleading. Those importance plots are simply a wrong turn taken by our human tendency to look for reason, whether it’s there or it’s not there.

# Tag: Inference

## Test of Equality Between Two Densities

Are returns this year actually different than what can be expected from a typical year? Is the variance actually different than what can be expected from a typical year? Those are fairly light, easy to answer questions. We can use tests for equality of means or equality of variances.

But how about the following question:

is the profile\behavior of returns this year different than what can be expected in a typical year?

This is a more general and important question, since it encompasses all moments and tail behavior. And it is not as trivial to answer.

In this post I am scratching an itch I had since I wrote Understanding Kullback – Leibler Divergence. In the *Kullback – Leibler Divergence* post we saw how to quantify the difference between densities, exemplified using SPY return density per year. Once I was done with that post I was thinking there must be a way to test the difference formally, rather than just quantify, visualize and eyeball. And indeed there is. This post aim is to show to formally test for equality between densities.

## Understanding False Discovery Rate

False Discovery Rate is an unintuitive name for a very intuitive statistical concept. The math involved is as elegant as possible. Still, it is not an easy concept to actually understand. Hence i thought it would be a good idea to write this short tutorial.

We reviewed this important topic in the past, here as one of three Present-day great statistical discoveries, here in the context of backtesting trading strategies, and here in the context of scientific publishing. This post target the casual reader, explaining the concept of False Discovery Rate in plain words.

## Why statistical bootstrap

I often write about bootstrap (here an example and here a critique). I refer to it here as one of the most consequential advances in modern statistics. When I wrote that last post I was searching the web for a simple explanation to quickly show how useful bootstrap is, without boring the reader with the underlying math. Since I was not content with anything I could find, I decided to write it up, so here we go.

## Quasi-Maximum Likelihood (QML) beauty

Beauty.. really? well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

## Linking backtesting with multiple testing

The other day, Harvey Campbell from Duke University gave a talk where I work. The talk- bearing the exciting name “Backtesting” was based on a paper by the same name.

The authors tackle the important problem of data-snooping; we need to account for the fact that we conducted many trials until we found a strategy (or a variable) that ‘works’. Accessible explanations can be found here and here. In this day and age, the ‘story’ behind what you are doing is more important than ever, given the things you can do using your desktop/laptop.

## Advances in post-model-selection inference (2)

In the previous post we reviewed a way to handle the problem of inference after model selection. I recently read another related paper which goes about this complicated issues from a different angle. The paper titled ‘A significance test for the lasso’ is a real step forward in this area. The authors develop the asymptotic distribution for the coefficients, accounting for the selection step. A description of the tough problem they successfully tackle can be found here.

The usual way to test if variable (say variable j) adds value to your regression is using the F-test. We once compute the regression excluding variable j, and once including variable j. Then we compare the sum of squared errors and we know what is the distribution of the statistic, it is F, or , depends on your initial assumptions, so F-test or -test. These are by far the most common tests to check if a variable should or should not be included. Problem arises if you search for variable j beforehand.