PIMS-UBC Statistics Constance Van Eeden Lecture: Art Owen

  • Date: 01/19/2016
  • Time: 11:00
Art Owen, Stanford University

University of British Columbia


Bi-Cross-Validation for Factor Analysis [video]


A video of this event is available on www.mathtube.org.



Factor analysis is a core technique in applied statistics with implications for biology, education, finance, psychology and engineering. It represents a large matrix of data through a small number k of latent variables or factors.  Despite more than 100 years of use, it remains challenging to choose k from the data. Ad hoc and subjective methods are popular, but subject to confirmation bias and they do not scale to automatic uses. There are many recent tools in random matrix theory (RMT) that apply to the factor analysis setting, so long as the noise has constant variance.  Real data usually involves heteroscedasticity foiling those techniques. There are also tools in the econometrics literature, but those apply mostly to the strong factor setting unlike RMT which handles weaker factors.  The best published method is parallel analysis, but that is only justified by simulations. We propose a bi-cross-validation approach holding out some rows and some columns of the data matrix, predicting the held out data via a factor analysis on the held in data.  We also use simulations to justify the method, though our simulations are designed using recent findings from RMT.  The new approach outperforms previous methods that we found, as measured by recovery of a true underlying factor matrix.


This is joint work with Jingshu Wang of Stanford University.


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Location: MSL Lecture Theatre 102 (2185 East Mall)



This event is jointly supported by the Constance Van Eeden Fund, the UBC Department of Statistics and PIMS.