[R-sig-ME] lmer vs glmmPQL

Ben Bolker bolker at ufl.edu
Fri Jun 26 20:21:18 CEST 2009

  That's really interesting and kind of scary.
  Do you have any thoughts on why this should be so?
  I know of a few simulation studies (Browne and Draper, Breslow) that
test PQL and generally find reasonably "significant" bias for binary
data with large random variance components.  I guess I had simply
assumed that Laplace/AG(H)Q would be better.  (There are also some
theoretical demonstrations (Jiang?) that PQL is asymptotically
inconsistent, I think ...)

  * Are you working in a different regime from previous studies
(smaller data sets, or some other point)?
  * Does considering RMSE rather than bias give a qualitatively
different conclusion (i.e., PQL is biased but has lower variance)?
  * ?

  Since in a recent paper I recommended Laplace/AGHQ out of principle,
and Wald tests out of pragmatism, and thought the former recommendation
was reliable but the latter was not, it's interesting to be having
my world turned upside down ...

  Would welcome opinions & pointers to other studies ...

  Ben Bolker

	title = {A comparison of Bayesian and likelihood-based methods for
fitting multilevel models},
	volume = {1},
	url = {http://ba.stat.cmu.edu/journal/2006/vol01/issue03/draper2.pdf},
	number = {3},
	journal = {Bayesian Analysis},
	author = {William J. Browne and David Draper},
	year = {2006},
	pages = {473--514}

	title = {Whither {PQL?}},
	isbn = {0387208623},
	booktitle = {Proceedings of the second Seattle symposium in
biostatistics: Analysis of correlated data},
	publisher = {Springer},
	author = {N. E. Breslow},
	editor = {Danyu Y. Lin and P. J. Heagerty},
	year = {2004},
	pages = {1–22}
Fabian Scheipl wrote:
> Ben Bolker said:
>> My take would be to pick lmer over glmmPQL every time, provided
>> it can handle your problem -- in general it should be more accurate.
> That's what I wanted to demonstrate to my students last week, so I did
> a small simulation study with a logit-model with random intercepts:
> logit(P(y_ij=1)) =  x_ij + b_i;
> b_i ~N(0,1);
>  x_ij ~U[-1,1];
>  i=1,..,m;
>  j=1,...,n_i
> The pdfs with the results are attached (m subjects, ni obs/subject,
> RPQL is PQL with iterated REML fits on the working observations
> instead of ML, nAGQ=11 for AGQ).
> The results surprised me :
> - For the estimated standard deviation of the random intercepts, PQL
> actually has (much) lower rmse for small and medium-sized data sets
> and bias is about the same for LA, AGQ and PQL for small datasets.
> - There were no relevant differences in rmse or bias for the estimates
> of the fixed effects.
> Differences for poisson data should be even smaller, since their
> likelihood is more normal-ish.
> glmer may still be preferrable since its much faster and more stable
> than glmmPQL, but accuracy for smaller datasets may be better for PQL.
> Best,
> Fabian

Ben Bolker
Associate professor, Biology Dep't, Univ. of Florida
bolker at ufl.edu / www.zoology.ufl.edu/bolker
GPG key: www.zoology.ufl.edu/bolker/benbolker-publickey.asc

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