Binary classification tests, imperfect standards, and ambiguous information

Research output: Working paper

Abstract / Description of output

New binary classification tests are often evaluated relative to a pre-established test. For example, rapid Antigen tests for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 are assessed relative to more established PCR tests. In this paper, I argue that the new test can be described as producing ambiguous information when the pre-established is imperfect. This allows for a phenomenon called dilation -- an extreme form of non-informativeness. As an example, I present hypothetical test data satisfying the WHO's minimum quality requirement for rapid Antigen tests which leads to dilation. The ambiguity in the information arises from a missing data problem due to imperfection of the established test: the joint distribution of true infection and test results is not observed. Using results from Copula theory, I construct the (usually non-singleton) set of all these possible joint distributions, which allows me to assess the new test's informativeness. This analysis leads to a simple sufficient condition to make sure that a new test is not a dilation. I illustrate my approach with applications to data from three COVID-19 related tests. Two rapid Antigen tests satisfy my sufficient condition easily and are therefore informative. However, less accurate procedures, like chest CT scans, may exhibit dilation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jan 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • binary tests
  • ambiguity
  • information
  • dilation
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • COVID-19


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