5 Scopus citations


Prediction problems in biomedical sciences are generally quite difficult, partially due to incomplete knowledge of how the phenomenon of interest is influenced by the variables and measurements used for prediction, as well as a lack of consensus regarding the ideal predictor(s) for specific problems. In these situations, a powerful approach to improving prediction performance is to construct ensembles that combine the outputs of many individual base predictors, which have been successful for many biomedical prediction tasks. Moreover, selecting a parsimonious ensemble can be of even greater value for biomedical sciences, where it is not only important to learn an accurate predictor, but also to interpret what novel knowledge it can provide about the target problem. Ensemble selection is a promising approach for this task because of its ability to select a collectively predictive subset, often a relatively small one, of all input base predictors. One of the most well-known algorithms for ensemble selection, CES (Caruana et al.’s Ensemble Selection), generally performs well in practice, but faces several challenges due to the difficulty of choosing the right values of its various parameters. Since the choices made for these parameters are usually ad-hoc, good performance of CES is difficult to guarantee for a variety of problems or datasets. To address these challenges with CES and other such algorithms, we propose a novel heterogeneous ensemble selection approach based on the paradigm of reinforcement learning (RL), which offers a more systematic and mathematically sound methodology for exploring the many possible combinations of base predictors that can be selected into an ensemble. We develop three RL-based strategies for constructing ensembles and analyze their results on two unbalanced computational genomics problems, namely the prediction of protein function and splice sites in eukaryotic genomes. We show that the resultant ensembles are indeed substantially more parsimonious as compared to the full set of base predictors, yet still offer almost the same classification power, especially for larger datasets. The RL ensembles also yield a better combination of parsimony and predictive performance as compared to CES.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-299
Number of pages12
JournalPacific Symposium on Biocomputing. Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing
StatePublished - 2017
Event22nd Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing, PSB 2017 - Kohala Coast, United States
Duration: 4 Jan 20178 Jan 2017


  • Computational genomics
  • Ensemble selection
  • Heterogeneous ensembles
  • Reinforcement learning


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