Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Time series


Investigating suicides following the death of Robin Williams, a beloved actor and comedian, on August 11th, 2014, we used time-series analysis to estimate the expected number of suicides during the months following Williams' death. Monthly suicide count data in the US (1999-2015) were from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wide-ranging ONline Data for Epidemiologic Research (CDC WONDER). Expected suicides were calculated using a seasonal autoregressive integrated moving averages model to account for both the seasonal patterns and autoregression. Time-series models indicated that we would expect 16,849 suicides from August to December 2014; however, we observed 18,690 suicides in that period, suggesting an excess of 1,841 cases (9.85% increase). Although excess suicides were observed across gender and age groups, males and persons aged 30-44 had the greatest increase in excess suicide events. This study documents associations between Robin Williams' death and suicide deaths in the population thereafter.

Concepts: Disease, Statistics, Death, Demography, Spectral density, Ageing, Time series, Suicide


 To estimate how far changes in the prevalence of electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) use in England have been associated with changes in quit success, quit attempts, and use of licensed medication and behavioural support in quit attempts.

Concepts: Statistics, Smoking, Tobacco, Cigarette, Nicotine, Smoking cessation, Electronic cigarette, Time series


Machine Learning (ML) methods have been proposed in the academic literature as alternatives to statistical ones for time series forecasting. Yet, scant evidence is available about their relative performance in terms of accuracy and computational requirements. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate such performance across multiple forecasting horizons using a large subset of 1045 monthly time series used in the M3 Competition. After comparing the post-sample accuracy of popular ML methods with that of eight traditional statistical ones, we found that the former are dominated across both accuracy measures used and for all forecasting horizons examined. Moreover, we observed that their computational requirements are considerably greater than those of statistical methods. The paper discusses the results, explains why the accuracy of ML models is below that of statistical ones and proposes some possible ways forward. The empirical results found in our research stress the need for objective and unbiased ways to test the performance of forecasting methods that can be achieved through sizable and open competitions allowing meaningful comparisons and definite conclusions.

Concepts: Scientific method, Statistics, Mathematics, Machine learning, Time series, Biostatistics, Applied mathematics, Formal sciences


BACKGROUND: There is an increasing need for processing and understanding relevant information generated by the systematic collection of public health data over time. However, the analysis of those time series usually requires advanced modeling techniques, which are not necessarily mastered by staff, technicians and researchers working on public health and epidemiology. Here a user-friendly tool, EPIPOI, is presented that facilitates the exploration and extraction of parameters describing trends, seasonality and anomalies that characterize epidemiological processes. It also enables the inspection of those parameters across geographic regions. Although the visual exploration and extraction of relevant parameters from time series data is crucial in epidemiological research, until now it had been largely restricted to specialists. METHODS: EPIPOI is freely available software developed in Matlab (The Mathworks Inc) that runs both on PC and Mac computers. Its friendly interface guides users intuitively through useful comparative analyses including the comparison of spatial patterns in temporal parameters. RESULTS: EPIPOI is able to handle complex analyses in an accessible way. A prototype has already been used to assist researchers in a variety of contexts from didactic use in public health workshops to the main analytical tool in published research. CONCLUSIONS: EPIPOI can assist public health officials and students to explore time series data using a broad range of sophisticated analytical and visualization tools. It also provides an analytical environment where even advanced users can benefit by enabling a higher degree of control over model assumptions, such as those associated with detecting disease outbreaks and pandemics.

Concepts: Public health, Health, Epidemiology, Time series, Biostatistics, Outbreak, The MathWorks, MATLAB


Multivariate time series data in practical applications, such as health care, geoscience, and biology, are characterized by a variety of missing values. In time series prediction and other related tasks, it has been noted that missing values and their missing patterns are often correlated with the target labels, a.k.a., informative missingness. There is very limited work on exploiting the missing patterns for effective imputation and improving prediction performance. In this paper, we develop novel deep learning models, namely GRU-D, as one of the early attempts. GRU-D is based on Gated Recurrent Unit (GRU), a state-of-the-art recurrent neural network. It takes two representations of missing patterns, i.e., masking and time interval, and effectively incorporates them into a deep model architecture so that it not only captures the long-term temporal dependencies in time series, but also utilizes the missing patterns to achieve better prediction results. Experiments of time series classification tasks on real-world clinical datasets (MIMIC-III, PhysioNet) and synthetic datasets demonstrate that our models achieve state-of-the-art performance and provide useful insights for better understanding and utilization of missing values in time series analysis.

Concepts: Statistics, Artificial intelligence, Time series, Time series analysis, Time series database


 To quantify how a period of intense media coverage of controversy over the risk:benefit balance of statins affected their use.

Concepts: Statistics, Series, Statin, Calculus, Time series, Seasonality


Many local authorities in England and Wales have reduced street lighting at night to save money and reduce carbon emissions. There is no evidence to date on whether these reductions impact on public health. We quantified the effect of 4 street lighting adaptation strategies (switch off, part-night lighting, dimming and white light) on casualties and crime in England and Wales.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Light, Carbon, United Kingdom, England, Wales, Time series, Coal


The world’s coral reefs are being degraded, and the need to reduce local pressures to offset the effects of increasing global pressures is now widely recognized. This study investigates the spatial and temporal dynamics of coral cover, identifies the main drivers of coral mortality, and quantifies the rates of potential recovery of the Great Barrier Reef. Based on the world’s most extensive time series data on reef condition (2,258 surveys of 214 reefs over 1985-2012), we show a major decline in coral cover from 28.0% to 13.8% (0.53% y(-1)), a loss of 50.7% of initial coral cover. Tropical cyclones, coral predation by crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), and coral bleaching accounted for 48%, 42%, and 10% of the respective estimated losses, amounting to 3.38% y(-1) mortality rate. Importantly, the relatively pristine northern region showed no overall decline. The estimated rate of increase in coral cover in the absence of cyclones, COTS, and bleaching was 2.85% y(-1), demonstrating substantial capacity for recovery of reefs. In the absence of COTS, coral cover would increase at 0.89% y(-1), despite ongoing losses due to cyclones and bleaching. Thus, reducing COTS populations, by improving water quality and developing alternative control measures, could prevent further coral decline and improve the outlook for the Great Barrier Reef. Such strategies can, however, only be successful if climatic conditions are stabilized, as losses due to bleaching and cyclones will otherwise increase.

Concepts: Time, Coral, Coral reef, Coral bleaching, Time series, Great Barrier Reef, Coral reefs, Crown-of-thorns starfish


Case fatality after total anterior circulation stroke is high. Our objective was to describe the experiences and needs of patients and caregivers, and to explore whether, and how, palliative care should be integrated into stroke care.

Concepts: Cancer, Time series


Long-range correlated temporal fluctuations in the beats of musical rhythms are an inevitable consequence of human action. According to recent studies, such fluctuations also lead to a favored listening experience. The scaling laws of amplitude variations in rhythms, however, are widely unknown. Here we use highly sensitive onset detection and time series analysis to study the amplitude and temporal fluctuations of Jeff Porcaro’s one-handed hi-hat pattern in “I Keep Forgettin'”-one of the most renowned 16th note patterns in modern drumming. We show that fluctuations of hi-hat amplitudes and interbeat intervals (times between hits) have clear long-range correlations and short-range anticorrelations separated by a characteristic time scale. In addition, we detect subtle features in Porcaro’s drumming such as small drifts in the 16th note pulse and non-trivial periodic two-bar patterns in both hi-hat amplitudes and intervals. Through this investigation we introduce a step towards statistical studies of the 20th and 21st century music recordings in the framework of complex systems. Our analysis has direct applications to the development of drum machines and to drumming pedagogy.

Concepts: Statistics, Rhythm, Time series, 21st century, Musical notation, Drum, Drum kit, Drummer