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Janan Arslan, Kurt K. Benke; Progression of Geographic Atrophy: Epistemic Uncertainties Affecting Mathematical Models and Machine Learning. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 2021;10(13):3. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.10.13.3.
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The purpose of this study was to identify a taxonomy of epistemic uncertainties that affect results for geographic atrophy (GA) assessment and progression.
An important source of variability is called “epistemic uncertainty,” which is due to incomplete system knowledge (i.e. limitations in measurement devices, artifacts, and human subjective evaluation, including annotation errors). In this study, different epistemic uncertainties affecting the analysis of GA were identified and organized into a taxonomy. The uncertainties were discussed and analyzed, and an example was provided in the case of model structure uncertainty by characterizing progression of GA by mathematical modelling and machine learning. It was hypothesized that GA growth follows a logistic (sigmoidal) function. Using case studies, the GA growth data were used to test the sigmoidal hypothesis.
Epistemic uncertainties were identified, including measurement error (imperfect outcomes from measuring tools), subjective judgment (grading affected by grader's vision and experience), model input uncertainties (data corruption or entry errors), and model structure uncertainties (elucidating the right progression pattern). Using GA growth data from case studies, it was demonstrated that GA growth can be represented by a sigmoidal function, where growth eventually approaches an upper limit.
Epistemic uncertainties contribute to errors in study results and are reducible if identified and addressed. By prior identification of epistemic uncertainties, it is possible to (a) quantify uncertainty not accounted for by natural statistical variability, and (b) reduce the presence of these uncertainties in future studies.
Lowering epistemic uncertainty will reduce experimental error, improve consistency and reproducibility, and increase confidence in diagnostics.
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