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Distribution-Free Detection of Structured Anomalies: Permutation and Rank-Based Scans

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The scan statistic is by far the most popular method for anomaly detection, being popular in syndromic surveillance, signal and image processing and target detection based on sensor networks, among other applications. The use of scan statistics in such settings yields an hypothesis testing procedure, where the null hypothesis corresponds to the absence of anomalous behavior. If the null distribution is known calibration of such tests is relatively easy, as it can be done by Monte-Carlo simulation. However, when the null distribution is unknown the story is less straightforward. We investigate two procedures: (i) calibration by permutation and (ii) a rank-based scan test, which is distribution-free and less sensitive to outliers. A further advantage of the rank-scan test is that it requires only a one-time calibration for a given data size making it computationally much more appealing than the permutation-based test. In both cases, we quantify the performance loss with respect to an oracle scan test that knows the null distribution. We show that using one of these calibration procedures results in only a very small loss of power in the context of a natural exponential family. This includes for instance the classical normal location model, popular in signal processing, and the Poisson model, popular in syndromic surveillance. Numerical experiments further support our theory and results (joint work with Ery Arias-Castro, Meng Wang (UCSD) and Ervin T√°nczos (TU/e)).

This talk is part of the Statistics series.

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