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Novel Method for Calculating a Nonsubjective Informative Prior for a Bayesian Model in Toxicology Screening: A Theoretical Framework

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journal contribution
posted on 17.11.2015, 00:00 by Michael Woldegebriel
In toxicology screening (forensic, food-safety), due to several analytical errors (e.g., retention time shift, lack of repeatability in m/z scans, etc.), the ability to confidently identify/confirm a compound remains a challenge. Due to these uncertainties, a probabilistic approach is currently preferred. However, if a probabilistic approach is followed, the only statistical method that is capable of estimating the probability of whether the compound of interest (COI) is present/absent in a given sample is Bayesian statistics. Bayes’ theorem can combine prior information (prior probability) with data (likelihood) to give an optimal probability (posterior probability) reflecting the presence/absence of the COI. In this work, a novel method for calculating an informative prior probability for a Bayesian model in targeted toxicology screening is introduced. In contrast to earlier proposals making use of literature citation rates and the prior knowledge of the analyst, this method presents a thorough and nonsubjective approach. The formulation approaches the probability calculation as a clustering and random draw problem that incorporates few analytical method parameters meticulously estimated to reflect sensitivity and specificity of the system. The practicality of the method has been demonstrated and validated using real data and simulated analytical techniques.