Simultaneous feature selection and outlier detection with optimality guarantees

Luca Insolia, Ana Kenney, Francesca Chiaromonte, Giovanni Felici

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Biomedical research is increasingly data rich, with studies comprising ever growing numbers of features. The larger a study, the higher the likelihood that a substantial portion of the features may be redundant and/or contain contamination (outlying values). This poses serious challenges, which are exacerbated in cases where the sample sizes are relatively small. Effective and efficient approaches to perform sparse estimation in the presence of outliers are critical for these studies, and have received considerable attention in the last decade. We contribute to this area considering high-dimensional regressions contaminated by multiple mean-shift outliers affecting both the response and the design matrix. We develop a general framework and use mixed-integer programming to simultaneously perform feature selection and outlier detection with provably optimal guarantees. We prove theoretical properties for our approach, that is, a necessary and sufficient condition for the robustly strong oracle property, where the number of features can increase exponentially with the sample size; the optimal estimation of parameters; and the breakdown point of the resulting estimates. Moreover, we provide computationally efficient procedures to tune integer constraints and warm-start the algorithm. We show the superior performance of our proposal compared to existing heuristic methods through simulations and use it to study the relationships between childhood obesity and the human microbiome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1592-1603
Number of pages12
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


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