Journal Article

The use of gene ontology evidence codes in preventing classifier assessment bias

Mark F. Rogers and Asa Ben-Hur

in Bioinformatics

Volume 25, issue 9, pages 1173-1177
Published in print May 2009 | ISSN: 1367-4803
Published online March 2009 | e-ISSN: 1460-2059 | DOI:
The use of gene ontology evidence codes in preventing classifier assessment bias

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Motivation: The biological community's reliance on computational annotations of protein function makes correct assessment of function prediction methods an issue of great importance. The fact that a large fraction of the annotations in current biological databases are based on computational methods can lead to bias in estimating the accuracy of function prediction methods. This can happen since predicting an annotation that was derived computationally in the first place is likely easier than predicting annotations that were derived experimentally, leading to over-optimistic classifier performance estimates.

Results: We illustrate this phenomenon in a set of controlled experiments using a nearest neighbor classifier that uses PSI-BLAST similarity scores. Our results demonstrate that the source of Gene Ontology (GO) annotations used to assess a protein function predictor can have a highly significant influence on classifier accuracy: the average accuracy over four species and over GO terms in the biological process namespace increased from 0.72 to 0.87 when the classifier was given access to annotations that are assigned evidence codes that indicate a possible computational source, instead of experimentally determined annotations. Slightly smaller increases were observed in the other namespaces. In these comparisons the total number of annotations and their distribution across GO terms were kept the same.

Conclusion: In conclusion, taking into account GO evidence codes is required for reporting accuracy statistics that do not overestimate a model's performance, and is of particular importance for a fair comparison of classifiers that rely on different information sources.


Supplementary information:Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.

Journal Article.  4138 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

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