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bspmma: An R Package for Bayesian Semiparametric Models for Meta-Analysis

Keywords: Dirichlet process , conditional Dirichlet process , meta-analysis , random eects , R package , Markov chain Monte Carlo

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We introduce an R package, bspmma, which implements a Dirichlet-based random effects model specific to meta-analysis. In meta-analysis, when combining effect estimates from several heterogeneous studies, it is common to use a random-effects model. The usual frequentist or Bayesian models specify a normal distribution for the true effects. However, in many situations, the effect distribution is not normal, e.g., it can have thick tails, be skewed, or be multi-modal. A Bayesian nonparametric model based on mixtures of Dirichlet process priors has been proposed in the literature, for the purpose of accommodating the non-normality. We review this model and then describe a competitor, a semiparametric version which has the feature that it allows for a well-defined centrality parameter convenient for determining whether the overall effect is significant. This second Bayesian model is based on a different version of the Dirichlet process prior, and we call it the "conditional Dirichlet model". The package contains functions to carry out analyses based on either the ordinary or the conditional Dirichlet model, functions for calculating certain Bayes factors that provide a check on the appropriateness of the conditional Dirichlet model, and functions that enable an empirical Bayes selection of the precision parameter of the Dirichlet process. We illustrate the use of the package on two examples, and give an interpretation of the results in these two different scenarios.


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