Low-Rank Scale-Invariant Tensor Product Smooths for Generalized Additive Mixed Models



Summary A general method for constructing low-rank tensor product smooths for use as components of generalized additive models or generalized additive mixed models is presented. A penalized regression approach is adopted in which tensor product smooths of several variables are constructed from smooths of each variable separately, these “marginal” smooths being represented using a low-rank basis with an associated quadratic wiggliness penalty. The smooths offer several advantages: (i) they have one wiggliness penalty per covariate and are hence invariant to linear rescaling of covariates, making them useful when there is no “natural” way to scale covariates relative to each other; (ii) they have a useful tuneable range of smoothness, unlike single-penalty tensor product smooths that are scale invariant; (iii) the relatively low rank of the smooths means that they are computationally efficient; (iv) the penalties on the smooths are easily interpretable in terms of function shape; (v) the smooths can be generated completely automatically from any marginal smoothing bases and associated quadratic penalties, giving the modeler considerable flexibility to choose the basis penalty combination most appropriate to each modeling task; and (vi) the smooths can easily be written as components of a standard linear or generalized linear mixed model, allowing them to be used as components of the rich family of such models implemented in standard software, and to take advantage of the efficient and stable computational methods that have been developed for such models. A small simulation study shows that the methods can compare favorably with recently developed smoothing spline ANOVA methods.