Groupe d’études et de recherche en analyse des décisions

G-2020-56

A computational study on imputation methods for missing environmental data

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Data acquisition and recording in the form of databases are routine operations. The process of collecting data, however, may experience irregularities, resulting in databases with missing data. Missing entries might alter analysis efficiency and, consequently, the associated decision-making process. This paper focuses on databases collecting information related to the natural environment. Given the broad spectrum of recorded activities, these databases typically are of mixed nature. It is therefore relevant to evaluate the performance of missing data processing methods considering this characteristic. In this paper we investigate the performances of several missing data imputation methods and their application to the problem of missing data in environment. A computational study was performed to compare the method missForest (MF) with two other imputation methods, namely Multivariate Imputation by Chained Equations (MICE) and K-Nearest Neighbors (KNN). Tests were made on 10 pretreated datasets of various types. Results revealed that MF generally outperformed MICE and KNN in terms of imputation errors, with a more pronounced performance gap for mixed typed databases where MF reduced the imputation error up to 150%, when compared to the other methods. KNN was usually the fastest method. MF was then successfully applied to a case study on Quebec wastewater treatment plants performance monitoring. We believe that the present study demonstrates the pertinence of using MF as imputation method when dealing with missing environmental data.

, 23 pages