Sequential causal inference in a single world of connected units

by   Aurélien Bibaut, et al.

We consider adaptive designs for a trial involving N individuals that we follow along T time steps. We allow for the variables of one individual to depend on its past and on the past of other individuals. Our goal is to learn a mean outcome, averaged across the N individuals, that we would observe, if we started from some given initial state, and we carried out a given sequence of counterfactual interventions for τ time steps. We show how to identify a statistical parameter that equals this mean counterfactual outcome, and how to perform inference for this parameter, while adaptively learning an oracle design defined as a parameter of the true data generating distribution. Oracle designs of interest include the design that maximizes the efficiency for a statistical parameter of interest, or designs that mix the optimal treatment rule with a certain exploration distribution. We also show how to design adaptive stopping rules for sequential hypothesis testing. This setting presents unique technical challenges. Unlike in usual statistical settings where the data consists of several independent observations, here, due to network and temporal dependence, the data reduces to one single observation with dependent components. In particular, this precludes the use of sample splitting techniques. We therefore had to develop a new equicontinuity result and guarantees for estimators fitted on dependent data. We were motivated to work on this problem by the following two questions. (1) In the context of a sequential adaptive trial with K treatment arms, how to design a procedure to identify in as few rounds as possible the treatment arm with best final outcome? (2) In the context of sequential randomized disease testing at the scale of a city, how to estimate and infer the value of an optimal testing and isolation strategy?


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