Testing Whether a Learning Procedure is Calibrated

Jon Cockayne, Matthew M. Graham, Chris J. Oates, T. J. Sullivan, Onur Teymur.

Year: 2022, Volume: 23, Issue: 203, Pages: 1−36


A learning procedure takes as input a dataset and performs inference for the parameters $\theta$ of a model that is assumed to have given rise to the dataset. Here we consider learning procedures whose output is a probability distribution, representing uncertainty about $\theta$ after seeing the dataset. Bayesian inference is a prime example of such a procedure, but one can also construct other learning procedures that return distributional output. This paper studies conditions for a learning procedure to be considered calibrated, in the sense that the true data-generating parameters are plausible as samples from its distributional output. A learning procedure whose inferences and predictions are systematically over- or under-confident will fail to be calibrated. On the other hand, a learning procedure that is calibrated need not be statistically efficient. A hypothesis-testing framework is developed in order to assess, using simulation, whether a learning procedure is calibrated. Several vignettes are presented to illustrate different aspects of the framework.