Planned missing data designs and methods: Options for strengthening inference, increasing research efficiency and improving animal welfare in ecological and evolutionary research

Daniel W.A. Noble*, Shinichi Nakagawa*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Ecological and evolutionary research questions are increasingly requiring the integration of research fields along with larger data sets to address fundamental local- and global-scale problems. Unfortunately, these agendas are often in conflict with limited funding and a need to balance animal welfare concerns. Planned missing data design (PMDD), where data are randomly and deliberately missed during data collection, combined with missing data procedures, can be useful tools when working under greater research constraints. Here, we review how PMDD can be incorporated into existing experimental designs by discussing alternative design approaches and demonstrate with simulated data sets how missing data procedures work with incomplete data. PMDDs can provide researchers with a unique toolkit that can be applied during the experimental design stage. Planning and thinking about missing data early can (1) reduce research costs by allowing for the collection of less expensive measurement variables; (2) provide opportunities to distinguish predictions from alternative hypotheses by allowing more measurement variables to be collected; and (3) minimize distress caused by experimentation by reducing the reliance on invasive procedures or allowing data to be collected on fewer subjects (or less often on a given subject). PMDDs and missing data methods can even provide statistical benefits under certain situations by improving statistical power relative to a complete case design. The impacts of unplanned missing data, which can cause biases in parameter estimates and their uncertainty, can also be ameliorated using missing data procedures. PMDDs are still in their infancy. We discuss some of the difficulties in their implementation and provide tentative solutions. While PMDDs may not always be the best option, missing data procedures are becoming more sophisticated and more easily implemented and it is likely that PMDDs will be effective tools for a wide range of experimental designs, data types and problems in ecology and evolution.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1958-1968
    Number of pages11
    JournalEvolutionary Applications
    Volume14
    Issue number8
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

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