Motivation: In the last two decades, scientists working in different labs have assayed gene expression from millions of samples. These experiments can be combined into compendia and analyzed collectively to extract novel biological patterns. Technical variability, sometimes referred to as batch effects, may result from combining samples collected and processed at different times and in different settings. Such variability may distort our ability to interpret and extract true underlying biological patterns. As more multi-experiment, integrative analysis methods are developed and available data collections increase in size, it is crucial to determine how technical variability affect our ability to detect desired patterns when many experiments are combined. Objective: We sought to determine the extent to which an underlying signal was masked by technical variability by simulating compendia comprised of data aggregated across multiple experiments. Method: We developed a generative multi-layer neural network to simulate compendia of gene expression experiments from large-scale microbial and human datasets. We compared simulated compendia before and after introducing varying numbers of sources of undesired variability. Results: We found that the signal from a baseline compendium was obscured when the number of added sources of variability was small. Perhaps as expected, applying statistical correction methods rescued the underlying signal in these cases. As the number of sources of variability increased, surprisingly, we observed that detecting the original signal became increasingly easier even without correction. In fact, applying statistical correction methods reduced our power to detect the underlying signal. Conclusion: When combining a modest number of experiments, it is best to correct for experiment-specific noise. However, when many experiments are combined, statistical correction reduces one's ability to extract underlying patterns. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
- Downloaded 425 times
- Download rankings, all-time:
- Site-wide: 41,496 out of 100,334
- In bioinformatics: 5,067 out of 9,219
- Year to date:
- Site-wide: 7,858 out of 100,334
- Since beginning of last month:
- Site-wide: None out of 100,334
Downloads over time
Distribution of downloads per paper, site-wide
- 20 Oct 2020: Support for sorting preprints using Twitter activity has been removed, at least temporarily, until a new source of social media activity data becomes available.
- 18 Dec 2019: We're pleased to announce PanLingua, a new tool that enables you to search for machine-translated bioRxiv preprints using more than 100 different languages.
- 21 May 2019: PLOS Biology has published a community page about Rxivist.org and its design.
- 10 May 2019: The paper analyzing the Rxivist dataset has been published at eLife.
- 1 Mar 2019: We now have summary statistics about bioRxiv downloads and submissions.
- 8 Feb 2019: Data from Altmetric is now available on the Rxivist details page for every preprint. Look for the "donut" under the download metrics.
- 30 Jan 2019: preLights has featured the Rxivist preprint and written about our findings.
- 22 Jan 2019: Nature just published an article about Rxivist and our data.
- 13 Jan 2019: The Rxivist preprint is live!