Panel data analysis via mechanistic models
Panel data, also known as longitudinal data, consist of a collection of time series. Each time series, which could itself be multivariate, comprises a sequence of measurements taken on a distinct unit. Mechanistic modeling involves writing down scientifically motivated equations describing the collection of dynamic systems giving rise to the observations on each unit. A defining characteristic of panel systems is that the dynamic interaction between units should be negligible. Panel models therefore consist of a collection of independent stochastic processes, generally linked through shared parameters while also having unit-specific parameters. To give the scientist flexibility in model specification, we are motivated to develop a framework for inference on panel data permitting the consideration of arbitrary nonlinear, partially observed panel models. We build on iterated filtering techniques that provide likelihood-based inference on nonlinear partially observed Markov process models for time series data. Our methodology depends on the latent Markov process only through simulation; this plug-and-play property ensures applicability to a large class of models. We demonstrate our methodology on a toy example and two epidemiological case studies. We address inferential and computational issues arising due to the combination of model complexity and dataset size. Supplementary materials for this article are available online.