Random Forests for Survival, Regression, and Classification

Udaya Kogalur & Hemant Ishwaran

Table of Contents


Random Forests for Survival, Regression, and Classification
(RF-SRC) is an ensemble tree method for the analysis of data sets
using a variety of models. As is well known, constructing ensembles
from base learners such as trees can significantly improve learning
performance. It was shown by [
] that ensemble learning can be further improved by
injecting randomization into the base learning process — a method
called Random Forests. RF-SRC extends Breiman’s Random Forests
method and provides a unified treatment of the methodology for
models including right censored survival (single and multiple event
competing risk), multivariate regression or classification, and
mixed outcome (more than one continuous, discrete, and/or
categorical outcome). When one continuous or categorical outcome is
present, the model reduces to univariate regression or
classification respectively. When no outcome is present, the model
implements unsupervised learning. The [Five Models] figure summarizes the situation.

Five Models Implemented in RF-SRC
Five Models Implemented in RF-SRC

RF-SRC introduces new split rules for each model and gives the
user the ability to define and code custom split
rules. Deterministic or random splitting is available for all
models. Variable predictiveness can be assessed using variable
importance measures [Ishwaran et
al., 2007
] for single as well as grouped variables. Variable
selection is implemented using minimal depth [Ishwaran et al., 2010]. Missing data
(for x-variables and y-outcomes) can be imputed on both training and
test data. The package supports shared memory parallel processing on
desktop computers via OpenMP. The package also supports
hybrid parallel processing via OpenMP & Open MPI on
clusters that implement distributed memory. Execution time is
reduced almost linearly with respect to the cores available.

An overview of this document follows: In the [package overview] we describe the Random Forests algorithm highlighting the recursivity
that is at its core. The formulas, split rules, terminal node
estimators, and prediction errors used in the five models are
described briefly. In the section on [Variable Selection] the primary approaches for variable
predictiveness, variable selection and identifying interactions
between variables are discussed. In the section on [Imputation] the approach to handle missingness is discussed. In the section on
[Prediction] a brief discussion of training,
restoration, test data, and pruning is given. In the section
on [Hybrid Parallel Processing] we demonstrate that the package is capable of hybrid parallel
computation in a non-trivial and massive way, and provide details
of how this can be achieved. In the [Theory and
] section we provide the mathematics for the split rules,
terminal node estimators, and prediction error for each family.

Package Overview

Building a Random Forests model involves growing a binary tree [Breiman, 2001] using user supplied training
data and parameters. As is shown in the [Five Models] figure, data types must be real valued,
discrete or categorical. The response can be right-censored time and
censoring information, or any combination of real, discrete or
categorical information. The response can also be absent entirely. The
resulting forest contains many useful values which can be directly
extracted by the user and parsed using additional functions. The basic
algorithm for growing a forest is provided in this [Recursive Algorithm]. The process iterates over
ntree, the number of trees that are to be grown. In
practice, the iteration is actually parallelized and trees are grown
concurrently, not iteratively. This is explained in more detail in
the section on [Hybrid Parallel Processing]. The
recursive nature of the algorithm is reflected in the repeated calls
to split a node until conditions determine that a node is
terminal. Another key aspect of the algorithm is the injection of
randomization during model creation. Randomization reduces
variation. Bootstrapping [
] at the root node reduces variation. Feature selection is
also randomized with the use of the parameter mtry. In
the [Recursive Algorithm] N is defined as the
number of records in the data set, and P as the number of
x-variables in the data set. The parameter mtry is such
that 1 <= mtry <= P. At each node, the
algorithm selects mtry random x-variables according to
a probability vector xvar.wt. The resulting subset of
x-variables are examined for best splits according to a
. The parameter nsplit also allows one to
specify the number of random split points at which an x-variable is
tested. The depth of trees can be controlled using the parameters
nodesize and nodedepth. The parameter
nodesize ensures that the average nodesize across the
forest will be at least nodesize. The parameter
nodedepth forces the termination of splitting when the depth of a node
reaches the value specified. Node depth is zero-based from the root
node onward. Reasonable models can be formed with the judicious
selection of mtry, nsplit,
nodesize, and nodedepth without exhaustive
and deterministic splitting.

// The result of this algorithm is a forest of binary trees, each of
// which partitions the covariate space into hyper-cubes, yields 
// ensemble statistics for each individual based on terminal node
// membership across the forest, and allows model recovery for
// prediction, proximity, importance and much more.

function GROW(

             data$,  // Data containing y-outcomes and x-variables.
             $N$,     // Number of records in data.
             $P$,     // Number of x-variables in data.
             $ntree$, // Number of trees in the forest.
             $splitrule$, // Split rule and formula. 
             $mtry$,      // Size of the random subset of ${1,...,P}$.
             $xvar.wt$,   // Probabilities of selecting an x-var as an $mtry$ candidate. 
             $nodesize$,  // Average node size over the forest.
             $nodedepth$, // Maximum node depth.
             $nsplit$,    // Size of random split points for each $mtry$ candidate. 

for ($i = 1$ to $ntree$)
    Bootstrap the $data$, creating an in-bag, and an out-of-bag
    subset.  Make the root node, and tag all individuals as
    members of this node.

    recurse until node fails to split
        if ((size of node $ge 2 times nodesize$) and
        (depth of node $ge nodedepth$) and (node is impure))
            Select $mtry$ covariates according to weight vector $xvar.wt$.

            for each $mtry$ covariate
                Conduct deterministic or random splitting according to $nsplit$.
                    Use the specified splitrule to determine the
                    split statistic.  Save the covariate and split
                    point when the split statistic is better than
                    those proceeding it.
            if a best split exists
                Split the node at the best split point into a left
                and right daughter.  Tag all individuals according
                to their daughter membership.
        if the node was split 
            recurse using the left daughter
            recurse using the right daughter                     
    Save terminal node information.
    for each out-of-bag individual
        Update the ensemble using the terminal node statistics.
    Update performance measures, proximity and importance statistics.
Normalize out-of-bag ensemble outputs.  Save forest topology, and
terminal node membership to allow prediction.

Recursive Grow Algorithm

A simulated classification training data set is shown on the left
of the figure labeled [Tree Decision Boundary]. The data set has two real valued
features, $x_1$ and $x_2$.
The response is a class label that can take on four values. The class sizes are equal. Each
class covers a circular area. The circles touch at a single point – the origin. At this point, four data points
with all four class labels exist. On the right of the figure is a tree produced from the training data
with associated split points labeled. The tree was grown using bootstrapping [Breiman, 1996].
Bootstrapping results in well-defined subsets. The bootstrap, some of which are duplicates,
are members of the in-bag (IB) subset. The remaining individuals define the out-of-bag (OOB)
subset for the tree. See [Breiman, 1996] for a detailed description of these concepts. Only the
bootstrap is used to train the model and to define terminal node statistics. In this model,
the terminal node statistic is the resulting frequency distribution of the class labels in a terminal node. This
distribution is shown under each terminal node in the right of the figure. The decision boundary on $x_1$
and $x_2$ formed by the tree is superimposed on the data space along with the six terminal node

Tree Decision Boundary
Tree Decision Boundary

The OOB subset for a tree does not play a role in determining its topology. Each individual in the OOB
subset for a tree is passive and assigned a unique terminal node membership and terminal node
statistic. An OOB ensemble statistic for each individual is formed by combining the terminal
node statistics from all trees in which an individual is an OOB member. The class with the
maximum frequency in the OOB ensemble statistic serves as the predicted class label for the
member. In the figure labeled [Forest Decision Boundary] a
single test data point centered at the origin is sent into the previously grown forest for
prediction. Each tree provides a unique terminal node membership and statistic for this test
individual. The resulting forest ensemble statistic yields a class with the maximum frequency as
the predicted class label for this test data point. We note that the probability of all classes are
roughly equal. This is because the training data set has one case in each class at the origin. The
maximum class frequency for this example is yellow, though we can ascribe this to Monte Carlo
effects. When the x-variable space is densely covered with test data points, the predicted values
for the data space reveal the forest decision boundary. The boundary
is also shown in the lower half of the figure.

Forest Decision Boundary
Forest Decision Boundary

Splitting and Node Size

It is important to understand how splitting and node size affect the topology of a tree. To aid in this,
some notation is introduced first. Assume $h$ is the node of a tree, and that the task is to split $h$ into
two daughter nodes. Assume there are n cases in the node $h$. Some of these may be replicates if
bootstrapping is in effect. At the root node, n = N. Let
there be P x-variables
in the data set. These
can be real valued, discrete, or categorical. Let ${bf X}_i$ be the
feature for a case $i$ such
that ${bf X}_i = (X_{i1}, ldots, X_{i {tt P}})$. Let $x$ be
the observed value for the $p^{th}$ feature in the data set, where
$p in {1,ldots, {tt P}}$.

Real versus categorical splitting

If $x$ is continuous or discrete, a proposed split of $h$ on $x$ is
always of the form $x le c$ and $x > c$. Such a split defines left
and right daughter membership according to an individual’s value
$X_{ip}$. A deterministic split on $x$ requires considering all
unique values of $x$ in the node $h$.

If $x$ is categorical, denoting the split is more complex. For
computational coherence, categorical x-variables (and y-outcomes for that matter)
are treated as factors with an immutable 1:1 mapping of categories
to integers. Thus, an x-variable with $f$ categories (or levels) is
uniquely mapped to $f$ integers ${1, ldots, f}$. A split on a
factor with $f$ levels in the node $h$ requires dividing the levels
into two complementary subsets. Left and right daughter membership is
determined according to an individual’s level $X_{ip}$ and to which of
the two complementary subsets it belongs. A deterministic split on a
factor requires considering all possible complementary pairing of
levels. For example, a factor with six levels in a node has
[ C(6, 1) + C(6, 2) + C(6, 3) ] possible splits. These
possibilities can be considered to be composed of three groups. The
first group has one level going left, and five levels going right.
There are $C(6, 1)$ such splits. The second group has two levels
going left and four levels going right. There are $C(6, 2)$ such
splits. The third group has three levels going left and three levels
going right. There are $C(6, 3)$ such splits. These three groups
comprise the cardinal group count. In general, there are
$floor(f/2)$ cardinal groups. The total number
of possible splits (complementary pairings) is $2^{f-1} – 1 $.

Deterministic splitting on factors becomes problematic because of
the large number of permutations as the number of levels rise. There
is a practical limit on the number of levels a factor can have, within
our implementation. It is imposed by
UNIT_MAX in limits.h on the operating system in question. A
typical value for this is $ 2^{32} – 1 $ on most machines. Overrides are in
place to avoid deterministic splitting on large factors. The nature
of the override is dependent on whether the user has specified
splitrule = "random" and/or nsplit > 0. In general, we
try to limit the number of split attempts to be less than the node
size. By definition, this is always case when considering continuous
x-variables. That is, if a
node has $n’$ bootstrap cases, there will be at most $n’$ values on which to
split. To
encourage good splits, the algorithm attempts to emulate the same action on factors. In some
cases this will result in deterministic splitting. In others, it will
involve sampling from the $2^{f-1} – 1$ complementary pairings.
Whether factor or continuous x-variable, the
sampling is never greater than the nodesize regardless of what
value of nsplit has been set.

Formulas for splits on continuous x-variables are more easily conveyed
to the reader because left and right daughter splits depend
on a simple inequality. For this reason, the split rules described in
the [Theory and Specifications] section on discrete and continuous
x-variables. However, the methodology is exactly applicable to factor
x-variables. In addition, for clarity the formulas described are for
splits at the root node, where $n = N$.

Deterministic versus random splitting

In contrast to deterministic splitting, a random version of any split rule
may be invoked using the parameter nsplit. When
nsplit = 0, deterministic splitting occurs and all possible split
points for each of the mtry variables are considered. If nsplit is set to a
non-zero positive integer, then a maximum of nsplit split points are
randomly chosen for each of the mtry variables within a node. The
split rule is applied to the randomly chosen split points, and the node is split
on that x-variable and split value yielding the best split
statistic as measured by the split rule. Pure random splitting can be invoked by setting
splitrule="random". In this case, for each node, a variable is randomly
selected and the node is split using one randomly chosen split point.
See [Cutler and Zhao, 2001] and [Lin and Jeon, 2006] for more details.

Trees tend to favor splits on continuous variables
[Loh and Shih, 1997], so it is good practice to use the nsplit
option when the data contains a mix of continuous and discrete
variables. Using a reasonably small value mitigates bias and may not
compromise accuracy. The value of nsplit has a significant impact on the time
taken to grow a forest. When non-random splitting is in effect,
i.e. nsplit = 0,
iterating over each split point can be
CPU intensive. However, when nsplit > 0, or when pure random
splitting is in effect, CPU times are drastically reduced.

Node depth and node size

Node size and node depth are the most explicit means of controlling
the growth of a tree. The parameter nodedepth is defined
as the number of connections between the node and the root node. It
is zero-based, thus defining the root node as having depth zero.
Setting nodedepth limits the maximum depth to which a
tree can be grown. The default behaviour is to ignore this parameter
and not limit the depth of a tree. In contrast, nodesize
is always respected and is crucial to achieving a good model. When
nodesize is set too large, the forest will be under-grow
and model accuracy will be compromised. When it is set too small, the
potential to split on noisy x-variables increases, the forest is
over-grown and model accuracy can actually deteriorate past a certain
threshold value for nodesize. We define
nodesize as the average number of bootstrap cases that
will be found in a terminal node in a tree in the forest. Splitting
can terminate well before this condition is reached if node purity is
detected before attempting to split a node. From the [Recursive Algorithm] it can be seen that
there are three conditions necessary for splitting a node:

  1. The current node depth must be less than the maximum node depth allowed.
  2. The current node size must be at least 2 times the node size specified.
  3. The current node must be impure.

Condition (2) assures us that if a split occurs on a node with 2 times
the node size specified, the average node size of the pair of daughters will be
nodesize. If one daughter is less than
nodesize, the other daughter will be greater than
nodesize. But such terminal nodes will average to
nodesize over the forest.

Model Overview

This section is intended as
an overview to orient the reader to more high-level package details
concerning the [Five Models] produced
by the package. Each model requires a slightly different formula
specification, and uses model-specific split rules. This results in model-specific terminal node statistics,
ensembles, and a model-specific prediction error
algorithm. For completeness and rigour, the
mathematical details of all models are given in the [Theory and Specifications] section. Survival, Competing Risk, Regression,
Classification, Multivariate and Unsupervised split rules are
described, along with the terminal node estimators, and the prediction error for these
families. In addition, a short code example for each model is given.

In the [Formula Specification] table,
example grow calls for the five models are listed. The data sets used in
the two Survival function calls are available in
randomForestSRC. The data sets used in the remaining
function calls are available from the base R installation. Survival
settings require a time and censoring variable which need to be
identified in the formula as the response using the standard
Surv formula specification. Regression and
Classification settings emulate the formula specifications of the
randomForest package. In the Multivariate and
Unsupervised case, there are variants for the formula, depending on
how many y-outcomes are to be specified as the response. These
variants are given in more detail in this section.

Family Example Grow Call with Formula Specification
Survival rfsrc(Surv(time, status) ~ ., data=veteran)
Competing Risk rfsrc(Surv(time, status) ~ ., data=wihs)
Regression rfsrc(Ozone ~., data=airquality)
Classification rfsrc(Species ~., data=iris)
Multivariate rfsrc(Multivar(mpg, cyl) ~., data=mtcars)
Unsupervised rfsrc(Unsupervised() ~., data=mtcars)

In the [Split Rules] table, the rule in italics denotes the default
split rule for each model. The default split rule is
applied when the user does not specify a split rule. The package uses
the data set and formula specification to determine the model.
Survival and Competing Risk both have two split
rules. Regression has three flavours of split rules based on mean-squared
error. Classification also has three flavours of split rules based on the
Gini index. The Multivariate and Unsupervised split rules are a composite rule
based on Regression and Classification. Each component of the composite is normalized
so that the magnitude of any one y-outcome does not influence the
statistic. See the [Theory and Specifications] section for more details on the
mathematics of the split for each family.

Family Split Rules
Survival log-rank eqref{eqn:survival.logrank}
log-rank score eqref{eqn:survival.logrank.score}
Competing Risk log-rank modified weighted eqref{eqn:cr.modified.logrank}
log-rank eqref{eqn:cr.logrank}
Regression mean-squared error weighted eqref{eqn:regression.weighted}
mean-squared error unweighted eqref{eqn:regression.unweighted}
mean-squared error heavy weighted eqref{eqn:regression.heavy.weighted}
Classification Gini index weighted eqref{eqn:classification.weighted}
Gini index unweighted eqref{eqn:classification.unweighted}
Gini index heavy weighted eqref{eqn:classification.heavy.weighted}
Multivariate Composite mean-squared error
Composite Gini index
Unsupervised Composite mean-squared error
Composite Gini index

All models also allow the user to define a custom split rule
statistic. Some basic C-programming skills are required. Examples
for all the families reside in the C source code directory of
the package in the file splitCustom.c. Note that
recompiling and re-installing the package is necessary after modifying
the source code.

In the table [Terminal Node
] (TNS),
the terminal node estimators produced by the five models are summarized. For Survival, the TNS is
the Kaplan-Meier estimator at the time points of interest specified by
the user, or as determined by the package if not specified.
Competing Risk has two TNS’s:
the cause-specific cumulative hazard estimate, and the cause-specific
cumulative incidence function. Regression and Classification TNS’s are
the mean and class proportions respectively. For a Multivariate model,
there are TNS’s for each response, whether it is real valued, discrete or
categorical. The Unsupervised model has no TNS, as the analysis is
responseless. See the [Theory and Specifications] section for more details on the
mathematics of the TNS for each family.

Family Terminal Node Statistics
Survival Kaplan-Meier eqref{eqn:kaplan.meier}
Competing Risk cause-specific cumulative hazard eqref{eqn:cause.specific.chf}
cause-specific incidence eqref{eqn:cause.specific.cif}
Regression mean eqref{eqn:mean}
Classification class proportions eqref{eqn:class.proportions}
Multivariate mean per response eqref{eqn:mean}
class proportions per response eqref{eqn:class.proportions}
Unsupervised none

In the table [Prediction Error],
the error rate calculation for the five
models is summarized. For Survival, it is based on Harrell’s concordance-index using the
cumulative hazard estimate as the values for comparison. For
Competing Risk, Harrell’s concordance-index uses the cause-specific
cumulative-hazard estimate. For Regression, performance is based on
mean-squared error. For classification, performance is based on the
conditional and over-all misclassification rate. For the Multivariate
and Unsupervised case, there is no prediction error implemented.
See the [Theory and Specifications] section for more details on the
mathematics of the prediction error for each model.

Family Prediction Error
Survival Harrell’s C-index using cum-haz eqref{eqn:survival.mortality} and eqref{eqn:concordance}
Competing Risk Harrell’s C-index using cause-specific cum-haz eqref{eqn:cause.specific.mortality} and
Regression mean-squared error eqref{eqn:mean.squared.error}
Classification conditional and over-all misclassification rate
eqref{eqn:misclassification.rate} and
Multivariate none
Unsupervised none

We conclude this section by giving examples of a mixed multivariate
model, and an unsupervised model. The data set
mtcars, available in the base distribution of R is
used. The usual outcome for the data set is mpg (miles per
gallon). First, we modify the data set to force carb (number
of carburetors) and cyl (number of cylinders) to be categorical
values. We produce a mixed model where all three of these variable
are considered as outcomes. The code is given below:

# Multivariate mixed outcome: Motor Trend Car Road Tests.  Miles per
# gallon is the usual response, but the data set is modified to
# introduce categorical and ordinal variables.

We also show various ways to implement an unsupervised model in the code
below. It is possible to choose one, or more pseudo-responses at each
split via the formula specification.

# Motor Trend Car Road Tests.  Miles per gallon is the usual response,
# but it is ignored below and the data set is taken to be responseless.

Variable Selection

The package has two primary approaches for variable selection and
identifying interactions between variables. The function
max.subtree() extracts maximal subtree information from a
forest [Ishwaran et al., 2010],
[Ishwaran et al., 2011]. The
function vimp() extracts variable importance information from a
forest [
Ishwaran et
al., 2007

Minimal Depth and Maximal Subtrees

Minimal depth is a dimensionless order statistic that measures the
predictiveness of a variable in a tree. It can be used to select
variables in high-dimensional problems. It assesses the predictiveness of a variable
by a depth calculation relative to the root node of a tree.
A maximal subtree for an x-variable $x$ is the largest subtree
whose root node splits on $x$ (i.e. all the parent nodes of
$x’s$ maximal subtree have nodes that split on variables other
than $x$). There can be more than one maximal subtree for a
variable. A maximal subtree will not exist if there are no splits
on the variable. The shortest
distance from the root of the tree to the root of the closest
maximal subtree of $x$ is the minimal depth of $x$. A smaller
value corresponds to a more predictive variable. The mean of the minimal depth distribution is used as the
threshold value for deciding whether an x-variable’s minimal depth value
is small enough for the x-variable to be classified as strong. An
important fact of minimal depth is that it does not depend on a
comparison of error rates, as does variable importance (described
later), but is only dependent on the topology of the forest.
See [Ishwaran et al., 2010] and
[Ishwaran et al., 2011] for more details.
The maximal subtrees for $x_1$ and the tree shown in the figure
labeled [Tree Decision Boundary] are
highlighted in blue in the figure labeled [Maximal Subtrees for $x_1$]. There are exactly two of them.
The minimal depth for $x_1$ is equal to one.

Maximal Subtrees for x_1
Maximal Subtrees for $x_1$

Examples of minimal depth and maximal subtrees follow:

# Survival Analysis with first and second order depths for all variables.
data(veteran, package = "randomForestSRC")

Variable Importance

The function vimp() extracts variable importance (VIMP) information
[Ishwaran et
al., 2007
] from a forest for a single x-variable
or group of x-variables. By default, VIMP is calculated for the
training data, but the user can
specify new test data for the VIMP calculation using the
parameter newdata.

Action on the training data is as follows: The parameter
importance allows four distinct ways to calculate VIMP. The
default value of importance="permute" returns the Breiman-Cutler permutation VIMP as
described in [Breiman, 2001]. For each tree, the prediction error on
the OOB data is recorded. Then for a given x-variable
$x$, OOB cases are randomly permuted in $x$ and the
prediction error is recorded. The VIMP for $x$ for a tree is defined as the
difference between the perturbed and unperturbed error rate for that
tree. This is then averaged
over all trees. If importance="random" is used, then OOB
cases are assigned a daughter node randomly
whenever a split on $x$ is encountered in the tree. Again, the VIMP for $x$ is defined as the
difference between the perturbed and unperturbed error rate averaged
over all trees. If the options permute.ensemble or
random.ensemble are used, then VIMP is calculated by comparing
the error rate for the perturbed OOB forest ensemble to the
unperturbed OOB forest ensemble. Unlike the Breiman-Cutler
measure, these last two VIMP ensembles do not measure the tree average
effect of perturbing
$x$, but rather the overall forest effect. See [Ishwaran et
al., 2008
] for further details.

Joint VIMP is requested using joint=TRUE. The joint VIMP is the
importance for a group of variables when the group is perturbed

VIMP is completely dependent on prediction error. Although tempting, it is incorrect to
assume VIMP measures the change in prediction error for a forest grown with and without
a variable. For example, if two variables are highly correlated and both predictive,
each can have large VIMP values. Removing one variable and regrowing
the forest may affect the VIMP for the other variable (its value might get larger),
but prediction error will likely remain unchanged. VIMP measures the change in
prediction error on a fresh test case if $x$ were not available, given that the original
forest was grown using $x$. In practice, this often equals change in prediction
error for a forest grown with and without $x$, but conceptually the two quantities
are different. Examples follow:

# Classification example showcasing different vimp measures.


To handle data sets with missing data, the package provides
two interfaces to impute missing values. If a predictive model is desired,
then the user can create a forest with a call to rfsrc(). If all
that is desired is a data set containing imputed values, without the
need for a model, then a call to impute() will suffice. If no
formula is specified, unsupervised splitting is
implemented. The number of impute iterations is specified via the parameter nimpute.
The number of impute iterations
corresponds to the number of forests grown.
When a predictive model is desired, only the final forest is retained.
Note that two impute iterations were found to be the minimum necessary to produce
reasonable imputed values.

On the first impute iteration, imputation is conducted in each internal
node as the tree is grown. This in-node imputation is used to determine left
and right daughter membership during the grow process. Note that
imputed values are never used in split statistics on the first impute
iteration. On the second, and subsequent
impute iterations, in-node imputation is absent. Instead, the forest
is grow as if there was no missing data, with missingness holes in the data
plugged by the imputed values determined by the previous impute
iteration. Imputation on the second and subsequent iteration only
occurs in the terminal nodes, after the forest has been grown.
The default setting for rfsrc() is
nimpute = 1. The default setting for
impute() is nimpute = 2.

Once a model has been created using rfsrc(), test data with or
without missingness can be used with predict.rfsrc(). Values in
the test data set are imputed based on the non-missing values in the training data
set. Internally,
both rfsrc() and impute.rfsrc() use variations of
the missing data algorithm in [
Ishwaran et
al., 2008
]. Setting
na.action = "na.impute"
imputes missing data (both x-variables and y-outcomes),
while na.action = "na.omit" eliminates records with
missingness and then grows the forest. Examples follow:

# Examples of survival imputation.

# Create a model via imputation.
data(pbc, package = "randomForestSRC")


Predicted values are obtained by dropping test data down the forest
after the model has been created. The overall error rate is
returned if the test data contains a y-outcome.
If no test data is provided, then the original training data is used
and the code reverts to restoring the forest, associated terminal
node statistics and ensembles. This is useful in that it gives the user the
ability to extract outputs from the forest that were not asked for
during model creation. The figure [
Decision Boundary
] is an example of how prediction can be used to view the forest decision boundary imposed on
the x-variables. Examples of traning, testing and restoration follow:

Training/testing scenario:

data(veteran, package = "randomForestSRC")
# Sample the data and create a training subset.

Restoration scenario:

# Train the model.

outcome = « test »

If outcome = "test", the training data is not used to calculate the
terminal nodes statistics. Instead, the TNS are recalculated
using the y-outcomes from the test set. This yields a modified
predictor in which the invariant topology of the forest is based on the
training data, but where the ensembles and predicted
values are based on the test data. The
terminal node statistics,
ensembles and error rates are all calculated by bootstrapping the test
data and using OOB individuals to ensure unbiased estimates.

Consider the the forest depicted previously in [Forest
Decision Boundary
] and the associated forest ensemble for the single test
point at the origin. This original training data and ensemble are shown
in the top left and top right of [outcome = « test »]. New test data, formed by reducing
the radii of the blue and yellow classes is shown in the
bottom left of the figure. The origin
contains only two data points, namely one red and one green point.
Using the new test data to populate terminal nodes, results in an ensemble that is missing the blue and yellow classes.
This ensemble is shown in the bottom right of the figure.

outcome =
outcome =
« test »

The function for creating the spheres is
given in the section [Supplementary Code], and the higher level code used to produce the [outcome = « test »] figure follows:

## Four circular regions with equal class counts, touching at the origin.
## We suppress the X3 dimension in order to get a circle from a sphere.


There are a number of ways to limit the growth of trees in a model.
The most obvious are the parameters nodedepth and
nodesize discussed in the section [Node Depth and Node Size.
Decreasing nodedepth or increasing
nodesize will result in shallower trees. After a forest has been
created, the user is
able to prune trees back using the
parameter ptn.count. This parameter represents the
pseudo-terminal node count. It allows us to specify the desired number of
pseudo-terminal nodes after a tree has been grown. This is not
useful for Random Forests analysis per se, but it can be useful in
other applications. Trees are flexible and adaptive nonparametric
estimators and, as such, they represent ideal weak learners for
implementing gradient boosting
[Friedman, 2001]. Boosted
trees for regression and classification, where exactly J-terminal nodes
(for any integer value of J) are needed, is easily accomplished using
the parameter ptn.count. This particular application of the
randomForestSRC package is incorporated into the
boostmtree package on CRAN
[Ishwaran and Kogalur, 2016]. Pruning is accomplished by deleting
terminal nodes from the maximum depth back toward the root until the desired
pseudo-terminal node count is achieved. Daughter nodes are deleted in
pairs. This results in a parent node becoming a pseudo-terminal node,
after the daughter terminal nodes have been deleted at the current
maximum depth.

Hybrid Parallel Processing

This package has the capabilities of non-trivial parallel
processing with massive scalability. Growing a forest has a recursive
component as was shown in the [Recursive Algorithm]. But it is also an
iterative process that is repeated ntree times. This fact is
depicted in the figure [Iterative Process]. The entry point is a
user-defined R script that initiates the grow call
rfsrc(). This function pre-processes the data set, and calls
a grow function in the package’s C library, which grows the
forest. The C function grows a single tree, adds the resulting
tree-specific ensemble(s) to the forest ensemble(s), and continues this
process for ntree iterations. The C function then
returns the forest ensemble(s) to the R function, which
post-processes the results. It is advantageous to parallelize this
iterative process. Such situations are often called « pleasingly
parallel ». The default pre-compiled binaries, available on CRAN,
should execute in parallel. If not, the package has been written to be
easily compiled to accommodate
parallel execution. As a prerequisite, the host architecture,
operating system, and installed compilers must support it. OpenMP and
Open MPI compilers must be available on the host
system. If this
is the case, it is possible to compile the source code to enable parallel processing.

Forest Growth
as an Iterative Process
Growth as an Iterative Process

A graphic
showing one mode of parallel execution (OpenMP) on a typical desktop/laptop
computer is shown in the figure [
Memory Parallel Processing
]. In this example, the
hardware on the left of the figure is a Macbook Pro (2015 model) with two quad-core CPUs,
and 16GB of RAM. This hardware
allows eight threads to execute simultaneously. The memory is
shared among all cores, and this configuration is typical of symmetric
multiprocessing (SMP) where two or more identical processors connect
to a shared memory bank. Most reasonably configured multi-core
notebooks and desktops are ideal hosts for randomForestSRC and OpenMP parallel
execution. The right side of [Shared
Memory Parallel Processing
] shows the software
implementation of the OpenMP model. The R code reads the
data set, pre-processes the data set, calls the
C code and requests a forest of
ntree trees. When OpenMP parallel execution is in force, the
C code grows trees simultaneously, rather than iteratively.
Each core is tasked with growing a tree. Once a core completes growing a tree, the
forest ensemble values are incremented with the contribution of that tree,
and the core is re-tasked with growing another tree. This continues
until the entire forest is grown. Control is then returned to the
R code which does post-processing of the results. On the hardware
shown in the figure, it is possible to
grow eight trees at a time. Under ideal conditions,
the elapsed time to grow a forest should decrease linearly and be
close to a factor of eight.

OpenMP:  Shared
Memory Parallel Processing
OpenMP: Shared Memory Parallel Processing

In order to give the user some flexibility, core usage can be
controlled via R options. First, the user needs to determine the number of cores on
the machine. This can be done within an R session by
loading the parallel package and issuing the command
detectCores(). It is possible to set the numbers of cores
accessed during OpenMP parallel execution at
the start of every R session by issuing the command
options(rf.cores = x), where x is the number of
cores. If x is a negative number, the package will access
the maximum number of cores on the machine. The options command can
also be placed in the users .Rprofile file for convenience.
Alternatively, one can initialize the environment variable RF_CORES
in the user’s command shell environment.

Gains in performance on a desktop (or a single SMP node) are limited by the number of cores
available on the hardware. The OpenMP parallel model shown in [Shared
Memory Parallel Processing
] that relies on an underlying
iterative process
was chosen for its suitability in
accommodating shared memory systems and its ease of implementation. Model
creation is computationally intense and the OpenMP parallel processing
model allows us to take full advantage of the hardware available.

Message Passing Interface (MPI), an alternative model
to OpenMP is suitable for distributed memory systems, in which the
number of cores available can be much greater than that of a desktop
computer. It is possible to run
randomForestSRC on appropriately designed and configured
clusters, allowing for massive scalability. An ideal
cluster for the package is made up of tightly connected SMP nodes.
Each SMP node has its own memory, and does not share
this memory with other nodes. Nodes, however, do communicate with
each other using MPI.

Hybrid:  MPI/OpenMP Parallel Processing
Hybrid: MPI/OpenMP Parallel Processing

In the figure [MPI/OpenMP Parallel Processing], a generic cluster with four SMP nodes is
depicted. Each node can be considered to be similar to a desktop
computer. However, in a cluster setting, each node is tightly
supervised and controlled by a top-level layer of cluster software
that handles job scheduling, and resource management. On the left of the
figure, four nodes are connected via a network that facilitates MPI
communications across nodes. The right of the figure depicts the software
implementation of hybrid parallel processing using the
randomForestSRC package. A primary/replica framework is chosen whereby a primary node on
the cluster is tasked with growing the forest. The primary node
divides the forest into sub-forests. If the size of the forest is
ntree, then each replica in this example is tasked with growing a
sub-forest of size ntree/4. Hybrid parallel processing is
dependent on the Rmpi package. This package must be available.
If it is not, it must compiled and installed from the source code available on CRAN.
The Rmpi is a mature package and provides flexible low level
functionality. Other explicitly parallel general-use packages on CRAN such as snow,
snowfall, and foreach provide higher level user friendly
functions that, while potentially useful, were considered not as
flexible and customizable in a cluster environment.

In the hybrid example
that follows, Rmpi is loaded on
the primary node, and MPI processes are then spawned on each
replica. Disregarding the fact that the replicas can communicate with the
primary using MPI, each replica acts like an SMP node in [Shared
Memory Parallel Processing
]. A replica initiates concurrent OpenMP threads across it
cores, and grows its sub-forest using shared memory OpenMP parallel
processing. It is possible to grow many more trees
concurrently on a cluster, because the forest is spread among many more
cores than are available on a single node, or desktop computer. In
[MPI/OpenMP Parallel Processing],
the forest uses 32 cores concurrently. In an ideal
environment, the elapsed time to grow the original forest will be
reduced by a factor of 32. After all replicas have completed growing their
sub-forests, they return their data to the primary process, via MPI messages,
and the replicas terminate. On a single SMP node (equivalent to a desktop computer), a thread on a core
starts, grows a tree, terminates, and repeats this process until all trees
have been grown. A core is either waiting for a task,
working on a task, or has completed a task. A task, in this case, is
the growing of a tree. On a cluster, a replica node starts, grows a
sub-forest, and terminates. It repeats this process until all
sub-forests requested by the primary node have been grown. A replica is either waiting for a
sub-forest, working on a sub-forest, or has completed a sub-forest.

As proof of concept, and for benchmarking purposes we ran the package
on two clusters available to us. The first cluster was the Learner
Research Institute High Performance Cluster (LRI-HPC) at the Cleveland
Clinic. This system runs Simple Linux Utility for Resource Management
(SLURM) supervisor software. It is a Linux-based cluster consisting
of twenty nodes with ten cores per node. Each node has 64GB of shared
memory. The second cluster was the
[Pegasus 2] installation at the High
Performance Computing Group at the Center for Computational Science
(HPC CCS) at the University of Miami. This system has 10,000 cores
spread across over 600 nodes. The system also runs a flavour of Linux
but uses Platform LSF as the job scheduler. The different job schedulers
for the two clusters required minor customization of the calling
shell scripts. For our benchmarks, we analyzed a simulated survival data
set with n=3000, p=30, and ntree=1024, with the
default value of importance="permute". We ran the package in
serial mode and scaled up to 1024 cores across 64 nodes. The results
are shown in this figure. In serial mode, growing 1024
trees iteratively (using one core) took about 330 minutes. The red
points all reflect OpenMP parallel processing, on one node. These
results would be similar to that of a desktop computer. Pegasus 2 has
16 cores per node. When using all cores on one node were used,
elapsed time decreased to about 25 minutes. This reflects a decrease
in a factor of 13 from the serial time. The theoretical maximum
decrease would be closer to a factor of 16. The results would be
similar to that of running the analysis on desktop computer with 16 cores. Next,
hybrid parallel processing using the primary/replica framework was
implemented. Two replica nodes were tasked, then three, and so on up to
64 nodes. At 64 nodes, total core usage was 1024. At this number,
the cluster was growing all 1024 trees simultaneously. The
data points reflecting hybrid parallel processing are in blue. Linear
decreases in elapsed time were observed. This indicates that the
package is capable of massive scalability. The primary and replica
code harnesses are given in the section [Supplementary Code].

Benchmark of Hybrid Parallel Processing
Benchmark of Hybrid Parallel Processing

Theory and Specifications


There are two split rules that can be used to grow survival trees.
In this model, the response or y-outcome associated with individual (i) is a pair of
values specifying a non-negative survival time and censoring
information. Denote the response for (i) by (Y_i = (T_i,
delta_i)). The individual is said to be right censored at time (T_i)
if (delta_i = 0) and is said to have died at time (T_i) if (delta_i
= 1). In the case of death, (T_i) will be referred to as an event
time, and the death as an event. An individual (i) who is right
censored at (T_i) simply means that the individual is known to have been
alive at (T_i), but the exact time of death is unknown.

Log-rank splitting

The log-rank test for splitting survival trees is a well established
concept [Segal, 1988]. It has been shown to be robust
in both proportional and non-proportional hazard settings
[Leblanc and Crowley, 1993] Note that
a proposed split of (h) on a real value (x) is of the form (x le c) and (x >
c). Such a split defines left and right daughter membership. The
split that maximizes survival differences between the two daughter
nodes is the best split. Let (t_1 c},

where (x_i) is the value of (x) for individual (i=1, ldots, n).
Define (Y_k=Y_{k,l}+Y_{k,r}) and (d_k=d_{k,l} + d_{k,r}). Let
(n_s) be the total number of observations in daughter (s), Thus,
(n=n_l+n_r), where (n_l=#{i: x_ile c}) and
(n_r=#{i: x_i> c}).

The log-rank test for a split at the value (c) for an x-variable (x)

The value (|L(x,c)|) is a measure of node separation. Larger
values of (|L(x,c)|) imply a greater the difference between the two
groups, and the better the split. In particular, the best split at
node (h) is determined by finding the x-variable (x^*) and split value
(c^*) such that (|L(x^*,c^*)|ge |L(x,c)|) for all (x) and (c).

Log-rank score splitting

The log-rank score test for splitting survival trees is described in
[Hothorn and Lausen (2003)]. In this rule, assume the x-variable
(x) has been ordered so that (x_1 le x_2 le cdots le x_n). Now,
compute the « ranks » for each survival time (T_j) where (j in {1,
ldots, n}). Thus,

a_j=delta_j-sum_{k=1}^{Gamma_j}frac{delta_k}{n-Gamma_k+1} ,

where (Gamma_k=#{t:T_tle T_k}). Note that (Gamma_k) is the
index of the order for (T_k). The log-rank score test is defined as

S(x,c)=frac{sum_{x_kle c}left(a_j-n_loverline{a}right)}
{sqrt{{displaystyle n_lleft(1-frac{n_l}{n}right)s_a^2}}} ,

where (overline{a}) and (s_a^2) are the sample mean and sample variance of
({a_j: j=1, ldots, n}). Log-rank score splitting defines the measure
of node separation by (|S(x,c)|). Maximizing this value over (x)
and (c) yields the best split.

Terminal node estimators

The survival estimate associated with a terminal node is provided by
the Kaplan-Meier (KM) estimator [Kaplan and Meier (1958)].
Again let (t_1

An example of a survival forest follows:

# Veteran's Administration Lung Cancer Trial. Randomized 
# trial of two treatment regimens for lung cancer.
data(veteran, package = "randomForestSRC")

Prediction error

Prediction error for survival models is measured by (1-C), where
(C) is Harrell’s [
] concordance
index. Prediction error is between 0 and 1, and measures how well the
predictor correctly ranks two random individuals in terms of survival.
Unlike other measures of survival performance,
Harrell’s C-index does not depend on choosing a fixed time for
evaluation of the model and specifically takes into account censoring
of individuals [May et al., (2004)] The method has quickly become quite popular in the
literature as a means for assessing prediction performance in survival
analysis settings. See [
Kattan et
al., 1988
] and references therein.

To compute the concordance index, it is necessary to define what constitutes a
worse predicted outcome. Let
(t_1^*,ldots,t_M^*) denote all unique times in the data.
Define the predicted outcome for individual (i) to be

mathcal{M}_i = sum_{k=1}^{M}hat{H}_e^*(t_k^*|{bf X}_i).

Individual (i) is said to have a worse predicted outcome than
individual (j) if (mathcal{M}_i > mathcal{M}_j)

The concordance error rate is computed as follows:

  1. Form all possible pairs of observations over all the data.
  2. Omit those pairs where the shorter event time is censored.
    Also, omit pairs ((i, j)) if (T_i=T_j) unless ((delta_i=1, delta_j=0)) or
    ((delta_i=0, delta_j=1)) or ((delta_i=1, delta_j=1)). The last restriction
    only allows ties in event times if at least one of the observations is a death.
    Let the resulting pairs be denoted by (mathbb{S}). Let (permissible =
  3. If (T_i ne T_j), count 1 for each (s in mathbb{S}) in which the shorter time
    had the worse predicted outcome.
  4. If (T_i ne T_j), count 0.5 for each (s in mathbb{S}) in which
    (mathcal{M}_i = mathcal{M}_j).
  5. If (T_i = T_j), count 1 for each (s in mathbb{S}) in which
    (mathcal{M}_i = mathcal{M}_j).
  6. If (T_i = T_j), count 0.5 for each (s in mathbb{S})
    in which (mathcal{M}_i ne mathcal{M}_j).
  7. Let (concordance) denote the resulting count over all
    permissible pairs. Define the concordance index (C) as
  8. The error rate is (Err=1-C). Note that (0 le Err le 1) and that
    (Err=0.5) corresponds to a procedure doing no better than random
    guessing, whereas (Err=0) indicates perfect prediction.

Competing Risk

Competing risks occur in survival analyses when the occurrence of one
event precludes the occurrence of the remaining set of possible
events. Individuals subject to competing risks are observed from study
entry to the occurrence of the event of interest. This is a competing event
though often, before the individual can experience one of the events, that
person is right censored.

Formally, let (T_i^o) be the event time for
the (i^{th}) subject, (i=1,ldots,N), and let (delta_i^o) be the event type,
(delta_i^oin{1,ldots,J}), where (J ge 1). Let (C_i^o) denote the
censoring time for individual (i) such that the actual time of event
(T_i^o) is unobserved and one only observes (T_i=min(T_i^o,C_i^o))
and the event indicator (delta_i=delta_i^o I(T_i^ole C_i^o)). When
(delta_i=0), the individual is said to be censored at (T_i), otherwise if
(delta_i=j>0), the individual is said to have an event of type (j) at
time (T_i). Denote the observed response for (i) as (Y_i = (T_i,delta_i)).
The cause-specific hazard function (cs-H) for event (j) given
a (P)-dimensional feature ({bf X}_i) is

alpha_j(t|{bf X}_i) = lim_{Delta trightarrow 0} frac{mathbb{P}{tle T^o le t+Delta t,
delta^o=j | T^oge t,{bf X}_i}}{Delta t} = frac{f_j(t|{bf X}_i)}{S(t|{bf X}_i)} .

Here (S(t|{bf X}_i)=mathbb{P}{T^oge t|{bf X}_i}) is the event-free survival
probability function given ({bf X}_i). The cs-H
describes the instantaneous risk of event (j) for subjects that
currently are event-free. The probability of an event is
determined using the cause-specific cumulative incidence function (cs-CIF), defined as the
probability of experiencing an event of type (j) by time (t);
i.e. (F_j(t|{bf X}_i) = mathbb{P}{T^o le t, delta^o=j|{bf X}_i}). The cs-CIF and cs-H
are related according to
F_j(t|{bf X}_i)
=int_0^t S(s-|{bf X}_i)alpha_j(s|{bf X}_i), mathrm d s
= int_0^t expleft(-int_0^s sum_{l=1}^J alpha_l(u|{bf X}_i)
mathrm d uright) alpha_j(s|{bf X}_i), mathrm d s .

See [Gray (1988)] for an analysis of the cs-CIF.

With these two equations, it is possible to describe the two split
rules that can be used to grow competing risk trees.
Again, for notational convenience these rules are described for the root node
using the entire learning data, and for splits on real valued
x-variables. However, the algorithm
extends to any tree node, to bootstrap data, and to splits
on categorical x-variables.

As before, let (T_i,delta_i)_{1le i le n}) denote the pairs of survival times
and event indicators. Let (t_1c) for a continuous x-variable (x). Such a split forms
two daughter nodes containing two new sets of competing risk data. The
subscripts (l) and (r) refer to the left and
right daughter node, respectively, and denote (alpha_{jl}
eqref{eqn:csh}, in the left and
the right daughter node. Similarly define (F_{jl}
to be the cs-CIF, given by eqref{eqn:cif}, for the left and the right daughter node.

The number of individuals at risk at time (t) in the left and right
daughter nodes are (Y_l


and (x_i) is the value the x-variable assumes for individual (i=1,ldots,n).
The number of type (j) events at time (t) for
the left and right daughters is


The total number of individuals who are risk at time (t), and
the total number of type (j) events at time (t) in the parent node are
given by

label{eqn:event.count} \

Define also (t_m,t_{m_l},t_{m_r}) to be the largest time
on study in the parent node and the two daughters, respectively.

Log-rank splitting

The first competing risk split rule is the log-rank test. This is a test of the null hypothesis
The test is based on the weighted difference of the cause-specific
Nelson-Aalen estimates in the two daughter nodes. Specifically, for a
split at the value (c) for variable (x), the split rule is

L^{mathrm{LR}}_j(x,c)=frac 1{hatsigma^{mathrm{LR}}_{j}(x,c)}sum_{k=1}^m
-frac{d_j(t_k)Y_l(t_k)}{Y(t_k)}right) ,

where the variance estimate is given by

(hatsigma^{mathrm{LR}}_{j}(x,c))^{2}= sum_{k=1}^m W_j(t_k)^2 d_j(t_k)
frac{Y_l(t_k)}{Y(t_k)} left(1-frac{Y_l(t_k)}{Y(t_k)}right)
left(frac{Y(t_k)-d_j(t_k)}{Y(t_k)-1}right) .

Time-dependent weights (W_j
sensitive to early or late differences between the cause-specific
hazards. The choice (W_j
test which has optimal power for detecting alternatives where the
cause-specific hazards are proportional. In practice, (W_j
W_j). That is, the weights are constant and not time-dependent.
Furthermore, the cause-specific split rules across the
event types are combined to arrive at the composite log-rank competing split rule
that is implemented in the package and given by

L^{mathrm{LR}}(x,c) = frac{sum_{j=1}^J
L_j^{mathrm{LR}}(x,c)}{sqrt{sum_{j=1}^J(hatsigma^{mathrm{LR}}_j(x,c))^2}} .

The best split is found by
maximizing (|L^{mathrm{LR}}(x,c)|) over (x) and (c).

Modified log-rank splitting

The cause-(j) specific log-rank split rule eqref{eqn:cr.logrank} is
useful if the main purpose is to detect variables that affect the
cause-(j) specific hazard. It may not be optimal if the purpose is
also prediction of cumulative event probabilities. In this case better
results may be obtained with split rules that select variables
based on their direct effect on the cumulative incidence. For this
reason the second split rule is modeled after Gray’s
test [Gray (1988)], which tests the null hypothesis
See [Ishwaran et al. (2014)] for additional details in using the
modified risk set defined by


This equals the number of individuals who have not had an event prior
to (t) in addition to those individuals who have experienced an event
(j^{‘} ne j) prior to (t), but who are not censored.
The split rule based
on the score statistic which uses the modified risk sets, is denoted
(L^{mathrm{G}}_j(x,c)) and given by substituting (Y^*_j) for (Y_j)
and (Y^*_{jl}) for (Y_l) in eqref{eqn:cr.logrank}. Note that if the
censoring time is not known for those cases that have an event before
the end of follow-up, the largest observed time is used, and the
statistic (L^{mathrm{G}}_j(x,c)) is still a good (and computationally
efficient) approximation of Gray’s test statistic, see
Section 3.2, Fine, Jason P and Gray,
Robert J (1999)

Thus the composite modified log-rank competing split rule is given by

L^{mathrm{G}}(x,c) = frac{sum_{j=1}^J
L_j^{mathrm{G}}(x,c)}{sqrt{sum_{j=1}^J(hatsigma^{mathrm{G}}_j(x,c))^2}} .

The best split is found by
maximizing (|L^{mathrm{G}}(x,c)|) over (x) and (c).

Terminal node estimators

Let (t_1 Equation 2.3, Gray (1988)]. Namely,

hat{F}_j(t|{bf X}_i)
=sum_{t_{k} expected number of life years lost and represents a measure of
mortality. This is also called the cause-(j) mortality, is
denoted by (mathcal{M}_j) and given by

hat{mathcal{M}}_j = int_{0}^{tau} hat{F}_j(s) ds = sum_{t_{k+1} le
tau}hat{F}_j(t_k)[t_{k+1} – t_k] .

Prediction error

The cause-specific error rate for each event (j) is estimated using the
concordance index protocol resulting in equation eqref{eqn:concordance}. Let
(hat{mathcal{M}}_{i,j}) denote the cause-(j) mortality for case (i). We
say that case (i) has a higher risk of event (j) than case (i^{‘}) if
(hat{mathcal{M}}_{i,j} > hat{mathcal{M}}_{i^{‘},j}). Applying
equation eqref{eqn:concordance}
results in a concordance index (C_j) and an error rate (Err_j = 1 –

An example of a competing risk call follows:

# Women's Interagency HIV Study (WIHS).  Competing risk 
# data set involving AIDS in women.
data(wihs, package = "randomForestSRC")


There are three split rules that can be used to grow regression trees.
In this model, the y-outcome associated with an individual (i) is a single real
value. Denote the response for (i) by (Y_i in mathbb{R}).

Weighted variance splitting

Suppose the proposed split for the root node is of the
form (x le c) and (x>c) for a continuous x-variable (x), and a split
value of (c). The split rule is

theta(x,c) = frac{n_l}{n} times frac{1}{n_l} sum_{x_i le c} (Y_i – bar{Y}_l)^2 + frac{n_r}{n} times
frac{1}{n_r} sum_{x_i > c} (Y_i – bar{Y}_r)^2 ,

where the subscripts (l) and (r) indicate left and right daughter
node membership respectively. Then

bar{Y}_l = frac{1}{n_l} sum_{x_i le c} Y_i , hskip10pt bar{Y}_r = frac{1}{n_r} sum_{x_i > c} Y_i

are the means within each of the daughters, and (n_l) and (n_r) are
the number of cases in the left and right daughter respectively such that ((n = n_l + n_r).) The goal is to
find (x) and (c) to minimize (theta(x,c)).

Unweighted variance splitting

In this rule, it is necessary to minimize

theta(x,c) = frac{1}{n_l} sum_{x_i le c} (Y_i – bar{Y}_l)^2 +
frac{1}{n_r} sum_{x_i > c} (Y_i – bar{Y}_r)^2 .

Heavy weighted variance splitting

In this rule, it is necessary to minimize

theta(x,c) = left( frac{n_l}{n} right)^2 times frac{1}{n_l}
sum_{x_i le c} (Y_i – bar{Y}_l)^2 + left( frac{n_r}{n} right)^2 times
frac{1}{n_r} sum_{x_i > c} (Y_i – bar{Y}_r)^2 .

Terminal node estimators

The predicted value for a terminal node is the mean value of the cases
within that node. Let individual (i) have feature ({bf X}_i). and reside in terminal
node (h). The terminal node predicted value for a node (h) is given by

hat{f}_h = frac{1}{n_h} sum_{{bf X}_i in h} Y_i .

To produce the OOB predicted value for individual (i) this quantity is averaged
all (tt ntree) trees. Let (hat{f}_b({bf X}_i)) denote the predicted value
for tree (b in {1,ldots,tt tree}).
As before, (I_{i,b}=1) if individual (i) is an
OOB individual for (b in {1, ldots, tt ntree }). Otherwise set (I_{i,b}=0).
The OOB predicted value for individual (i) is

hat{f}_e^{*}({bf X}_i) = frac{sum_{b=1}^{tt ntree}{I_{i,b} hat{f}_b ({bf X}_i)}}{sum_{b=1}^{tt ntree} I_{i,b}}.

Prediction error

The estimated prediction error is given by

Err = frac{1}{n} sum_{i=1}^{N} (Y_i – hat{f}_e^{*}({bf X}_i))^2 .

An example of a regression forest follows:

# New York air quality measurements. Mean ozone in parts per billion.


There are three split rules that can be used to grow classification trees.
In this model, the y-outcome associated with an individual (i) is a
single single categorical value. Let ({bf p} = (p_1, ldots, p_J)) be the class proportions
for the classes (1) through (J) respectively, for the y-outcome in the node.

Weighted Gini index splitting

Suppose the proposed split for the root node is of the
form (x le c) and (x>c) for a continuous x-variable (x), and a split
value of (c). The impurity of the node is defined as

phi({bf p}) = sum_{j = 1}^{J} p_j(1 – p_j) = 1 – sum_{j = 1}^{J}
p_j^2 .

The Gini index for a split (c) on (x) is

theta(x,c) = frac{n_l}{n} phi({bf p}_l) + frac{n_r}{n} phi({bf
p}_r) ,

where, as before, the subscripts (l) and (r) indicate left and right daughter
node membership respectively, and (n_l) and (n_r) are
the number of cases in the daughters such that ((n = n_l + n_r).) The goal is to find (x) and (c) to minimize

theta(x,c) = frac{n_l}{n} left( 1 – sum_{j = 1}^{J}
left( frac{n_{j,l}}{n_l} right)^2 right) + frac{n_r}{n} left( 1 – sum_{j =
1}^{J} left( frac{n_{j,r}}{n_r} right)^2 right) ,

where (n_{j,l}) and (n_{j,r}) are
the number of cases of class (j) in the left and right daughter,
respectively, such that ((n_j = n_{j,l} + n_{j,r}).) This is
equivalent to maximizing

theta^*(x,c) = frac{1}{n} sum_{j = 1}^{J} frac{n_{j,l}^2}{n_l} +
frac{1}{n} sum_{j = 1}^{J} frac{(n_j – n_{j,l})^2}{n – n_l},

Unweighted Gini index splitting

Unweighted Gini index splitting corresponds to

theta(x,c) = phi({bf p}_l) + phi({bf p}_r) .

The best split is found by minimizing

theta(x,c) = left( 1 – sum_{j = 1}^{J} left( frac{n_{j,l}}{n_l} right)^2 right)
+ left( 1 – sum_{j = 1}^{J} left( frac{n_{j,r}}{n_r}
right)^2 right) .

This is equivalent to maximizing

theta^*(x, c) = sum_{j = 1}^{J} left( frac{n_{j,l}}{n_l} right)^2 +
sum_{j = 1}^{J} left( frac{n_j – n_{j,l}}{n – n_l} right)^2 .

Heavy weighted Gini index splitting

Heavy weighted Gini index splitting corresponds to

theta(x,c) = frac{n_l^2}{n^2} phi({bf p}_l) + frac{n_r^2}{n^2}
phi({bf p}_r) .

The best split is found by minimizing

theta(x,c) = frac{n_l^2}{n^2} left( 1 – sum_{j = 1}^{J} left( frac{n_{j,l}}{n_l} right)^2 right)
+ frac{n_r^2}{n^2} left( 1 – sum_{j = 1}^{J} left(
frac{n_{j,r}}{n_r} right)^2 right) .

This is equivalent to maximizing

theta^*(x, c) = frac{1}{n^2} sum_{j = 1}^{J} n_{j,l}^2 +
frac{1}{n^2} sum_{j = 1}^{J} (n_j – n_{j,l})^2 – frac{n_l^2}{n^2} –
frac{n_r^2}{n^2} + 2 .

Note that the above is non-negative due to the addition of the constant last term.

Terminal node estimators

The predicted value for a terminal node (h) are the class proportions
in the node.
Let individual (i) have feature ({bf X}_i). and reside in terminal
node (h). Let (n_j) equal the number of bootstrap cases of class (j) in
the node. Then the proportion for the (j^{th}) class is given by

hat{p}_{j,h} = frac{1}{n_h} sum_{{bf X}_i in h} I {Y_i = j } .

To produce the OOB predicted value for individual (i) this is averaged
all (tt ntree) trees. Let (hat{p}_{j,b}({bf X}_i)) denote the predicted value
for the (j^{th}) proportion for tree (b in {1,ldots,tt ntree}).
As before, (I_{i,b}=1) if individual (i) is an
OOB individual for (b in {1, ldots, tt tree}), otherwise set (I_{i,b}=0).
The OOB predicted value for the (j^{th}) proportion for individual (i) is

hat{p}_{e,j}^{*}({bf X}_i) = frac{sum_{b=1}^{tt ntree}{I_{i,b}
hat{p}_{j,b} ({bf X}_i)}}{sum_{b=1}^{tt tree} I_{i,b}} .

Prediction error

Consider (hat{bf p}_{e}^{*} ({bf X}_i) = (hat{p}_{e,1}^{*}({bf X}_i), ldots,
hat{p}_{e,J}^{*}({bf X}_i))). Let

hat{p}_{e,max}^{*}({bf X}_i) = max_{1 le j le J}
(hat{p}_{e,j}^{*}({bf X}_i)) ,

and let (N_j^{*}) equal the number of individuals with
class equal to (j) in the data set. The estimated conditional misclassification rate is given by

Err_j = frac{1}{N_j^{*}} sum_{i:Y_i = j} (Y_i ne
hat{p}_{e,max}^{*}({bf X}_i)) .

The estimated over all misclassification rate is given by

Err = frac{1}{N} sum_{i=1}^{N} (Y_i ne hat{p}_{e,max}^{*}({bf
X}_i)) .

An example of a classification forest follows:

# Edgar Anderson's iris data with morphologic variation of three
# related species.


In the multivariate and mixed model, the y-outcomes associated with an individual (i) can be
denoted by ({bf Y}_i = ((Y_{i,1}, ldots, Y_{i,r})) where (Y_{i,j}) is real
or categorical for each (j in {1, ldots, r }).

When (Y_{i,j}) is real for all (j in {1, ldots, r }) the model is
a multivariate regression forest. In this case the split rule statistic
is a composite of (r) split rule statistics based on
Weighted Variance
]. The outcomes in the node are normalized to ensure that a particular
(j)-specific statistic does not overwhelm the composite statistic.

When (Y_{i,j}) is categorical for all (j in {1, ldots, r }) the
model is a multivariate classification forest. In this case the split rule statistic
is a composite of (r) split rule statistics based on
[Weighted Gini Index
]. No
normalization is necessary since the (j)-specific statistics
represent an impurity measure which is invariant with respect to scale.

In the general case where (Y_{i,j}) is real or categorical for each (j
in {1, ldots, r }) the model is a multivariate mixed forest. In this case the split rule statistic
is a composite of (r) split rule statistics based on
[Weighted Variance
] and [Weighted Gini Index
]. Only those (j)-specific
statistics representing real outcomes are normalized.

Terminal node estimators

There are (j) sets of terminal node estimators specific to the real or categorical
cases previously described.

Prediction error

There is no prediction error implemented in this scenario.


Unsupervised models are appropriate in settings where there is no
y-outcome. In the unsupervised split rule, a subset of the x-variables (the size of which is specified
by the formula) is chosen as the pseudo
y-outcomes at each node, and the multivariate split rule in the [Multivariate] section is applied. Thus, each (tt mtry)
attempt results in a multivariate mixed split rule. Note importantly
that all terminal node statistics and error rates are turned off under
unsupervised splitting.

Terminal node estimators

There are no terminal node estimators implemented in this scenario.

Prediction error

There is no prediction error implemented in this scenario.

Supplementary Code

Generalized code for simulating the spheres used in [Tree Decision Boundary] and elsewhere:

Generalized code for simulating the survival data set used in
[Benchmark of Hybrid Parallel Processing]:

The primary harness used in [Benchmark of Hybrid
Parallel Processinge

The replica harness used in
[Benchmark of Hybrid Parallel Processinge]:


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