A general theory for preferential sampling in environmental networks

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A general theory for preferential sampling in environmental networks

TitleA general theory for preferential sampling in environmental networks
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsWatson, J, V. Zidek, J, Shaddick, G
JournalAnnals of Applied Statistics

This paper presents a general model framework for detecting the preferential sampling of environmental monitors recording an environmental process across space and/or time. This is achieved by considering the joint distribution of an environmental process with a site-selection process that considers where and when sites are placed to measure the process. The environmental process may be spatial, temporal or spatio-temporal in nature. By sharing random effects between the two processes, the joint model is able to establish whether site placement was stochastically dependent of the environmental process under study. Furthermore, if stochastic dependence is identified between the two processes, then inferences about the probability distribution of the spatio-temporal process will change, as will predictions made of the process across space and time. The embedding into a spatio-temporal framework also allows for the modelling of the dynamic site-selection process itself. Real-world factors affecting both the size and location of the network can be easily modelled and quantified. The general framework developed in this paper is designed to be easily and quickly fit using the R-INLA package. We apply this framework to a case study involving particulate air pollution over the UK where a major reduction in the size of a monitoring network through time occurred. It is demonstrated that a significant response-biased reduction in the air quality monitoring network occurred. We also show that the network was consistently unrepresentative of the levels of particulate matter seen across much of Great Britain throughout the operating life of the network. This may have led to a severe over-reporting of the levels across much of Great Britain.

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