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I am trying to interpreting the output of nls(). I have read this post but I still don't understand how to choose the best fit. From my fits I have two outputs:

> summary(m)

  Formula: y ~ I(a * x^b)

  Parameters:
  Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)    
  a 479.92903   62.96371   7.622 0.000618 ***
  b   0.27553    0.04534   6.077 0.001744 ** 
  ---
  Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1 

  Residual standard error: 120.1 on 5 degrees of freedom

  Number of iterations to convergence: 10 
  Achieved convergence tolerance: 6.315e-06 

and

> summary(m1)

  Formula: y ~ I(a * log(x))

  Parameters:
  Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)    
  a   384.49      50.29   7.645 0.000261 ***
  ---
  Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1 

  Residual standard error: 297.4 on 6 degrees of freedom

  Number of iterations to convergence: 1 
  Achieved convergence tolerance: 1.280e-11

The first one has two parameters and smaller residual error. The second only one parameter but worst residual error. Which is the best fit?

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3  
There's much more to assessing a model than looking at one or two summary statistics. What do the residuals look like? Do any of the data exhibit too much leverage? What do the goodness of fit diagnostics say? Does theory suggest one of these models should be preferred? For what values of $x$ do these fits differ substantially and does that matter? Etc. –  whuber Sep 3 '12 at 14:45
3  
I deleted my answer, which suggested using AIC, because a comment made a compelling case that AIC is not generally applicable for selection of nls fits. I would always try to decide for a nonlinear model based on mechanistic knowledge, particularly if the data set is as small as yours. –  Roland Sep 3 '12 at 14:46
    
Hmmm. Would the original commenter on @Roland's now-deleted answer be willing to repost the comment? It's not immediately obvious to me why AIC would not be appropriate ... (although stat.ethz.ch/pipermail/r-help/2010-August/250742.html gives some hints) -- and as a final note, if you're trying to identify a power transformation, you might try Box-Cox transformationss (boxcox in the MASS package) –  Ben Bolker Sep 24 '12 at 17:43

1 Answer 1

You can simply use the F test and anova to compare them. Here are some codes.

> x <- 1:10
> y <- 2*x + 3                            
> yeps <- y + rnorm(length(y), sd = 0.01)
> 
> 
> m1=nls(yeps ~ a + b*x, start = list(a = 0.12345, b = 0.54321))
> summary(m1)

Formula: yeps ~ a + b * x

Parameters:
   Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)    
a 2.9965562  0.0052838   567.1   <2e-16 ***
b 2.0016282  0.0008516  2350.6   <2e-16 ***
---
Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1 

Residual standard error: 0.007735 on 8 degrees of freedom

Number of iterations to convergence: 2 
Achieved convergence tolerance: 3.386e-09 

> 
> 
> m2=nls(yeps ~ a + b*x+c*I(x^5), start = list(a = 0.12345, b = 0.54321,c=10))
> summary(m2)

Formula: yeps ~ a + b * x + c * I(x^5)

Parameters:
   Estimate Std. Error  t value Pr(>|t|)    
a 3.003e+00  5.820e-03  516.010   <2e-16 ***
b 1.999e+00  1.364e-03 1466.004   <2e-16 ***
c 2.332e-07  1.236e-07    1.886    0.101    
---
Signif. codes:  0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1 

Residual standard error: 0.006733 on 7 degrees of freedom

Number of iterations to convergence: 2 
Achieved convergence tolerance: 1.300e-06 

> 
> anova(m1,m2)
Analysis of Variance Table

Model 1: yeps ~ a + b * x
Model 2: yeps ~ a + b * x + c * I(x^5)
  Res.Df Res.Sum Sq Df     Sum Sq F value Pr(>F)
1      8 0.00047860                             
2      7 0.00031735  1 0.00016124  3.5567 0.1013
>
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