6
$\begingroup$

In his book, Hands-on Time Series analysis with R, the author Rami Krispin says 'Typically, once we have trained and tested the model using the training and testing partitions, we will retrain the model with all of the data (or at least the most recent observation in the chronological order)'.

My question is this:

In time series cross-validation methods such as expanding and sliding window, the most recent observations fall within the test set, of course due to the chronological order.

Intuitively, the most recent observations can be the most influential predictors, although this is not always true. But, for the cases where the most recent observations are predictive, aren’t we missing the information from the most recent observations by not using them for training? If so, what are your thoughts on measuring the model performance using one of the time-series cross validation method first but then re-training the entire data for the final model, as Rami suggest?

But, when using the entire data for training, there is the danger of overfitting and, no validation.

Also, let’s say I put aside the last 10% of the time series as a test set for out of sample predictions. Now, the remaining 90% is the total train-validation set. When using a cross-validation method, the validation set (say another 10%) must be also the most recent, chronologically. At maximum, the remaining 80% is all I have for my model training and parameter tuning. After the cross-validation step, I have now a single chosen model with determined hyperparameters. Next, I retrain the entire 90% with this model and have the adjusted new parameters (based on the 90%), but still the model type itself was selected using the first 80% of the data. For example, if I am looking at a 10 year of historical data, my model is selected based on the first 8 years and that makes me wonder as well.

Any thoughts? Thanks.

$\endgroup$

2 Answers 2

5
$\begingroup$

This issue is indeed a bit of a problem in time series forecasting. (And more generally in prediction, if your test sample can be suspected of differing systematically from the training and validation samples.) I would make two points here.

First, whether the most recent data is really "most influential" is very much open to debate, and will depend heavily on your use case. If you are forecasting demand for a new product, yes. (But then you would probably be using specialized models, like the Bass and cross-train them on other products - not choose the model based on a holdout set of the focal time series.) But when my forecast consumers ask me to "put more emphasis on recent observations" or similar, I always push back unless they can provide an actual argument for why the data generating process should have evolved or changed recently. (This prior of mine may reflect that I am working in a very mature industry.)

Second, if there are actual reasons to suppose the DGP has changed, you should indeed treat the time series differently, and not rely on a holdout validation sample. For instance, you might use specialized models, like the Bass mentioned above. Or you might only use the most recent data, consider this a short time series and use an appropriate method. Or take one model fitted to the entire series and another one fitted only to the last observations and take the average of the two forecasts.

Bottom line: you really need to think about the time series you are forecasting. (Or trust in an automatic system and live with potentially lower accuracy - that may well be a rational use of your time.)

$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$

In the train-validate-test paradigm, you start by setting the test data to one side. For a time series history that in a sense only happens once, this is usually the most recent data.

  • The purpose of the (cross-)validation step is model selection and hyperparameter tuning, such as which variables to include with what transformations or what lags to consider or what kind of averaging or smoothing or shrinkage to use. In effect you choose your model by taking a selection of possible models, train each of them on the training set(s) without the corresponding validation set and choose the structure of model that in a sense performs best on the validation set(s). You end up with a single chosen model with determined hyperparameters; this does not stop you training it with new data.

  • You want to assess how well your final model will perform on the as-yet unseen data in your test set, so you train your model on all the training and validation data to give predictions for the test set period, and then compare them to the real test data to estimate how well your model may have predicted the test data. By now it is now too late to change your model apart from training.

  • You can then retrain your model (with the same structure and hyperparameters) on the combined training and validation and testing data for the actual future and hope it performs as well. Once the future has happened, this will provide new test data you will be able to use to compare to the predictions you are making now.

So in this sense you are able to train using the most recent time-series data to make forecasts, but are unable to use it in this paradigm for model selection or hyperparameter tuning, since you needed to make those choices at an earlier stage. This is a price you pay to reduce overfitting.

$\endgroup$
4
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you Henry, I upvoted your response and just edited my question based on your answer. $\endgroup$
    – kutlus
    Jun 7, 2023 at 23:29
  • $\begingroup$ With your edit, you have suggested 10 years of data, keeping the last year for the test data. Depending on your model, you may have several validation sets (year 9 based on years 1-8, year 8 based on years 1-7, year 7 based on years 1-6, etc.) and you can use all these simultaneously for model selection and hyperparameter tuning, so you are in fact using all of the first 9 years' data in model selection. $\endgroup$
    – Henry
    Jun 7, 2023 at 23:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ If you think the world and your variables' relationships have changed during the last year, then perhaps you did not start with 10 years of useful data. $\endgroup$
    – Henry
    Jun 7, 2023 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ 10 years was an example, but I see your point, thanks again for your helpful response. $\endgroup$
    – kutlus
    Jun 8, 2023 at 0:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.