Latent likelihood ratio tests for assessing spatial kernels in epidemic models

David Thong, George Streftaris, Gavin Jarvis Gibson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
55 Downloads (Pure)


One of the most important issues in the critical assessment of spatio-temporal stochastic models for epidemics is the selection of the transmission kernel used to represent the relationship between infectious challenge and spatial separation of infected and susceptible hosts. As the design of control strategies is often based on an assessment of the distance over which transmission can realistically occur and estimation of this distance is very sensitive to the choice of kernel function, it is important that models used to inform control strategies can be scrutinised in the light of observation in order to elicit possible evidence against the selected kernel function. While a range of approaches to model criticism is in existence, the field remains one in which the need for further research is recognised. In this paper, building on earlier contributions by the authors, we introduce a new approach to assessing the validity of spatial kernels—the latent likelihood ratio tests—which use likelihood-based discrepancy variables that can be used to compare the fit of competing models, and compare the capacity of this approach to detect model mis-specification with that of tests based on the use of infection-link residuals. We demonstrate that the new approach can be used to formulate tests with greater power than infection-link residuals to detect kernel mis-specification particularly when the degree of mis-specification is modest. This new tests avoid the use of a fully Bayesian approach which may introduce undesirable complications related to computational complexity and prior sensitivity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)853-873
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Mathematical Biology
Issue number3
Early online date5 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • Bayesian inference
  • Latent likelihood ratio tests
  • Latent processes
  • Spatio-temporal epidemic models

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Mathematics


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