DS07 - Société de l'information et de la communication

Data integration and cleaning for statistical analysis – DirtyData

Submission summary

Machine learning has inspired new markets and applications by extracting new insights from complex and noisy data. However, to perform such analyses, the most costly step is often to prepare the data. It entails correcting errors and inconsistencies as well as transforming the data into a single matrix-shaped table that comprises all interesting descriptors for all observations to study. Indeed, the data often results from merging multiple sources of informations with different conventions. Different data tables may come without names on the columns, with missing data, or with input errors such as typos. As a result, the data cannot be automatically shaped into a matrix for statistical analysis.

This proposal aims to drastically reduce the cost of data preparation by integrating it directly into the statistical analysis. Our key insight is that machine learning itself deals well with noise and errors. Hence, we aim to develop the methodology to do statistical analysis directly on the original dirty data. For this, the operations currently done to clean data before the analysis must be adapted to a statistical framework that captures errors and inconsistencies. Our research agenda is inspired from the data-integration state of the art in database research combined with statistical modeling and regularization from machine learning.

Data integrating and cleaning is traditionally performed in databases by finding fuzzy matches or overlaps and applying transformation rules and joins. To incorporate it in the statistical analysis, an thus propagate uncertainties, we want to revisit those logical and set operations with statistical-learning tools. A challenge is to turn the entities present in the data into representations well-suited for statistical learning that are robust to potential errors but do not wash out uncertainty.

Prior art developed in databases is mostly based on first-order logic and sets. Our project strives to capture errors in the input of the entries. Hence we formulate operations in terms of similarities. We address typing entries, deduplication -finding different forms of the same entity- building joins across dirty tables, and correcting errors and missing data.

Our goal is that these steps should be generic enough to digest directly dirty data without user-defined rules. Indeed, they never try to build a fully clean view of the data, which is something very hard, but rather include in the statistical analysis errors and ambiguities in the data.

The methods developed will be empirically evaluated on a variety of dataset, including the French public-data repository, data.gouv.fr. The consortium comprises a company specialized in data integration, Data Publica, that guides business strategies by cross-analyzing public data with market-specific data.

Project coordination

Gael Varoquaux (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Laboratoire de l'accélérateur linéaire
LTCI-Télécom ParisTech Institut Mines-Télécom
Inria Saclay - Ile-de-France - équipe PARIETAL Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique

Help of the ANR 498,562 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: November 2017 - 48 Months

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