Surveys such as the North American Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) produce large collections of parameter estimates. One's natural inclination when confronted with lists of parameter estimates is to look for the extreme values: in the BBS, these correspond to the species that appear to have the greatest changes in population size through time. Unfortunately, extreme estimates are liable to correspond to the most poorly estimated parameters. Consequently, the most extreme parameters may not match up with the most extreme parameter estimates. The ranking of parameter values on the basis of their estimates are a difficult statistical problem. We use data from the BBS and simulations to illustrate the potential misleading effects of sampling variation in rankings of parameters. We describe empirical Bayes and constrained empirical Bayes procedures which provide partial solutions to the problem of ranking in the presence of sampling variation.
Additional publication details
Extremes in ecology: Avoiding the misleading effects of sampling variation in summary analyses