Negative Binomial Loglinear Mixed Model

ADMB Files
Code: nbmm.tpl
NOTE: This model does not compile under the current demo version of ADMB-RE, but will do with the next version.

Data: nbmm.dat
Initial values:
All required files (DOS):
Results: nbmm.par

Running ADMB-executables
In a DOS window
Under linux

Calling ADMB-RE from R
AD model Builder has existed for years as a program to produce stand alone executables on Winows and Linux. Modifying it to seamlessly produce shared libraries for R can be expected to produce a few wrinkles so please be patient and give us feedback.

To run the examples in R you need to download (and source into R) the file glmmadmb.s which defines the driver function glmm.admb() and a modified versions "epil2" of the epil-dataset from MASS. You also need to download the library file (nbmm.dll if you run Windows, or if you run Linux) and save it in the directory where you run R.

You should note that the ADMB-RE executables create temporary files (sometimes large), so you should probably start R in a specially dedicated directory.

Standard deviations of parameter estimates can be found in the file "nbmm.std"

ADMB-RE home
Otter Research

Model description

The negative binomial distribution can be used instead of the Poisson distribution to investigate whether there is overdispersion in the data, that is whether the variance of the observations is greater than that which would be expected for a Poisson distribution. Parameter estimation for such models is generally claimed to be difficult. See for example R-help the mailing list archives of the statistical modeling language R. The data used in this example are the epilepsy data considered in Venables and Ripley Modern applied statics with S 4th edition. and by Booth et al. Negative Binomial Loglinear Mixed Models.

Implementation in ADMB-RE callable from R

We coded up the model in ADMB-RE (nbmm.tpl) with flexible linear predictors for both fixed and random effects. The program was then compiled into a DLL that can be called from R via the R-function glmm.admb(). Examples of how to use this function are given below. Currently glmm.admb() only allows negative binomial, but implementing other distributions like Bernoulli and Poisson is just a question of adding a few lines of code to nbmm.tpl.

Comparison with SAS NLMIXED

Booth et al. attempt to fit two negative binomial loglinear mixed models to the data. They refer to these models as the full model and a simpler model. For the full model they report:

The fit of the full negative binomial model using NLMIXED was very unstable. Different starting values led to different estimates and very different standard errors.

Booth et al also apply a Monte Carlo EM algorithm (MCEM) to the full model and report:

Application of the MCEM algorithm in this problem suggest that the random slope is 0. The MCEM algorithm was run for a large number of iterations with all of the estimates except for slope variance and the covariance converging quickly. These latter two estimates appear to be slowly converging toward 0.

The full model of Booth et al. is specified as:


This model converges quickly (30 seconds), with the ML estimate of the variance of the random slope being equal to zero (or extremely small), and as a consequence of this there is very little information about the correlation parameter (between the random intercept and the slope). The standard eviations of the parameter estimates including those of the random effects are found in the file nbmm.std. We also fitted the simpler model of Booth et al.:


This model converged quickly (15 seconds) to the ML estimates. We used different starting values to investigate the stability of the model and found that it converged to the same values each time (provided that the chosen initial values exceeded a minimum level of overdispersion). Thus it appears that the performance of ADMB-RE is superior to SAS NLMIXED for this problem.