Journal of Classification

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 144–169 | Cite as

Dealing with Distances and Transformations for Fuzzy C-Means Clustering of Compositional Data

  • Javier Palarea-Albaladejo
  • Josep Antoni Martín-Fernández
  • Jesús A. Soto


Clustering techniques are based upon a dissimilarity or distance measure between objects and clusters. This paper focuses on the simplex space, whose elements—compositions—are subject to non-negativity and constant-sum constraints. Any data analysis involving compositions should fulfill two main principles: scale invariance and subcompositional coherence. Among fuzzy clustering methods, the FCM algorithm is broadly applied in a variety of fields, but it is not well-behaved when dealing with compositions. Here, the adequacy of different dissimilarities in the simplex, together with the behavior of the common log-ratio transformations, is discussed in the basis of compositional principles. As a result, a well-founded strategy for FCM clustering of compositions is suggested. Theoretical findings are accompanied by numerical evidence, and a detailed account of our proposal is provided. Finally, a case study is illustrated using a nutritional data set known in the clustering literature.


Fuzzy clustering FCM Compositional data Closed data Simplex space Aitchison distance 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Javier Palarea-Albaladejo
    • 1
  • Josep Antoni Martín-Fernández
    • 2
  • Jesús A. Soto
    • 3
  1. 1.Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, JCMBEdinburghUK
  2. 2.Universitat de GironaGironaSpain
  3. 3.Universidad Católica San AntonioMurciaSpain

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