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Descriptive matrix factorization for sustainability Adopting the principle of opposites


Climate change, the global energy footprint, and strategies for sustainable development have become topics of considerable political and public interest. The public debate is informed by an exponentially growing amount of data and there are diverse partisan interest when it comes to interpretation. We therefore believe that data analysis methods are called for that provide results which are intuitively understandable even to non-experts. Moreover, such methods should be efficient so that non-experts users can perform their own analysis at low expense in order to understand the effects of different parameters and influential factors. In this paper, we discuss a new technique for factorizing data matrices that meets both these requirements. The basic idea is to represent a set of data by means of convex combinations of extreme data points. This often accommodates human cognition. In contrast to established factorization methods, the approach presented in this paper can also determine over-complete bases. At the same time, convex combinations allow for highly efficient matrix factorization. Based on techniques adopted from the field of distance geometry, we derive a linear time algorithm to determine suitable basis vectors for factorization. By means of the example of several environmental and developmental data sets we discuss the performance and characteristics of the proposed approach and validate that significant efficiency gains are obtainable without performance decreases compared to existing convexity constrained approaches.

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Correspondence to Christian Thurau.

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Responsible editor: Katharina Morik, Kanishka Bhaduri and Hillol Kargupta.

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Thurau, C., Kersting, K., Wahabzada, M. et al. Descriptive matrix factorization for sustainability Adopting the principle of opposites. Data Min Knowl Disc 24, 325–354 (2012).

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  • Matrix factorization
  • Convex combinations
  • Distance geometry
  • Large-scale data analysis