Background: As more and more researchers are turning to big data for new opportunities of biomedical discoveries, machine learning models, as the backbone of big data analysis, are mentioned more often in biomedical journals. However, owing to the inherent complexity of machine learning methods, they are prone to misuse. Because of the flexibility in specifying machine learning models, the results are often insufficiently reported in research articles, hindering reliable assessment of model validity and consistent interpretation of model outputs. Objective: To attain a set of guidelines on the use of machine learning predictive models within clinical settings to make sure the models are correctly applied and sufficiently reported so that true discoveries can be distinguished from random coincidence. Methods: A multidisciplinary panel of machine learning experts, clinicians, and traditional statisticians were interviewed, using an iterative process in accordance with the Delphi method. Results: The process produced a set of guidelines that consists of (1) a list of reporting items to be included in a research article and (2) a set of practical sequential steps for developing predictive models. Conclusions: A set of guidelines was generated to enable correct application of machine learning models and consistent reporting of model specifications and results in biomedical research. We believe that such guidelines will accelerate the adoption of big data analysis, particularly with machine learning methods, in the biomedical research community.
- Clinical prediction rule
- Machine learning