A note on variance estimation in random effects meta-regression

Kurex Sidik, Jeffrey N Jonkman
Journal of Biopharmaceutical Statistics 2005, 15 (5): 823-38
For random effects meta-regression inference, variance estimation for the parameter estimates is discussed. Because estimated weights are used for meta-regression analysis in practice, the assumed or estimated covariance matrix used in meta-regression is not strictly correct, due to possible errors in estimating the weights. Therefore, this note investigates the use of a robust variance estimation approach for obtaining variances of the parameter estimates in random effects meta-regression inference. This method treats the assumed covariance matrix of the effect measure variables as a working covariance matrix. Using an example of meta-analysis data from clinical trials of a vaccine, the robust variance estimation approach is illustrated in comparison with two other methods of variance estimation. A simulation study is presented, comparing the three methods of variance estimation in terms of bias and coverage probability. We find that, despite the seeming suitability of the robust estimator for random effects meta-regression, the improved variance estimator of Knapp and Hartung (2003) yields the best performance among the three estimators, and thus may provide the best protection against errors in the estimated weights.


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