Confidence Intervals for the Area Under the ROC Curve

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 17 (NIPS 2004)

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Corinna Cortes, Mehryar Mohri


In many applications, good ranking is a highly desirable performance for a classifier. The criterion commonly used to measure the ranking quality of a classification algorithm is the area under the ROC curve (AUC). To report it properly, it is crucial to determine an interval of confidence for its value. This paper provides confidence intervals for the AUC based on a statistical and combinatorial analysis using only simple parameters such as the error rate and the number of positive and negative examples. The analysis is distribution-independent, it makes no assumption about the distribution of the scores of negative or positive examples. The results are of practical use and can be viewed as the equivalent for AUC of the standard confidence intervals given in the case of the error rate. They are compared with previous approaches in several standard classification tasks demonstrating the benefits of our analysis.