Summary
In statistics, a nuisance parameter is any parameter which is unspecified but which must be accounted for in the hypothesis testing of the parameters which are of interest. The classic example of a nuisance parameter comes from the normal distribution, a member of the location–scale family. For at least one normal distribution, the variance(s), σ2 is often not specified or known, but one desires to hypothesis test on the mean(s). Another example might be linear regression with unknown variance in the explanatory variable (the independent variable): its variance is a nuisance parameter that must be accounted for to derive an accurate interval estimate of the regression slope, calculate p-values, hypothesis test on the slope's value; see regression dilution. Nuisance parameters are often scale parameters, but not always; for example in errors-in-variables models, the unknown true location of each observation is a nuisance parameter. A parameter may also cease to be a "nuisance" if it becomes the object of study, is estimated from data, or known. The general treatment of nuisance parameters can be broadly similar between frequentist and Bayesian approaches to theoretical statistics. It relies on an attempt to partition the likelihood function into components representing information about the parameters of interest and information about the other (nuisance) parameters. This can involve ideas about sufficient statistics and ancillary statistics. When this partition can be achieved it may be possible to complete a Bayesian analysis for the parameters of interest by determining their joint posterior distribution algebraically. The partition allows frequentist theory to develop general estimation approaches in the presence of nuisance parameters. If the partition cannot be achieved it may still be possible to make use of an approximate partition. In some special cases, it is possible to formulate methods that circumvent the presences of nuisance parameters.
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