Bayesian model selection applied to artificial neural networks used for water resources modeling

Greer B. Kingston, Holger R. Maier, Martin F. Lambert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Artificial neural networks (ANNs) have proven to be extremely valuable tools in the field of water resources engineering. However, one of the most difficult tasks in developing an ANN is determining the optimum level of complexity required to model a given problem, as there is no formal systematic model selection method. This paper presents a Bayesian model selection (BMS) method for ANNs that provides an objective approach for comparing models of varying complexity in order to select the most appropriate ANN structure. The approach uses Markov Chain Monte Carlo posterior simulations to estimate the evidence in favor of competing models and, in this study, three known methods for doing this are compared in terms of their suitability for being incorporated into the proposed BMS framework for ANNs. However, it is acknowledged that it can be particularly difficult to accurately estimate the evidence of ANN models. Therefore, the proposed BMS approach for ANNs incorporates a further check of the evidence results by inspecting the marginal posterior distributions of the hidden-to-output layer weights, which unambiguously indicate any redundancies in the hidden layer nodes. The fact that this check is available is one of the greatest advantages of the proposed approach over conventional model selection methods, which do not provide such a test and instead rely on the modeler's subjective choice of selection criterion. The advantages of a total Bayesian approach to ANN development, including training and model selection, are demonstrated on two synthetic and one real world water resources case study.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberW04419
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Apr 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

Cite this