Estimating Omissions from Searches

Estimating Omissions from Searches

Estimating Omissions from Searches 150 150 Mathew

Estimating Omissions from Searches

The mark-recapture method was devised by Petersen in 1896 to estimate the number of fish migrating into the Limfjord, and independently by Lincoln in 1930 to estimate waterfowl abundance. The technique can be applied to any search for a finite number of items by two or more people or agents, allowing the number of searched-for items to be estimated. This ubiquitous problem appears in fields from ecology and epidemiology, through to mathematics, social sciences, and computing. Here we exactly calculate the moments of the hypergeometric distribution associated with this long standing problem, confirming that widely used estimates conjectured in 1951 are often too small. Our Bayesian approach highlights how different search strategies will modify the estimates. The estimates are applied to several examples. For some published applications substantial errors are found to result from using the Chapman or Lincoln-Petersen estimates.

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01/06/2013