Estimating the number of clusters using cross-validation

2019-07-24T15:59:14Z (GMT) by Wei Fu Patrick O. Perry

Many clustering methods, including k-means, require the user to specify the number of clusters as an input parameter. A variety of methods have been devised to choose the number of clusters automatically, but they often rely on strong modeling assumptions. This paper proposes a data-driven approach to estimate the number of clusters based on a novel form of cross-validation. The proposed method differs from ordinary cross-validation, because clustering is fundamentally an unsupervised learning problem. Simulation and real data analysis results show that the proposed method outperforms existing methods, especially in high-dimensional settings with heterogeneous or heavy-tailed noise. In a yeast cell cycle dataset, the proposed method finds a parsimonious clustering with interpretable gene groupings.