Rediscovery rate estimation for assessing the validation of significant findings in high-throughput studies

Brief Bioinform. 2015 Jul;16(4):563-75. doi: 10.1093/bib/bbu033. Epub 2014 Sep 24.


It is common and advised practice in biomedical research to validate experimental or observational findings in a population different from the one where the findings were initially assessed. This practice increases the generalizability of the results and decreases the likelihood of reporting false-positive findings. Validation becomes critical when dealing with high-throughput experiments, where the large number of tests increases the chance to observe false-positive results. In this article, we review common approaches to determine statistical thresholds for validation and describe the factors influencing the proportion of significant findings from a 'training' sample that are replicated in a 'validation' sample. We refer to this proportion as rediscovery rate (RDR). In high-throughput studies, the RDR is a function of false-positive rate and power in both the training and validation samples. We illustrate the application of the RDR using simulated data and real data examples from metabolomics experiments. We further describe an online tool to calculate the RDR using t-statistics. We foresee two main applications. First, if the validation study has not yet been collected, the RDR can be used to decide the optimal combination between the proportion of findings taken to validation and the size of the validation study. Secondly, if a validation study has already been done, the RDR estimated using the training data can be compared with the observed RDR from the validation data; hence, the success of the validation study can be assessed.

Keywords: false discovery rate; metabolomics; multiple testing; rediscovery rate; statistical validation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Genes
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / standards*
  • Sample Size
  • Software