We consider the case that the data comes in sequentially and can be viewed as sample of independent and identically distributed observations from a fixed data generating distribution. The goal is to estimate a particular path wise target parameter of this data generating distribution that is known to be an element of a particular semi-parametric statistical model. We want our estimator to be asymptotically efficient, but we also want that our estimator can be calculated by updating the current estimator based on the new block of data without having to revisit the past data, so that it is computationally much faster to compute than recomputing a fixed estimator each time new data comes in. We refer to such an estimator as an online estimator. These online estimators can also be applied on a large fixed data base by dividing the data set in many subsets and enforcing an ordering of these subsets. The current literature provides such online estimators for parametric models, where the online estimators are based on variations of the stochastic gradient descent algorithm.
For that purpose we propose a new online one-step estimator, which is proven to be asymptotically efficient under regularity conditions. This estimator takes as input online estimators of the relevant part of the data generating distribution and the nuisance parameter that are required for efficient estimation of the target parameter. These estimators could be an online stochastic gradient descent estimator based on large parametric models as developed in the current literature, but we also propose other online data adaptive estimators that do not rely on the specification of a particular parametric model.
We also present a targeted version of this online one-step estimator that presumably minimizes the one-step correction and thereby might be more robust in finite samples. These online one-step estimators are not a substitution estimator and might therefore be unstable for finite samples if the target parameter is borderline identifiable.
Therefore we also develop an online targeted minimum loss-based estimator, which updates the initial estimator of the relevant part of the data generating distribution by updating the current initial estimator with the new block of data, and estimates the target parameter with the corresponding plug-in estimator. The online substitution estimator is also proven to be asymptotically efficient under the same regularity conditions required for asymptotic normality of the online one-step estimator.
The online one-step estimator, targeted online one-step estimator, and online TMLE is demonstrated for estimation of a causal effect of a binary treatment on an outcome based on a dynamic data base that gets regularly updated, a common scenario for the analysis of electronic medical record data bases.
Finally, we extend these online estimators to a group sequential adaptive design in which certain components of the data generating experiment are continuously fine-tuned based on past data, and the new data generating distribution is then used to generate the next block of data.
van der Laan, Mark J. and Lendle, Samuel D., "Online Targeted Learning" (September 2014). U.C. Berkeley Division of Biostatistics Working Paper Series. Working Paper 330.