Aliasing in a fractional-factorial design means that it is not possible to estimate all effects because the experimental matrix has fewer unique combinations than a full-factorial design. The alias structure defines how effects are combined. When the researcher understands the basics of aliasing, they can better select a design that meets their experimental objectives.

Starting with a layman’s definition of an alias, it is 2 or more names for one thing. Referring to a person, it could be “Fred, also known as (aliased) George”. There is only one person, but they go by two names. As will be shown shortly, in a fractional-factorial design there will be one calculated effect estimate that is assigned multiple names (aliases).

This example (Figure 1) is a 2^3, 8-run factorial design. These 8 runs can be used to estimate all possible factor effects including the main effects A, B, C, followed by the interaction effects AB, AB, BC and ABC. An additional column “I” is the Identity column, representing the intercept for the polynomial.

Aliasing in a fractional-factorial design means that it is not possible to estimate all effects because the experimental matrix has fewer unique combinations than a full-factorial design. The alias structure defines how effects are combined. When the researcher understands the basics of aliasing, they can better select a design that meets their experimental objectives.

Starting with a layman’s definition of an alias, it is 2 or more names for one thing. Referring to a person, it could be “Fred, also known as (aliased) George”. There is only one person, but they go by two names. As will be shown shortly, in a fractional-factorial design there will be one calculated effect estimate that is assigned multiple names (aliases).

This example (Figure 1) is a 2^3, 8-run factorial design. These 8 runs can be used to estimate all possible factor effects including the main effects A, B, C, followed by the interaction effects AB, AB, BC and ABC. An additional column “I” is the Identity column, representing the intercept for the polynomial.

Each column in the full factorial design is a unique set of pluses and minuses, resulting in independent estimates of the factor effects. An effect is calculated by averaging the response values where the factor is set high (+) and subtracting the average response from the rows where the term is set low (-). Mathematically this is written as follows:

In this example the A effect is calculated like this:

The last row in figure 1 shows the calculation result for the other main effects, 2-factor and 3-factor interactions and the Identity column.

In a half-fraction design (Figure 2), only half of the runs are completed. According to standard practice, we eliminate all the runs where the ABC column has a negative sign. Now the columns are not unique – pairs of columns have the identical pattern of pluses and minuses. The effect estimates are confounded (aliased) because they are changing in exactly the same pattern. The A column is the same pattern as the BC column (A=BC). Likewise, B=AC and C=AB. Finally, I=ABC. These paired columns are said to be “aliased” with each other.

In the half-fraction, the effect of A (and likewise BC) is calculated like this:

When the effect calculations are done on the half-fraction, one mathematical calculation represents each pair of terms. They are no longer unique. Software may label the pair only by the first term name, but the effect is really all the real effects combined. The alias structure is written as:

I = ABC

[A] = A+BC

[B] = B+AC

[C] = C+AB

Looking back at the original data, the A effect was -1 and the BC effect was -21.5. When the design is cut in half and the aliasing formed, the new combined effect is:

A+BC = -1 + (-21.5) = -22.5

The aliased effect is the linear combination of the real effects in the system. Aliasing of main effects with two-factor interactions (2FI) is problematic because 2FI’s are fairly likely to be significant in today’s complex systems. If a 2FI is physically present in the system under study, it will bias the main effect calculation. Any system that involves temperature, for instance, is extremely likely to have interactions of other factors with temperature. Therefore, it would be critical to use a design table that has the main effect calculations separated (not aliased) from the 2FI calculations.

What type of fractional-factorial designs are “safe” to use? It depends on the purpose of the experiment. Screening designs are generally run to correctly identify significant main effects. In order to make sure that those main effects are correct (not biased by hidden 2FI’s), the aliasing of the main effects must be with three-factor interactions (3FI) or greater. The alias structure looks something like this (only main effect aliasing shown):

I = ABCD

[A] = A+BCD

[B] = B+ACD

[C] = C+ABD

[D] = D+ABC

If the experimental goal is characterization or optimization, then the aliasing pattern should ensure that both main effects and 2FI’s can be estimated well. These terms should not be aliased with other 2FI’s.

Within Design-Expert or Stat-Ease 360 software, color-coding on the factorial design selection screen provides a visual signal. Here is a guide to the colors, listed from most information to least information:

- White squares – full factorial designs (no aliasing)
- Green squares – good estimates of both main effects and 2FI’s
- Yellow squares – good estimates of main effects, unbiased from 2FI’s in the system
- Red squares – all main effects are biased by any existing 2FI’s (not a good design to properly identify effects, but acceptable to use for process validation where it is assumed there are no effects).

This article was created to provide a brief introduction to the concept of aliasing. To learn more about this topic and how to take advantage of the efficiencies of fractional-factorial designs, enroll in the free eLearning course: How to Save Runs with Fractional-Factorial Designs.

Good luck with your DOE data analysis!

A good predictive model must exhibit overall significance and, ideally, insignificant lack of fit plus high adjusted and predicted R-squared values. Furthermore, to ensure statistical validity (e.g., normality, constant variance) the model’s residuals must pass a series of diagnostic tests (fortunately made easy by Stat-Ease software):

- Normal plot of residuals illustrates a relatively straight line. If you can cover the residuals with a fat pencil, no worries, but watch out for a pronounced S-shaped curve such as Figure 1 exhibits.
- Residuals-versus-predicted plot has points scattered randomly, i.e., demonstrating a constant variance from left to right. Beware of a “megaphone” shape as seen in Figure 2.
- Residuals-versus-run plot exhibiting no trends, shifts or outliers (points outside the red lines such as seen in Figure 3).

When diagnostic plots of residuals do not pass the tests, the first thing you should consider for a remedy is a response transformation, e.g., rescaling the data via a natural log (again made easy by Stat-Ease software). Then re-fit the model and re-check the diagnostic plots. Often you will see improvements in both the statistics and the plots of residuals.

The Box-Cox plot (see Figure 4) makes the choice of transformation very simple. Based on the fitted model, this diagnostic displays a comparable measure of residuals against a range of power transformations, e.g., taking the inverse of all your responses (lambda -1), or squaring them all (lambda 2). Obviously, the lower the residuals the better. However, only go for a transformation if your current responses at the power of 1 (the blue line), fall outside the red-lined confidence interval, such as Figure 4 display. Then, rather than going to the exact-optimal power (green line), select one that will be simpler (and easier to explain)--the log transformation in this case (conveniently recommended by Stat-Ease software).

See the improvement made by the log transformation in the diagnostics (Figures 5, 6 and 7). All good!

In conclusion, before pressing ahead with any model (or abandoning it), always check the residual diagnostics. If you see any strange patterns, consider a response transformation, particularly if advised to do so by the Box-Cox plot. Then confirm the diagnostics after re-fitting the model.

For more details on diagnostics and transformations see How to Use Graphs to Diagnose and Deal with Bad Experimental Data.

Good luck with your modeling!

~ *Shari Kraber, shari@statease.com*

Design of experiments (DOE) and the resulting data analysis yields a prediction equation plus a variety of summary statistics. A set of R-squared values are commonly used to determine the goodness of model fit. In this blog, I peel back the raw versus adjusted versus predicted R-squared and explain how each can be interpreted, along with the relationships between them. The calculations of these values can be easily found online, so I won’t spend time on that, focusing instead on practical interpretations and tips.

Raw R-squared measures the fraction of variation explained by the fitted predictive model. This is a good statistic for comparing models that all have the same number of terms (like comparing models consisting of A+B versus A+C). The downfall of this statistic is that it can be artificially increased simply by adding more terms to the model, even ones that are not statistically significant. For example, notice in Table 1 from an optimization experiment how R-squared increases as the model steps up in order from linear to two-factor interaction (2FI), quadratic and, finally, cubic (disregarding it being aliased).

The “adjusted” R-squared statistic corrects this ‘inflation’ by penalizing terms that do not add statistical value. Thus, the adjusted R-squared statistic generally levels off (at 0.8881 in this case) and then begins to decrease at some point as seen in Table 1 for the cubic model (0.8396). The adjusted R-squared value cannot be inflated by including too many model terms. Therefore, you should report this measure of model fit, not the raw R-squared.

The “predicted” R-squared is most rigorous for assessing model fit, so much so that it often starts off negative at the linear order, as it does for the example in Table 1 (-0.4682). As you can see, this statistic improves greatly as significant terms are added to the model, and quickly decreases once non-significant terms are added, e.g., going negative again at cubic. If predicted R-squared goes negative, the model becomes worse than nothing, that is, simply taking the average of the data (a “mean” model)—that is not good!

Figures 1 illustrates how the predicted R-squared peaks at the quadratic model for the example. Once a model emerges at the highest adjusted and/or predicted R-squared, consider taking out any insignificant terms—best done with the aid of a computerized reduction algorithm. This often produces a big increase in the predicted R-squared.

**Conclusion**

The goal of modeling data is to correctly identify the terms that explain the relationship between the factors and the response. Use the adjusted R-squared and predicted R-squared values to evaluate how well the model is working, not the raw R-squared.

PS: You’ve likely been reading this expecting to find recommended adjusted and predicted R-squared values. I will not be providing this. Higher values indicate that more variation in the data or in predictions is explained by the model. How you use the model dictates the threshold that is acceptable to you. If the DOE goal is screening, low values can be acceptable. Remember that low R-squared values do not invalidate significant p-values. In other words, if you discover factors that have strong effects on the response, that is positive information, even if the model doesn’t predict well. A low predicted R-squared means that there is more unexplained variation in the system, and you have more work to do!

Quite often, when providing statistical help for Stat-Ease software users, our consulting team sees an over-selection of effects from two-level factorial experiments. Generally, the line gets crossed when picking three-factor interactions (3FI), as I documented in the lead article for the June 2007 *Stat-Teaser*. In this case, the experimenter picked all the estimable effects when only one main effect (factor B) really stood out on the Pareto plot. Check it out!

In my experience, the true 3FIs emerge only when one of the variables is categorical with a very strong contrast. For example, early in my career as an R&D chemical engineer with General Mills, I developed a continuous process for hydrogenating a vegetable oil. By cranking up the pressure and temperature and using an expensive, noble-metal catalyst (palladium on a fixed bed of carbon), this new approach increased the throughput tremendously over the old batch process, which deployed powered nickel to facilitate the reaction. When setting up my factorial experiment, our engineering team knew better than to make the type of reactor one of the inputs, because being so different, this would generate many complications of time-temperature interactions differing from on process to the other. In cases like this, you are far better off doing separate optimizations and then seeing which process wins out in the end. (Unfortunately for me, I lost this battle due to the color bodies in the oil poisoning my costly catalyst.)

A response must really behave radically to require a 3FI for modeling as illustrated hypothetically in Figures 1 versus 2 for two factors—catalyst level (B) and temperature (D)—as a function of a third variable (E)—the atmosphere in the reactor.

**Figures 1 & 2: 3FI (BDE) surface with atmosphere of nitrogen vs air (Factor E at low & high levels)**

These surfaces ‘flip-flop’ completely like a bird in flight. Although factor E being categorical does lead to a strong possibility of complex behavior from this experiment, the dramatic shift caused by it changing from one level to the other would be highly unusual by my reckoning.

It turns out that there is a middle ground with factorial models that obviates the need for third-order terms: Multiple two-factor interactions (2FIs) that share common factors. The actual predictive model, derived from a case study we present in our Modern DOE for Process Optimization workshop, is:

Yield = 63.38 + 9.88*B + 5.25*D − 3.00*E + 6.75*BD − 5.38*DE

Notice that this equation features two 2FIs, BD and DE, that share a common factor (D). This causes the dynamic behavior shown in Figures 3 and 4 without the need for 3FI terms.

**Figure 3 & 4: 2FI surface (BD) for atmosphere of nitrogen vs air (Factor E at low & high levels)**

This simpler model sufficed to see that it would be best to blanket the batch reactor with nitrogen, that is, do not leave the hatch open to the air—a happy ending.

**Conclusion**

If it seems from graphical or other methods of effect selection that 3FI(s) should be included in your factorial model, be on guard for:

- Over-selection of effects (my first case)
- The need for a transformation (such as log): Be sure to check the Box-Cox plot (always!).
- Outlier(s) in your response (look over the diagnostic plots, especially the residual versus run).
- A combination of these and other issues—ask stathelp@statease.com for guidance if you use Stat-Ease software (send in the file, please).

I never say “never”, so if you really do find a 3FI, get back to me directly.

-Mark (mark@statease.com)

Stat-Ease is hosting an amazing group of speakers for the 2021 Online DOE Summit. Taking place on September 28 & 29, this conference will be accessible to technical professionals around the globe. Register to attend the live in-person sessions via GotoWebinar, or plan to watch the on-demand recordings after the conference. Registration is free of charge.

Here is the line-up:

Hour 1: (Keynote) Martin Bezener (President & Chief Technical Officer, Stat-Ease)

**Stat-Ease 360 Reveal**

Hour 2: Gregory Hutto (Wing Operations Analyst, US Air Force)

**The Tooth Fairy in Experimental Design: White Lies We Tell Our Software**

Hour 3: Drew Landman (Professor & Associate Chair, Dept of Mech & Aero Engr, Old Dominion University)

**An I-Optimal Split-Plot Design for eVTOL Tilt-Rotor Performance Characterization**

Hour 4: Jason Pandolfo (Research Scientist, Quaker Chemical)

**Using Logistic Regression to Predict the Stability of Metalworking Fluid Emulsions in Varying Water Quality Conditions**

Hour 1: (Keynote) Hank Anderson (VP Software Development, Stat-Ease)

**Python Integration with Stat-Ease 360 - A Tutorial**

Hour 2: Oliver Thunich (Statistics Consultant, STATCON GmbH)

**Adjusting a DOE to Unpredictable Circumstances**

Hour 3: Steven Mullen (Senior Scientist, Cook Medical)

**Improving Process Understanding of an IVF Cell Culture Incubator via Response Surface Methodology**

Hour 4: Gregory Perrine (Research Scientist, Georgia-Pacific)

**Debonder Formulation Optimization Using a KCV Mixture/Process Design in Paper Handsheets**

*We look forward to seeing you!*

Please send any questions to Shari@statease.com.