This vignette covers the intricacies of transformations and link functions in **emmeans**.

Consider the same example with the `pigs`

dataset that is used in many of these vignettes:

`pigs.lm <- lm(log(conc) ~ source + factor(percent), data = pigs)`

This model has two factors, `source`

and `percent`

(coerced to a factor), as predictors; and log-transformed `conc`

as the response. Here we obtain the EMMs for `source`

, examine its structure, and finally produce a summary, including a test against a null value of log(35):

```
pigs.emm.s <- emmeans(pigs.lm, "source")
str(pigs.emm.s)
```

```
## 'emmGrid' object with variables:
## source = fish, soy, skim
## Transformation: "log"
```

`summary(pigs.emm.s, infer = TRUE, null = log(35))`

```
## source emmean SE df lower.CL upper.CL null t.ratio p.value
## fish 3.39 0.0367 23 3.32 3.47 3.56 -4.385 0.0002
## soy 3.67 0.0374 23 3.59 3.74 3.56 2.988 0.0066
## skim 3.80 0.0394 23 3.72 3.88 3.56 6.130 <.0001
##
## Results are averaged over the levels of: percent
## Results are given on the log (not the response) scale.
## Confidence level used: 0.95
```

Now suppose that we want the EMMs expressed on the same scale as `conc`

. This can be done by adding `type = "response"`

to the `summary()`

call:

`summary(pigs.emm.s, infer = TRUE, null = log(35), type = "response")`

```
## source response SE df lower.CL upper.CL null t.ratio p.value
## fish 29.8 1.09 23 27.6 32.1 35 -4.385 0.0002
## soy 39.1 1.47 23 36.2 42.3 35 2.988 0.0066
## skim 44.6 1.75 23 41.1 48.3 35 6.130 <.0001
##
## Results are averaged over the levels of: percent
## Confidence level used: 0.95
## Intervals are back-transformed from the log scale
## Tests are performed on the log scale
```

Dealing with transformations in **emmeans** is somewhat complex, due to the large number of possibilities. But the key is understanding what happens, when. These results come from a sequence of steps. Here is what happens (and doesn’t happen) at each step:

- The reference grid is constructed for the
`log(conc)`

model. The fact that a log transformation is used is recorded, but nothing else is done with that information. - The predictions on the reference grid are averaged over the four
`percent`

levels, for each`source`

, to obtain the EMMs for`source`

–*still*on the`log(conc)`

scale. - The standard errors and confidence intervals for these EMMs are computed –
*still*on the`log(conc)`

scale. - Only now do we do back-transformation…
- The EMMs are back-transformed to the
`conc`

scale. - The endpoints of the confidence intervals are back-transformed.
- The
*t*tests and*P*values are left as-is. - The standard errors are converted to the
`conc`

scale using the delta method. These SEs were*not*used in constructing the tests and confidence intervals.

- The EMMs are back-transformed to the

This choice of timing is based on the idea that *the model is right*. In particular, the fact that the response is transformed suggests that the transformed scale is the best scale to be working with. In addition, the model specifies that the effects of `source`

and `percent`

are *linear* on the transformed scale; inasmuch as marginal averaging to obtain EMMs is a linear operation, that averaging is best done on the transformed scale. For those two good reasons, back-transforming to the response scale is delayed until the very end by default.

As well-advised as it is, some users may not want the default timing of things. The tool for changing when back-transformation is performed is the `regrid()`

function – which, with default settings of its arguments, back-transforms an `emmGrid`

object and adjusts everything in it appropriately. For example:

`str(regrid(pigs.emm.s))`

```
## 'emmGrid' object with variables:
## source = fish, soy, skim
```

`summary(regrid(pigs.emm.s), infer = TRUE, null = 35)`

```
## source response SE df lower.CL upper.CL null t.ratio p.value
## fish 29.8 1.09 23 27.5 32.1 35 -4.758 0.0001
## soy 39.1 1.47 23 36.1 42.2 35 2.827 0.0096
## skim 44.6 1.75 23 40.9 48.2 35 5.446 <.0001
##
## Results are averaged over the levels of: percent
## Confidence level used: 0.95
```

Notice that the structure no longer includes the transformation. That’s because it is no longer relevant; the reference grid is on the `conc`

scale, and how we got there is now forgotten. Compare this `summary()`

result with the preceding one, and note the following:

- It no longer has annotations concerning transformations.
- The estimates and SEs are identical.
- The confidence intervals,
*t*ratios, and*P*values are*not*identical. This is because, this time, the SEs shown in the table are the ones actually used to construct the tests and intervals.

Understood, right? But think carefully about how these EMMs were obtained. They are back-transformed from `pigs.emm.s`

, in which *the marginal averaging was done on the log scale*. If we want to back-transform *before* doing the averaging, we need to call `regrid()`

after the reference grid is constructed but before the averaging takes place:

```
pigs.rg <- ref_grid(pigs.lm)
pigs.remm.s <- emmeans(regrid(pigs.rg), "source")
summary(pigs.remm.s, infer = TRUE, null = 35)
```

```
## source response SE df lower.CL upper.CL null t.ratio p.value
## fish 30.0 1.10 23 27.7 32.2 35 -4.585 0.0001
## soy 39.4 1.49 23 36.3 42.5 35 2.927 0.0076
## skim 44.8 1.79 23 41.1 48.5 35 5.486 <.0001
##
## Results are averaged over the levels of: percent
## Confidence level used: 0.95
```

These results all differ from either of the previous two summaries – again, because the averaging is done on the `conc`

scale rather than the `log(conc)`

scale.

Note: For those who want to routinely back-transform before averaging, the `transform`

argument in `ref_grid()`

simplifies this. The first two steps above could have been done more easily as follows:

`pigs.remm.s <- emmeans(pigs.lm, "source", transform = "response")`

But don’t get `transform`

and `type`

confused. The `transform`

argument is passed to `regrid()`

after the reference grid is constructed, whereas the `type`

argument is simply remembered and used by `summary()`

. So a similar-looking call:

`emmeans(pigs.lm, "source", type = "response")`

will compute the results we have seen for `pigs.emm.s`

– back-transformed *after* averaging on the log scale.

Remember again: When it comes to transformations, timing is everything.

Exactly the same ideas we have presented for response transformations apply to generalized linear models having non-identity link functions. As far as **emmeans** is concerned, there is no difference at all.

To illustrate, consider the `neuralgia`

dataset provided in the package. These data come from an experiment reported in a SAS technical report where different treatments for neuralgia are compared. The patient’s sex is an additional factor, and their age is a covariate. The response is `Pain`

, a binary variable on whether or not the patient reports neuralgia pain after treatment. The model suggested in the SAS report is equivalent to the following. We use it to obtain estimated probabilities of experiencing pain:

```
neuralgia.glm <- glm(Pain ~ Treatment * Sex + Age, family = binomial(), data = neuralgia)
neuralgia.emm <- emmeans(neuralgia.glm, "Treatment", type = "response")
```

`## NOTE: Results may be misleading due to involvement in interactions`

`neuralgia.emm`

```
## Treatment prob SE df asymp.LCL asymp.UCL
## A 0.211 0.1109 Inf 0.0675 0.497
## B 0.121 0.0835 Inf 0.0285 0.391
## P 0.866 0.0883 Inf 0.5927 0.966
##
## Results are averaged over the levels of: Sex
## Confidence level used: 0.95
## Intervals are back-transformed from the logit scale
```

(The note about the interaction is discussed shortly.) Note that the averaging over `Sex`

is done on the logit scale, *before* the results are back-transformed for the summary. We may use `pairs()`

to compare these estimates; note that logits are logs of odds; so this is another instance where log-differences are back-transformed – in this case to odds ratios:

`pairs(neuralgia.emm, reverse = TRUE)`

```
## contrast odds.ratio SE df z.ratio p.value
## B / A 0.513 0.515 Inf -0.665 0.7837
## P / A 24.234 25.142 Inf 3.073 0.0060
## P / B 47.213 57.242 Inf 3.179 0.0042
##
## Results are averaged over the levels of: Sex
## P value adjustment: tukey method for comparing a family of 3 estimates
## Tests are performed on the log odds ratio scale
```

So there is evidence of considerably more pain being reported with placebo (treatment `P`

) than with either of the other two treatments. The estimated odds of pain with `B`

are about half that for `A`

, but this finding is not statistically significant. (The odds that this is a made-up dataset seem quite high, but that finding is strictly this author’s impression.)

Observe that there is a note in the output for `neuralgia.emm`

that the results may be misleading. It is important to take it seriously, because if two factors interact, it may be the case that marginal averages of predictions don’t reflect what is happening at any level of the factors being averaged over. To find out, look at an interaction plot of the fitted model:

`emmip(neuralgia.glm, Sex ~ Treatment)`

There is no practical difference between females and males in the patterns of response to `Treatment`

; so I think most people would be quite comfortable with the marginal results that are reported earlier.

It is possible to have a generalized linear model with a non-identity link *and* a response transformation. Here is an example, with the built-in `wapbreaks`

dataset:

```
warp.glm <- glm(sqrt(breaks) ~ wool*tension, family = Gamma, data = warpbreaks)
ref_grid(warp.glm)
```

```
## 'emmGrid' object with variables:
## wool = A, B
## tension = L, M, H
## Transformation: "inverse"
## Additional response transformation: "sqrt"
```

The canonical link for a gamma model is the reciprocal (or inverse); and there is the square-root response transformation besides. If we choose `type = "response"`

in summarizing, we undo *both* transformations:

`emmeans(warp.glm, ~ tension | wool, type = "response")`

```
## wool = A:
## tension response SE df asymp.LCL asymp.UCL
## L 42.9 5.24 Inf 33.2 53.7
## M 23.3 2.85 Inf 18.0 29.2
## H 23.6 2.88 Inf 18.3 29.6
##
## wool = B:
## tension response SE df asymp.LCL asymp.UCL
## L 27.4 3.35 Inf 21.3 34.4
## M 28.1 3.43 Inf 21.8 35.2
## H 18.5 2.26 Inf 14.3 23.2
##
## Confidence level used: 0.95
## Intervals are back-transformed from the sqrt scale
```

What happened here is first the linear predictor was back-transformed from the link scale (inverse); then the squares were obtained to back-transform the rest of the way. It is possible to undo the link, and not the response transformation:

`emmeans(warp.glm, ~ tension | wool, type = "unlink")`

```
## wool = A:
## tension response SE df asymp.LCL asymp.UCL
## L 6.55 0.400 Inf 5.85 7.44
## M 4.83 0.295 Inf 4.31 5.48
## H 4.86 0.297 Inf 4.34 5.52
##
## wool = B:
## tension response SE df asymp.LCL asymp.UCL
## L 5.24 0.320 Inf 4.68 5.95
## M 5.30 0.324 Inf 4.73 6.02
## H 4.30 0.263 Inf 3.84 4.89
##
## Confidence level used: 0.95
## Intervals are back-transformed from the inverse scale
```

It is *not* possible to undo the response transformation and leave the link in place, because the response was transform first, then the link model was applied; we have to undo those in reverse order to make sense.

One may also use `"unlink"`

as a `transform`

argument in `regrid()`

or through `ref_grid()`

.

The `make.tran()`

function provides several special transformations and sets things up so they can be handled in **emmeans** with relative ease. (See `help("make.tran", "emmeans")`

for descriptions of what is available.) `make.tran()`

works much like `stats::make.link()`

in that it returns a list of functions `linkfun()`

, `linkinv()`

, etc. that serve in managing results on a transformed scale. The difference is that most transformations with `make.tran()`

require additional arguments.

To use this capability in `emmeans()`

, it is fortuitous to first obtain the `make.tran()`

result, and then to use it as the enclosing environment for fitting the model, with `linkfun`

as the transformation. For example, suppose the response variable is a percentage and we want to use the response transformation \(\sin^{-1}\sqrt{y/100}\). Then proceed like this:

```
tran <- make.tran("asin.sqrt", 100)
my.model <- with(tran,
lmer(linkfun(percent) ~ treatment + (1|Block), data = mydata))
```

Subsequent calls to `ref_grid()`

, `emmeans()`

, `regrid()`

, etc. will then be able to access the transformation information correctly.

The help page for `make.tran()`

has an example like this using a Box-Cox transformation.

It is not at all uncommon to fit a model using statements like the following:

```
mydata <- transform(mydata, logy.5 = log(yield + 0.5))
my.model <- lmer(logy.5 ~ treatment + (1|Block), data = mydata)
```

In this case, there is no way for `ref_grid()`

to figure out that a response transformation was used. What can be done is to update the reference grid with the required information:

`my.rg <- update(ref_grid(my.model), tran = make.tran("genlog", .5))`

Subsequently, use `my.rg`

in place of `my.mnodel`

in any `emmeans()`

analyses, and the transformation information will be there.

For standard transformations (those in `stats::make.link()`

), just give the name of the transformation; e.g.,

`model.rg <- update(ref_grid(model), tran = "sqrt")`

As can be seen in the initial `pigs.lm`

example in this vignette, certain straightforward response transformations such as `log`

, `sqrt`

, etc. are automatically detected when `emmeans()`

(really, `ref_grid()`

) is called on the model object. In fact, scaling and shifting is supported too; so the preceding example with `my.model`

could have been done more easily by specifying the transformation directly in the model formula:

`my.better.model <- lmer(log(yield + 0.5) ~ treatment + (1|Block), data = mydata)`

The transformation would be auto-detected, saving you the trouble of adding it later. Similarly, a response transformation of `2 * sqrt(y + 1)`

would be correctly auto-detected. A model with a linearly transformed response, e.g. `4*(y - 1)`

, would *not* be auto-detected, but `4*I(y + -1)`

would be interpreted as `4*identity(y + -1)`

. Parsing is such that the response expression must be of the form `mult * fcn(resp + const)`

; operators of `-`

and `/`

are not recognized.

The `regrid()`

function makes it possible to fake a log transformation of the response. Why would you want to do this? So that you can make comparisons using ratios instead of differences.

Consider the `pigs`

example once again, but suppose we had fitted a model with a square-root transformation instead of a log:

```
pigroot.lm <- lm(sqrt(conc) ~ source + factor(percent), data = pigs)
piglog.emm.s <- regrid(emmeans(pigroot.lm, "source"), transform = "log")
confint(piglog.emm.s, type = "response")
```

```
## source response SE df lower.CL upper.CL
## fish 29.8 1.32 23 27.2 32.7
## soy 39.2 1.54 23 36.2 42.6
## skim 45.0 1.74 23 41.5 48.7
##
## Results are averaged over the levels of: percent
## Confidence level used: 0.95
## Intervals are back-transformed from the log scale
```

`pairs(piglog.emm.s, type = "response")`

```
## contrast ratio SE df t.ratio p.value
## fish / soy 0.760 0.0454 23 -4.591 0.0004
## fish / skim 0.663 0.0391 23 -6.965 <.0001
## soy / skim 0.872 0.0469 23 -2.548 0.0457
##
## Results are averaged over the levels of: percent
## P value adjustment: tukey method for comparing a family of 3 estimates
## Tests are performed on the log scale
```

These results are not identical, but very similar to the back-transformed confidence intervals above for the EMMs and the pairwise ratios in the “comparisons” vignette, where the fitted model actually used a log response.

So far, we have discussed ideas related to back-transforming results as a simple way of expressing results on the same scale as the response. In particular, means obtained in this way are known as *generalized means*; for example, a log transformation of the response is associated with geometric means. When the goal is simply to make inferences about which means are less than which other means, and a response transformation is used, it is often acceptable to present estimates and comparisons of these generalized means. However, sometimes it is important to report results that actually do reflect expected values of the untransformed response. An example is a financial study, where the response is in some monetary unit. It may be convenient to use a response transformation for modeling purposes, but ultimately we may want to make financial projections in those same units.

In such settings, we need to make a bias adjustment when we back-transform, because any nonlinear transformation biases the expected values of statistical quantities. More specifically, suppose that we have a response \(Y\) and the transformed response is \(U\). To back-transform, we use \(Y = h(U)\); and using a Taylor approximation, \(Y \approx h(\eta) + h'(\eta)(U-\eta) + \frac12h''(\eta)(U-\eta)^2\), so that \(E(Y) \approx h(\eta) + \frac12h''(\eta)Var(U)\). This shows that the amount of needed bias adjustment is approximately \(\frac12h''(\eta)\sigma^2\) where \(\sigma\) is the error SD in the model for \(U\). It depends on \(\sigma\), and the larger this is, the greater the bias adjustment is needed. This second-order bias adjustment is what is currently used in the **emmeans** package when bias-adjustment is requested. There are better or exact adjustments for certain cases, and future updates may incorporate some of those.

At this point, it is important to point out that the above discussion focuses on response transformations, as opposed to link functions used in generalized linear models (GLMs). In an ordinary GLM, no bias adjustment is needed or appropriate because the link function is just used to define a nonlinear relationship between the actual response mean \(\eta\) and the linear predictor. However, in a generalized linear *mixed* model, including generalized estimating equations and such, there are random components involved, and then bias adjustment becomes appropriate.

Consider an example adapted from the help page for `lme4::cbpp`

. Contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) is a disease in African cattle, and the dataset contains data on incidence of CBPP in several herds of cattle over four time periods. We will fit a mixed model that accounts for herd variations as well as overdispersion (variations larger than expected with a simple binomial model):

```
require(lme4)
cbpp <- transform(cbpp, unit = 1:nrow(cbpp))
cbpp.glmer <- glmer(cbind(incidence, size - incidence) ~ period + (1 | herd) + (1|unit),
family = binomial, data = cbpp)
emm <- emmeans(cbpp.glmer, "period")
summary(emm, type = "response")
```

```
## period prob SE df asymp.LCL asymp.UCL
## 1 0.1824 0.0442 Inf 0.1109 0.2852
## 2 0.0614 0.0230 Inf 0.0290 0.1252
## 3 0.0558 0.0220 Inf 0.0254 0.1182
## 4 0.0334 0.0172 Inf 0.0120 0.0894
##
## Confidence level used: 0.95
## Intervals are back-transformed from the logit scale
```

The above summary reflects the back-transformed estimates, with no bias adjustment. However, the model estimates two independent sources of random variation that probably should be taken into account:

`lme4::VarCorr(cbpp.glmer)`

```
## Groups Name Std.Dev.
## unit (Intercept) 0.89107
## herd (Intercept) 0.18396
```

Notably, the over-dispersion SD is considerably greater than the herd SD. Suppose we want to estimate the marginal probabilities of CBPP incidence, averaged over herds and over-dispersion variations. For this purpose, we need the combined effect of these variations; so we compute the overall SD via the Pythagorean theorem:

`total.SD = sqrt(0.89107^2 + 0.18396^2)`

Accordingly, here are the bias-adjusted estimates of the marginal probabilities:

`summary(emm, type = "response", bias.adjust = TRUE, sigma = total.SD)`

```
## period prob SE df asymp.LCL asymp.UCL
## 1 0.2216 0.0462 Inf 0.1426 0.321
## 2 0.0823 0.0292 Inf 0.0400 0.159
## 3 0.0751 0.0282 Inf 0.0351 0.151
## 4 0.0458 0.0230 Inf 0.0168 0.117
##
## Confidence level used: 0.95
## Intervals are back-transformed from the logit scale
## Bias adjustment applied based on sigma = 0.90986
```

These estimates are somewhat larger than the unadjusted estimates (actually, any estimates greater than 0.5 would have been adjusted downward). These adjusted estimates are more appropriate for describing the marginal incidence of CBPP for all herds. In fact, these estimates are fairly close to those obtained directly from the incidences in the data:

```
cases <- with(cbpp, tapply(incidence, period, sum))
trials <- with(cbpp, tapply(size, period, sum))
cases / trials
```

```
## 1 2 3 4
## 0.21942446 0.08018868 0.07106599 0.04516129
```