Uncertainty quantification for wide-bin unfolding: one-at-a-time strict bounds and prior-optimized confidence intervals
Unfolding is an ill-posed inverse problem in particle physics aiming to infer a true particle-level spectrum from smeared detector-level data. For computational and practical reasons, these spaces are typically discretized using histograms, and the smearing is modeled through a response matrix corresponding to a discretized smearing kernel of the particle detector. This response matrix depends on the unknown shape of the true spectrum, leading to a fundamental systematic uncertainty in the
... ding problem. To handle the ill-posed nature of the problem, common approaches regularize the problem either directly via methods such as Tikhonov regularization, or implicitly by using wide-bins in the true space that match the resolution of the detector. Unfortunately, both of these methods lead to a non-trivial bias in the unfolded estimator, thereby hampering frequentist coverage guarantees for confidence intervals constructed from these methods. We propose two new approaches to addressing the bias in the wide-bin setting through methods called One-at-a-time Strict Bounds (OSB) and Prior-Optimized (PO) intervals. The OSB intervals are a bin-wise modification of an existing guaranteed-coverage procedure, while the PO intervals are based on a decision-theoretic view of the problem. Importantly, both approaches provide well-calibrated frequentist confidence intervals even in constrained and rank-deficient settings. These methods are built upon a more general answer to the wide-bin bias problem, involving unfolding with fine bins first, followed by constructing confidence intervals for linear functionals of the fine-bin counts. We test and compare these methods to other available methodologies in a wide-bin deconvolution example and a realistic particle physics simulation of unfolding a steeply falling particle spectrum.