pexm: A JAGS Module for Applications Involving the Piecewise Exponential Distribution

Vinícius D. Mayrink, João Daniel N. Duarte, Fábio N. Demarqui

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In this study, we present a new module built for users interested in a programming language similar to BUGS to fit a Bayesian model based on the piecewise exponential (PE) distribution. The module is an extension to the open-source program JAGS by which a Gibbs sampler can be applied without requiring the derivation of complete conditionals and the subsequent implementation of strategies to draw samples from unknown distributions. The PE distribution is widely used in the fields of survival analysis and reliability. Currently, it can only be implemented in JAGS through methods to indirectly specify the likelihood based on the Poisson or Bernoulli probabilities. Our module provides a more straightforward implementation and is thus more attractive to the researchers aiming to spend more time exploring the results from the Bayesian inference rather than implementing the Markov Chain Monte Carlo algorithm. For those interested in extending JAGS, this work can be seen as a tutorial including important information not well investigated or organized in other materials. Here, we describe how to use the module taking advantage of the interface between R and JAGS. A short simulation study is developed to ensure that the module behaves well and a real illustration, involving two PE models, exhibits a context where the module can be used in practice.

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