Why rankings of biomedical image analysis competitions should be interpreted with care

Lena Maier-hein, Matthias Eisenmann, Annika Reinke, Sinan Onogur, Marko Stankovic, Patrick Scholz, Tal Arbel, Hrvoje Bogunovic, Andrew P. Bradley, Aaron Carass, Carolin Feldmann, Alejandro F. Frangi, Peter M. Full, Bram van Ginneken, Allan Hanbury, Katrin Honauer, Michal Kozubek, Keno März, Oskar Maier, Klaus Maier-HeinBjoern H. Menze, Henning Müller, Peter F. Neher, Wiro Niessen, Nasir Rajpoot, Gregory C. Sharp, Korsuk Sirinukunwattana, Stefanie Speidel, Christian Stock, Danail Stoyanov, Abdel Aziz Taha, Fons van der Sommen, Ching-wei Wang, Marc-André Weber, Guoyan Zheng, Pierre Jannin, Annette Kopp-schneider

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International challenges have become the standard for validation of biomedical image analysis methods. Given their scientific impact, it is surprising that a critical analysis of common practices related to the organization of challenges has not yet been performed. In this paper, we present a comprehensive analysis of biomedical image analysis challenges conducted up to now. We demonstrate the importance of challenges and show that the lack of quality control has critical consequences. First, reproducibility and interpretation of the results is often hampered as only a fraction of relevant information is typically provided. Second, the rank of an algorithm is generally not robust to a number of variables such as the test data used for validation, the ranking scheme applied and the observers that make the reference annotations. To overcome these problems, we recommend best practice guidelines and define open research questions to be addressed in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5217
Number of pages13
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Biomedical Research/methods
  • Biomedical Technology/classification
  • Diagnostic Imaging/classification
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted/methods
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical/methods


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