A selective overview of variable selection in high dimensional feature space

Jianqing Fan, Jinchi Lv

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

617 Scopus citations


High dimensional statistical problems arise from diverse fields of scientific research and technological development. Variable selection plays a pivotal role in contemporary statistical learning and scientific discoveries. The traditional idea of best subset selection methods, which can be regarded as a specific form of penalized likelihood, is computationally too expensive for many modern statistical applications. Other forms of penalized likelihood methods have been successfully developed over the last decade to cope with high dimensionality. They have been widely applied for simultaneously selecting important variables and estimating their effects in high dimensional statistical inference. In this article, we present a brief account of the recent developments of theory, methods, and implementations for high dimensional variable selection. What limits of the dimensionality such methods can handle, what the role of penalty functions is, and what the statistical properties are rapidly drive the advances of the field. The properties of non-concave penalized likelihood and its roles in high dimensional statistical modeling are emphasized. We also review some recent advances in ultra-high dimensional variable selection, with emphasis on independence screening and two-scale methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-148
Number of pages48
JournalStatistica Sinica
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Statistics, Probability and Uncertainty


  • Dimensionality reduction
  • Folded-concave penalty
  • High dimensionality
  • Model selection
  • Oracle property
  • Penalized least squares
  • Penalized likelihood
  • SCAD
  • Sure independence screening
  • Sure screening
  • Variable selection


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