We demonstrate that the processes underlying on-line auction price bids and many other longitudinal data can be represented by an empirical first order stochastic ordinary differential equation with time-varying coefficients and a smooth drift process. This equation may be empirically obtained from longitudinal observations for a sample of subjects and does not presuppose specific knowledge of the underlying processes. For the nonparametric estimation of the components of the differential equation, it suffices to have available sparsely observed longitudinal measurements which may be noisy and are generated by underlying smooth random trajectories for each subject or experimental unit in the sample. The drift process that drives the equation determines how closely individual process trajectories follow a deterministic approximation of the differential equation. We provide estimates for trajectories and especially the variance function of the drift process. At each fixed time point, the proposed empirical dynamic model implies a decomposition of the derivative of the process underlying the longitudinal data into a component explained by a linear component determined by a varying coefficient function dynamic equation and an orthogonal complement that corresponds to the drift process. An enhanced perturbation result enables us to obtain improved asymptotic convergence rates for eigenfunction derivative estimation and consistency for the varying coefficient function and the components of the drift process. We illustrate the differential equation with an application to the dynamics of on-line auction data.
"Empirical dynamics for longitudinal data." Ann. Statist. 38 (6) 3458 - 3486, December 2010. https://doi.org/10.1214/09-AOS786