A Framework for Machine Learning of Model Error in Dynamical Systems


The development of data-informed predictive models for dynamical systems is of widespread interest in many disciplines. We present a unifying framework for blending mechanistic and machine-learning approaches to identify dynamical systems from noisily and partially observed data. We compare pure data-driven learning with hybrid models which incorporate imperfect domain knowledge, referring to the discrepancy between an assumed truth model and the imperfect mechanistic model as model error. Our formulation is agnostic to the chosen machine learning model, is presented in both continuous- and discrete-time settings, and is compatible both with model errors that exhibit substantial memory and errors that are memoryless. First, we study memoryless linear (w.r.t. parametric-dependence) model error from a learning theory perspective, defining excess risk and generalization error. For ergodic continuous-time systems, we prove that both excess risk and generalization error are bounded above by terms that diminish with the square-root of 𝑇, the time-interval over which training data is specified. Secondly, we study scenarios that benefit from modeling with memory, proving universal approximation theorems for two classes of continuous-time recurrent neural networks (RNNs): both can learn memory-dependent model error, assuming that it is governed by a finite-dimensional hidden variable and that, together, the observed and hidden variables form a continuous-time Markovian system. In addition, we connect one class of RNNs to reservoir computing, thereby relating learning of memory-dependent error to recent work on supervised learning between Banach spaces using random features. Numerical results are presented (Lorenz ’63, Lorenz ’96 Multiscale systems) to compare purely data-driven and hybrid approaches, finding hybrid methods less data-hungry and more parametrically efficient. We also find that, while a continuous-time framing allows for robustness to irregular sampling and desirable domain-interpretability, a discrete-time framing can provide similar or better predictive performance, especially when data are undersampled and the vector field defining the true dynamics cannot be identified. Finally, we demonstrate numerically how data assimilation can be leveraged to learn hidden dynamics from noisy, partially-observed data, and illustrate challenges in representing memory by this approach, and in the training of such models.

Communications of the American Mathematics Society