Dispersion operators and resistant second-order functional data analysis
Inferences related to the second-order properties of functional data, as expressed by covariance structure, can become unreliable when the data are non-Gaussian or contain unusual observations. In the functional setting, it is often difficult to identify atypical observations, as their distinguishing characteristics can be manifold but subtle. In this paper, we introduce the notion of a dispersion operator, investigate its use in probing the second-order structure of functional data, and develop a test for comparing the second-order characteristics of two functional samples that is resistant to atypical observations and departures from normality. The proposed test is a regularized M-test based on a spectrally truncated version of the Hilbert-Schmidt norm of a score operator defined via the dispersion operator. We derive the asymptotic distribution of the test statistic, investigate the behaviour of the test in a simulation study and illustrate the method on a structural biology dataset.