NIPS 2010: Monte Carlo workshop

In the wake of the main machine learning NIPS 2010 meeting in Vancouver, Dec. 6-9 2010, there will be a very interesting workshop organised by Ryan Adams, Mark Girolami, and Iain Murray on Monte Carlo Methods for Bayesian Inference in Modern Day Applications, on Dec. 10. (And in Whistler, not Vancouver!) I wish I could attend, but going to a conference in honour of Larry Brown’s 70th birthday in Wharton the week after makes it impossible…

Monte Carlo methods have been the dominant form of approximate inference for Bayesian statistics over the last couple of decades. Monte Carlo methods are interesting as a technical topic of research in themselves, as well as enjoying widespread practical use. In a diverse number of application areas Monte Carlo methods have enabled Bayesian inference over classes of statistical models which previously would have been infeasible. Despite this broad and sustained attention, it is often still far from clear how best to set up a Monte Carlo method for a given problem, how to diagnose if it is working well, and how to improve under-performing methods. The impact of these issues is even more pronounced with new emerging applications.

What does the workshop address and accomplish?

Identifying features of applications of Monte Carlo methods: This workshop is aimed equally at practitioners and core Monte Carlo researchers. For practitioners we hope to identify what properties of applications are important for selecting, running and checking a Monte Carlo algorithm. Monte Carlo methods are applied to a broad variety of problems. The workshop aims to identify and explore what properties of these disparate areas are important to think about when applying Monte Carlo methods.

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