improving synthetic likelihood

Chris Drovandi gave an after-dinner [QUT time!] talk for the One World ABC webinar on a recent paper he wrote with Jacob Proddle, Scott Sisson and David Frazier. Using a regular MCMC step on a synthetic likelihood approximation to the posterior. Or a (simulation based) unbiased estimator of it.

By evaluating the variance of the log-likelihood estimator, the authors show that the number of simulations n need scale like n²d² to keep the variance under control. And suggest PCA decorrelation of the summary statistic components as a mean to reduce the variance since it then scales as n²d. Rather idly, I wonder at the final relevance of precisely estimating the (synthetic) likelihood when considering it is not the true likelihood and when the n² part seems more damning. Moving from d² to d seems directly related to the estimation of a full correlation matrix for the Normal synthetic distribution of the summary statistic versus the estimation of a diagonal matrix. The usual complaint that performances highly depend on the choice of the summary statistic also applies here, in particular when its dimension is much larger than the dimension d of the parameter (as in the MA example). Although this does not seem to impact the scale of the variance.

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