ordered allocation sampler

Recently, Pierpaolo De Blasi and María Gil-Leyva arXived a proposal for a novel Gibbs sampler for mixture models. In both finite and infinite mixture models. In connection with Pitman (1996) theory of species sampling and with interesting features in terms of removing the vexing label switching features.

The key idea is to work with the mixture components in the random order of appearance in an exchangeable sequence from the mixing distribution (…) In accordance with the order of appearance, we derive a new Gibbs sampling algorithm that we name the ordered allocation sampler. “

This central idea is thus a reinterpretation of the mixture model as the marginal of the component model when its parameter is distributed as a species sampling variate. An ensuing marginal algorithm is to integrate out the weights and the allocation variables to only consider the non-empty component parameters and the partition function, which are label invariant. Which reminded me of the proposal we made in our 2000 JASA paper with Gilles Celeux and Merrilee Hurn (one of my favourite papers!). And of the [first paper in Statistical Methodology] 2004 partitioned importance sampling version with George Casella and Marty Wells. As in the later, the solution seems to require the prior on the component parameters to be conjugate (as I do not see a way to produce an unbiased estimator of the partition allocation probabilities).

The ordered allocation sample considers the posterior distribution of the different object made of the parameters and of the sequence of allocations to the components for the sample written in a given order, ie y¹,y², &tc. Hence y¹ always gets associated with component 1, y² with either component 1 or component 2, and so on. For this distribution, the full conditionals are available, incl. the full posterior on the number m of components, only depending on the data through the partition sizes and the number m⁺ of non-empty components. (Which relates to the debate as to whether or not m is estimable…) This sequential allocation reminded me as well of an earlier 2007 JRSS paper by Nicolas Chopin. Albeit using particles rather than Gibbs and applied to a hidden Markov model. Funny enough, their synthetic dataset univ4 almost resembles the Galaxy dataset (as in the above picture of mine)!

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