Author Archive

reciprocal importance sampling

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2023 by xi'an

In a recent arXival, Metodiev et al. (including my friend Adrian Raftery, who is spending the academic year in Paris) proposed a new version of reciprocal importance sampling, expanding the proposal we made with Darren Wraith (2009) of using a Uniform over an HPD region. It is called THAMES, hence the picture (of London, not Paris!), for truncated harmonic mean estimator.

“…[Robert and Wraith (2009)] method has not yet been fully developed for realistic, higher-dimensional situations. For example, we know of no simple way to compute the volume of the convex hull of a set of points in higher dimensions.”

They suggest replacing the convex hull of the HPD points with an ellipsoid ϒ derived from a Normal distribution centred at the highest of the HPD points, whose covariance matrix is estimated from the whole (?) posterior sample. Which is somewhat surprising in that this ellipsoid may as well included low probability regions when the posterior is multimodal. For instance, the estimator is biased when the posterior cancels on parts of ϒ. And with an unclear fate for the finiteness of its variance, depending on how fast the posterior gets to zero on these parts.

The central feature of the paper is selecting the radius of the ellipse that minimises the variance of the (counter) evidence. Under asymptotic normality of the posterior. This radius roughly corresponds to our HPD region in that 50% of the sample stands within. The authors also notice that separate samples should be used to estimate the ellipse and to estimate the evidence. And that a correction is necessary when the posterior support is restricted. (Examples do not include multimodal targets, apparently.)

Model-Based Clustering, Classification, and Density Estimation Using mclust in R [not a book review]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2023 by xi'an

Natural nested sampling

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2023 by xi'an

“The nested sampling algorithm solves otherwise challenging, high-dimensional integrals by evolving a collection of live points through parameter space. The algorithm was immediately adopted in cosmology because it partially overcomes three of the major difficulties in Markov chain Monte Carlo, the algorithm traditionally used for Bayesian computation. Nested sampling simultaneously returns results for model comparison and parameter inference; successfully solves multimodal problems; and is naturally self-tuning, allowing its immediate application to new challenges.”

I came across a review on nested sampling in Nature Reviews Methods Primers of May 2022, with a large number of contributing authors, some of whom I knew from earlier papers in astrostatistics. As illustrated by the above quote from the introduction, the tone is definitely optimistic about the capacities of the method, reproducing the original argument that the evidence is the posterior expectation of the likelihood L(θ) under the prior. Which representation, while valid, is not translating into a dimension-free methodology since parameters θ still need be simulated.

“Nested sampling lies in a class of algorithms that form a path of bridging distributions and evolves samples along that path. Nested sampling stands out because the path is automatic and smooth — compression along log X by, on average, 1/𝑛at each iteration — and because along the path is compressed through constrained priors, rather than from the prior to the posterior. This was a motivation for nested sampling as it avoids phase transitions — abrupt changes in the bridging distributions — that cause problems for other methods, including path samplers, such as annealing.”

The elephant in the room is eventually processed, namely the simulation from the prior constrained to the likelihood level sets that in my experience (with, e.g., mixture posteriors) proves most time consuming. This stems from the fact that these level sets are notoriously difficult to evaluate from a given sample: all points stand within the set but they hardly provide any indication of the boundaries of saif set… Region sampling requires to construct a region that bounds the likelihood level set, which requires some knowledge of the likelihood variations to have a chance to remain efficient, incl. in cosmological applications, while regular MCMC steps require an increasing number of steps as the constraint gets tighter and tighter. For otherwise it essentially amounts to duplicating a live particle.

on control variates

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2023 by xi'an

A few months ago, I had to write a thesis evaluation of Rémi Leluc’s PhD, which contained several novel Monte Carlo proposals on control variates and importance techniques. For instance, Leluc et al. (Statistics and Computing, 2021) revisits the concept of control variables by adding a perspective of control variable selection using LASSO. This prior selection is relevant since control variables are not necessarily informative about the objective function being integrated and my experience is that the more variables the less reliable the improvement. The remarkable feature of the results is in obtaining explicit and non-asymptotic bounds.

The author obtains a concentration inequality on the error resulting from the use of control variables, under strict assumptions on the variables. The associated numerical experiment illustrates the difficulties of practically implementing these principles due to the number of parameters to calibrate. I found the example of a capture-recapture experiment on ducks (European Dipper) particularly interesting, not only because we had used it in our book but also because it highlights the dependence of estimates on the dominant measure.

Based on a NeurIPS 2022 poster presentation Chapter 3 is devoted to the use of control variables in sequential Monte Carlo, where a sequence of importance functions is constructed based on previous iterations to improve the approximation of the target distribution. Under relatively strong assumptions of importance functions dominating the target distribution (which could generally be achieved by using an increasing fraction of the data in a partial posterior distribution), of sub-Gaussian tails of an intractable distribution’s residual, a concentration inequality is established for the adaptive control variable estimator.

This chapter uses a different family of control variables, based on a Stein operator introduced in Mira et al. (2016). In the case where the target is a mixture in IRd, one of our benchmarks in Cappé et al. (2008), remarkable gains are obtained for relatively high dimensions. While the computational demands of these improvements are not mentioned, the comparison with an MCMC approach (NUTS) based on the same number of particles demonstrates a clear improvement in Bayesian estimation.

Chapter 4 corresponds to a very recent arXival and presents a very original approach to control variate correction by reproducing the interest rate law through an approximation using the closest neighbor (leave-one-out) method. It requires neither control function nor necessarily additional simulation, except for the evaluation of the integral, which is rather remarkable, forming a kind of parallel with the bootstrap. (Any other approximation of the distribution would also be acceptable if available at the same computational cost.) The thesis aims to establish the convergence of the method when integration is performed by a Voronoi tessellation, which leads to an optimal rate of order n-1-2/d for quadratic error (under conditions of integrand regularity). In the alternative where the integral must be evaluated by Monte Carlo, this optimality disappears, unless a massive amount of simulations are used. Numerical illustrations cover SDEs and a Bayesian hierarchical modeling already used in Oates et al. (2017), with massive gain in both cases.

EMS 2023, Warsaw

Posted in Statistics, University life, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2023 by xi'an

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