Archive for ABC consistency

talk at CISEA 2019

Posted in Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , on June 18, 2019 by xi'an

Here are my slides for the overview talk I am giving at CISEA 2019, in Abidjan, highly resemblant with earlier talks, except for the second slide!

ABC forecasts

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2018 by xi'an

My friends and co-authors David Frazier, Gael Martin, Brendan McCabe, and Worapree Maneesoonthorn arXived a paper on ABC forecasting at the turn of the year. ABC prediction is a natural extension of ABC inference in that, provided the full conditional of a future observation given past data and parameters is available but the posterior is not, ABC simulations of the parameters induce an approximation of the predictive. The paper thus considers the impact of this extension on the precision of the predictions. And argues that it is possible that this approximation is preferable to running MCMC in some settings. A first interesting result is that using ABC and hence conditioning on an insufficient summary statistic has no asymptotic impact on the resulting prediction, provided Bayesian concentration of the corresponding posterior takes place as in our convergence paper under revision.

“…conditioning inference about θ on η(y) rather than y makes no difference to the probabilistic statements made about [future observations]”

The above result holds both in terms of convergence in total variation and for proper scoring rules. Even though there is always a loss in accuracy in using ABC. Now, one may think this is a direct consequence of our (and others) earlier convergence results, but numerical experiments on standard time series show the distinct feature that, while the [MCMC] posterior and ABC posterior distributions on the parameters clearly differ, the predictives are more or less identical! With a potential speed gain in using ABC, although comparing parallel ABC versus non-parallel MCMC is rather delicate. For instance, a preliminary parallel ABC could be run as a burnin’ step for parallel MCMC, since all chains would then be roughly in the stationary regime. Another interesting outcome of these experiments is a case when the summary statistics produces a non-consistent ABC posterior, but still leads to a very similar predictive, as shown on this graph.This unexpected accuracy in prediction may further be exploited in state space models, towards producing particle algorithms that are greatly accelerated. Of course, an easy objection to this acceleration is that the impact of the approximation is unknown and un-assessed. However, such an acceleration leaves room for multiple implementations, possibly with different sets of summaries, to check for consistency over replicates.

Bayesian synthetic likelihood

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on December 13, 2017 by xi'an

Leah Price, Chris Drovandi, Anthony Lee and David Nott published earlier this year a paper in JCGS on Bayesian synthetic likelihood, using Simon Wood’s synthetic likelihood as a substitute to the exact likelihood within a Bayesian approach. While not investigating the theoretical properties of this approximate approach, the paper compares it with ABC on some examples. In particular with respect to the number n of Monte Carlo replications used to approximate the mean and variance of the Gaussian synthetic likelihood.

Since this approach is most naturally associated with an MCMC implementation, it requires new simulations of the summary statistics at each iteration, without a clear possibility to involve parallel runs, in contrast to ABC. However in the final example of the paper, the authors reach values of n of several thousands, making use of multiple cores relevant, if requiring synchronicity and checks at every MCMC iteration.

The authors mention that “ABC can be viewed as a pseudo-marginal method”, but this has a limited appeal since the pseudo-marginal is a Monte Carlo substitute for the ABC target, not the original target. Similarly, there exists an unbiased estimator of the Gaussian density due to Ghurye and Olkin (1969) that allows to perceive the estimated synthetic likelihood version as a pseudo-marginal, once again wrt a target that differs from the original one. And the bias reappears under mis-specification, that is when the summary statistics are not normally distributed. It seems difficult to assess this normality or absence thereof in realistic situations.

“However, when the distribution of the summary statistic is highly irregular, the output of BSL cannot be trusted, while ABC represents a robust alternative in such cases.”

To make synthetic likelihood and ABC algorithms compatible, the authors chose a Normal kernel for ABC. Still, the equivalence is imperfect in that the covariance matrix need be chosen in the ABC case and is estimated in the synthetic one. I am also lost to the argument that the synthetic version is more efficient than ABC, in general (page 8). As for the examples, the first one uses a toy Poisson posterior with a single sufficient summary statistic, which is not very representative of complex situations where summary statistics are extremes or discrete. As acknowledged by the authors this is a case when the Normality assumption applies. For an integer support hidden process like the Ricker model, normality vanishes and the outcomes of ABC and synthetic likelihood differ, which makes it difficult to compare the inferential properties of both versions (rather than the acceptance rates), while using a 13-dimension statistic for estimating a 3-dimension parameter is not recommended for ABC, as discussed by Li and Fearnhead (2017). The same issue appears in the realistic cell motility example, with 145 summaries versus two parameters. (In the philogenies studied by DIYABC, the number of summary statistics is about the same but we now advocate a projection to the parameter dimension by the medium of random forests.)

Given the similarity between both approaches, I wonder at a confluence between them, where synthetic likelihood could maybe be used to devise PCA on the summary statistics and facilitate their projection on a space with much smaller dimensions. Or estimating the mean and variance functions in the synthetic likelihood towards producing directly simulations of the summary statistics.

MCM 2017 snapshots [#2]

Posted in Books, pictures, Running, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2017 by xi'an

On the second day of MCM 2017, Emmanuel Gobet (from Polytechnique) gave the morning plenary talk on regression Monte Carlo methods, where he presented several ways of estimating conditional means of rv’s in nested problems where conditioning involves other conditional expectations. While interested in such problems in connection with ABC, I could not see how the techniques developed therein could apply to said problems.

By some of random chance, I ended up attending a hard-core random generation session where the speakers were discussing discrepancies between GNU library generators [I could not understand the target of interest and using MCMC till convergence seemed prone to false positives!], and failed statistical tests of some 64-bit Mersenne Twisters, and low discrepancy on-line subsamples of Uniform samples. Most exciting of all, Josef Leydold gave a talk on ratio-of-uniforms, on which I spent some time a while ago  (till ending up reinventing the wheel!), with highly refined cuts of the original box.

My own 180 slides [for a 50mn talk] somewhat worried my chairman, Art Owen, who kindly enquired the day before at the likelihood I could go through all 184 of them!!! I had appended the ABC convergence slides to an earlier set of slides on ABC with random forests in case of questions about that aspect, although I did not plan to go through those slides [and I mostly covered the 64 other slides] As the talk was in fine more about an inference method than a genuine Monte Carlo technique, plus involved random forests that sounded unfamiliar to many, I did not get many questions from the audience but had several deep discussions with people after the talk. Incidentally, we have just reposted our paper on ABC estimation via random forests, updated the abcrf R package, and submitted it to Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology!

MCM 2017

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2017 by xi'an

And thus I am back in Montréal, for MCM 2017, located in HEC Montréal, on the campus of Université de Montréal, for three days. My talk is predictably about ABC, what else?!, gathering diverse threads from different talks and papers: