Archive for European Meeting of Statisticians

European statistics in Finland [EMS17]

Posted in Books, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2017 by xi'an

While this European meeting of statisticians had a wide range of talks and topics, I found it to be more low key than the previous one I attended in Budapest, maybe because there was hardly any talk there in applied probability. (But there were some sessions in mathematical statistics and Mark Girolami gave a great entry to differential geometry and MCMC, in the spirit of his 2010 discussion paper. Using our recent trip to Montréal as an example of geodesic!) In the Bayesian software session [organised by Aki Vetahri], Javier Gonzáles gave a very neat introduction to Bayesian optimisation: he showed how optimisation can be turned into Bayesian inference or more specifically as a Bayesian decision problem using a loss function related to the problem of interest. The point in following a Bayesian path [or probabilist numerics] is to reduce uncertainty by the medium of prior measures on functions, although resorting [as usual] to Gaussian processes whose arbitrariness I somehow dislike within the infinity of priors (aka stochastic processes) on functions! One of his strong arguments was that the approach includes the possibility for design in picking the next observation point (as done in some ABC papers of Michael Guttman and co-authors, incl. the following talk at EMS 2017) but again the devil may be in the implementation when looking at minimising an objective function… The notion of the myopia of optimisation techniques was another good point: only looking one step ahead in the future diminishes the returns of the optimisation and an alternative presented at AISTATS 2016 [that I do not remember seeing in Càdiz] goes against this myopia.

Umberto Piccini also gave a talk on exploiting synthetic likelihoods in a Bayesian fashion (in connection with the talk he gave last year at MCqMC 2016). I wondered at the use of INLA for this Gaussian representation, as well as at the impact of the parameterisation of the summary statistics. And the session organised by Jean-Michel involved Jimmy Olson, Murray Pollock (Warwick) and myself, with great talks from both other speakers, on PaRIS and PaRISian algorithms by Jimmy, and on a wide range of exact simulation methods of continuous time processes by Murray, both managing to convey the intuition behind their results and avoiding the massive mathematics at work there. By comparison, I must have been quite unclear during my talk since someone interrupted me about how Owen & Zhou (2000) justified their deterministic mixture importance sampling representation. And then left when I could not make sense of his questions [or because it was lunchtime already].

abstract for “Bayes’ Theorem: then and now”

Posted in Books, Mountains, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2013 by xi'an

Here is my abstract for the invited talk I will give at EMS 2013 in Budapest this summer (the first two banners were sites of EMS 2013 conferences as well, which came above the European Meeting of Statisticians on a Google search for EMS 2013):

What is now called Bayes’ Theorem was published and maybe mostly written by Richard Price in 1763, 250 ago. It was re-discovered independently (?) in 1773 by Pierre Laplace, who put it to good use for solving statistical problems, launching what was then called inverse probability and now goes under the name of Bayesian statistics. The talk will cover some historical developments of Bayesian statistics, focussing on the controversies and disputes that marked and stil mark its evolution over those 250 years, up to now. It will in particular address some arguments about prior distributions made by John Maynard Keynes and Harold Jeffreys, as well as divergences about the nature of testing by Dennis Lindley, James Berger, and current science philosophers like Deborah Mayo and Aris Spanos, and misunderstandings on Bayesian computational issues, including those about approximate Bayesian computations (ABC).

I was kindly asked by the scientific committee of EMS 2013 to give a talk on Bayes’ theorem: then and now, which suited me very well for several reasons: first, I was quite interested in giving an historical overview, capitalising on earlier papers about Jeffreys‘ and Keynes‘ books, my current re-analysis of the Jeffreys-Lindley’s paradox, and exchanges around the nature of Bayesian inference. (As you may guess from the contents of the abstract, even borrowing from the article about Price in Significance!) Second, the quality of the programme is definitely justifying attending the whole conference. And not only for meeting again with many friends. At last, I have never visited Hungary and this is a perfect opportunity for starting my summer break there!