Archive for likelihood-free methods

likelihood-free model choice

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , on March 27, 2015 by xi'an

Jean-Michel Marin, Pierre Pudlo and I just arXived a short review on ABC model choice, first version of a chapter for the incoming Handbook of Approximate Bayesian computation edited by Scott Sisson, Yannan Fan, and Mark Beaumont. Except for a new analysis of a Human evolution scenario, this survey mostly argues for the proposal made in our recent paper on the use of random forests and [also argues] about the lack of reliable approximations to posterior probabilities. (Paper that was rejected by PNAS and that is about to be resubmitted. Hopefully with a more positive outcome.) The conclusion of the survey is  that

The presumably most pessimistic conclusion of this study is that the connections between (i) the true posterior probability of a model, (ii) the ABC version of this probability, and (iii) the random forest version of the above, are at best very loose. This leaves open queries for acceptable approximations of (i), since the posterior predictive error is instead an error assessment for the ABC RF model choice procedure. While a Bayesian quantity that can be computed at little extra cost, it does not necessarily compete with the posterior probability of a model.

reflecting my hope that we can eventually come up with a proper approximation to the “true” posterior probability…

ABC@NIPS: call for papers

Posted in Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 9, 2014 by xi'an

In connection with the previous announcement of ABC in Montréal, a call for papers that came out today:

NIPS 2014 Workshop: ABC in Montreal

December 12, 2014
Montréal, Québec, Canada

Approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) or likelihood-free (LF) methods have developed mostly beyond the radar of the machine learning community, but are important tools for a large segment of the scientific community. This is particularly true for systems and population biology, computational psychology, computational chemistry, etc. Recent work has both applied machine learning models and algorithms to general ABC inference (NN, forests, GPs) and ABC inference to machine learning (e.g. using computer graphics to solve computer vision using ABC). In general, however, there is significant room for collaboration between the two communities.

The workshop will consist of invited and contributed talks, poster spotlights, and a poster session. Rather than a panel discussion we will encourage open discussion between the speakers and the audience!

Examples of topics of interest in the workshop include (but are not limited to):

* Applications of ABC to machine learning, e.g., computer vision, inverse problems
* ABC in Systems Biology, Computational Science, etc
* ABC Reinforcement Learning
* Machine learning simulator models, e.g., NN models of simulation responses, GPs etc.
* Selection of sufficient statistics
* Online and post-hoc error
* ABC with very expensive simulations and acceleration methods (surrogate modeling, choice of design/simulation points)
* ABC with probabilistic programming
* Posterior evaluation of scientific problems/interaction with scientists
* Post-computational error assessment
* Impact on resulting ABC inference
* ABC for model selection

=========== Continue reading

model selection by likelihood-free Bayesian methods

Posted in Books, pictures, Running, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , on May 29, 2014 by xi'an

Just glanced at the introduction of this arXived paper over breakfast, back from my morning run: the exact title is “Model Selection for Likelihood-free Bayesian Methods Based on Moment Conditions: Theory and Numerical Examples” by Cheng Li and Wenxin Jiang. (The paper is 81 pages long.) I selected the paper for its title as it connected with an interrogation of ours on the manner to extend our empirical likelihood [A]BC work to model choice. We looked at this issue with Kerrie Mengersen and Judith Rousseau the last time Kerrie visited Paris but could not spot a satisfying entry… The current paper is of a theoretical nature, considering a moment defined model


where D denotes the data, as the dimension p of the parameter θ grows with n, the sample size. The approximate model is derived from a prior on the parameter θ and of a Gaussian quasi-likelihood on the moment estimating function g(D,θ). Examples include single index longitudinal data, quantile regression and partial correlation selection. The model selection setting is one of variable selection, resulting in 2p models to compare, with p growing to infinity… Which makes the practical implementation rather delicate to conceive. And the probability one of hitting the right model a fairly asymptotic concept. (At least after a cursory read from my breakfast table!)

parallel MCMC via Weirstrass sampler (a reply by Xiangyu Wang)

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2014 by xi'an

IMG_2230Almost immediately after I published my comments on his paper with David Dunson, Xiangyu Wang sent a long comment that I think worth a post on its own (especially, given that I am now busy skiing and enjoying Chamonix!). So here it is:

Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I did not realize that Neiswanger et al. also proposed the similar trick to avoid combinatoric problem as we did for the rejection sampler. Thank you for pointing that out.

For the criticism 3 on the tail degeneration, we did not mean to fire on the non-parametric estimation issues, but rather the problem caused by using the product equation. When two densities are multiplied together, the accuracy of the product mainly depends on the tail of the two densities (the overlapping area), if there are more than two densities, the impact will be more significant. As a result, it may be unwise to directly use the product equation, as the most distant sub-posteriors could be potentially very far away from each other, and most of the sub posterior draws are outside the overlapping area. (The full Gibbs sampler formulated in our paper does not have this issue, as shown in equation 5, there is a common part multiplied on each sub-posterior, which brought them close.)

Point 4 stated the problem caused by averaging. The approximated density follows Neiswanger et al. (2013) will be a mixture of Gaussian, whose component means are the average of the sub-posterior draws. Therefore, if sub-posteriors stick to different modes (assuming the true posterior is multi-modal), then the approximated density is likely to mess up the modes, and produce some faked modes (eg. average of the modes. We provide an example in the simulation 3.)

Sorry for the vague description of the refining method (4.2). The idea is kinda dull. We start from an initial approximation to θ and then do one step Gibbs update to obtain a new θ, and we call this procedure ‘refining’, as we believe such process would bring the original approximation closer to the true posterior distribution.

The first (4.1) and the second (4.2) algorithms do seem weird to be called as ‘parallel’, since they are both modified from the Gibbs sampler described in (4) and (5). The reason we want to propose these two algorithms is to overcome two problems. The first is the dimensionality curse, and the second is the issue when the subset inferences are not extremely accurate (subset effective sample size small) which might be a common scenario for logistic regression (with large parameters) even with huge data set. First, algorithm (4.1) and (4.2) both start from some initial approximations, and attempt to improve to obtain a better approximation, thus avoid the dimensional issue. Second, in our simulation 1, we attempt to pull down the performance of the simple averaging by worsening the sub-posterior performance (we allocate smaller amount of data to each subset), and the non-parametric method fails to approximate the combined density as well. However, the algorithm 4.1 and 4.2 still work in this case.

I have some problem with the logistic regression example provided in Neiswanger et al. (2013). As shown in the paper, under the authors’ setting (not fully specified in the paper), though the non-parametric method is better than simple averaging, the approximation error of simple averaging is small enough for practical use (I also have some problem with their error evaluation method), then why should we still bother to use a much more complicated method?

Actually I’m adding a new algorithm into the Weierstrass rejection sampling, which will render it thoroughly free from the dimensionality curse of p. The new scheme is applicable to the nonparametric method in Neiswanger et al. (2013) as well. It should appear soon in the second version of the draft.

parallel MCMC via Weirstrass sampler

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2014 by xi'an

IMG_2230During O’Bayes 2013, Xiangyu Wang and David Dunson arXived a paper (with the above title) that David then presented on the 19th.  The setting is quite similar to the recently discussed embarrassingly parallel paper of Neiswanger et al., in that Xiangyu and David start from the same product representation of the target (posterior). Namely,

p(\theta|x) = \prod_{i=1}^m p_i(\theta|x).

However, they criticise the choice made by Neiswanger et al to use MCMC approximations to each component of the product for the following reasons:

  1. Curse of dimensionality in the number of parameters p
  2. Curse of dimensionality in the number of subsets m
  3. Tail degeneration
  4. Support inconsistency and mode misspecification Continue reading

ABC with composite score functions

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , on December 12, 2013 by xi'an

My friends Erlis Ruli, Nicola Sartori and Laura Ventura from Università degli Studi de Padova have just arXived a new paper entitled Approximate Bayesian Computation with composite score functions. While the paper provides a survey of composite likelihood methods, the core idea of the paper is to use the score function (of the composite likelihood) as the summary statistic,


when evaluated at the maximum composite likelihood at the observed data point. In the specific (but unrealistic) case of an exponential family, an ABC based on the score is asymptotically (i.e., as the tolerance ε goes to zero) exact. The choice of the composite likelihood thus induces a natural summary statistics and, as in our empirical likelihood paper, where we also use the score of a composite likelihood, the composite likelihoods that are available for computation are usually quite a few, thus leading to an automated choice of a summary statistic..

An interesting (common) feature in most examples found in this paper is that comparisons are made between ABC using the (truly) sufficient statistic and ABC based on the pairwise score function, which essentially relies on the very same statistics. So the difference, when there is a difference, pertains to the choice of a different combination of the summary statistics or, somehow equivalently to the choice of a different distance function. One of the examples starts from our MA(2) toy-example in the 2012 survey in Statistics and Computing. The composite likelihood is then based on the consecutive triplet marginal densities. As shown by the picture below, the composite version improves to some extent upon the original ABC solution using three autocorrelations.

erlisA suggestion I would have about a refinement of the proposed method deals with the distance utilised in the paper, namely the sum of the absolute differences between the statistics. Indeed, this sum is not scaled at all, neither for regular ABC nor for composite ABC, while the composite likelihood perspective provides in addition to the score a natural metric through the matrix A(θ) [defined on page 12]. So I would suggest comparing the performances of the methods using instead this rescaling since, in my opinion and in contrast with a remark on page 13, it is relevant in some (many?) settings where the amount of information brought by the composite model widely varies from one parameter to the next.

Maximum likelihood vs. likelihood-free quantum system identification in the atom maser

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , on December 2, 2013 by xi'an

This paper (arXived a few days ago) compares maximum likelihood with different ABC approximations in a quantum physic setting and for an atom maser modelling that essentially bears down to a hidden Markov model. (I mostly blanked out of the physics explanations so cannot say I understand the model at all.) While the authors (from the University of Nottingham, hence Robin’s statue above…) do not consider the recent corpus of work by Ajay Jasra and coauthors (some of which was discussed on the ‘Og), they get interesting findings for an equally interesting model. First, when comparing the Fisher informations on the sole parameter of the model, the “Rabi angle” φ, for two different sets of statistics, one gets to zero at a certain value of the parameter, while the (fully informative) other is maximum (Figure 6). This is quite intriguing, esp. give the shape of the information in the former case, which reminds me of (my) inverse normal distributions. Second, the authors compare different collections of summary statistics in terms of ABC distributions against the likelihood function. While most bring much more uncertainty in the analysis, the whole collection recovers the range and shape of the likelihood function, which is nice. Third, they also use a kolmogorov-Smirnov distance to run their ABC, which is enticing, except that I cannot fathom from the paper when one would have enough of a sample (conditional on a parameter value) to rely on what is essentially an estimate of the sampling distribution. This seems to contradict the fact that they only use seven summary statistics. Or it may be that the “statistic” of waiting times happens to be a vector, in which case a Kolmogorov-Smirnov distance can indeed be adopted for the distance… The fact that the grouped seven-dimensional summary statistic provides the best ABC fit is somewhat of a surprise when considering the problem enjoys a single parameter.

“However, in practice, it is often difficult to find an s(.) which is sufficient.”

Just a point that irks me in most ABC papers is to find quotes like the above, since in most models, it is easy to show that there cannot be a non-trivial sufficient statistic! As soon as one leaves the exponential family cocoon, one is doomed in this respect!!!


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