## stratified MCMC

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2020 by xi'an

When working last week with a student, we came across [the slides of a talk at ICERM by Brian van Koten about] a stratified MCMC method whose core idea is to solve a eigenvector equation z’=z’F associated with the masses of “partition” functions Ψ evaluated at the target. (The arXived paper is also available since 2017 but I did not check it in more details.)Although the “partition” functions need to overlap for the matrix not to be diagonal (actually the only case that does not work is when these functions are truly indicator functions). As in other forms of stratified sampling, the practical difficulty is in picking the functions Ψ so that the evaluation of the terms of the matrix F is not overly impacted by the Monte Carlo error. If spending too much time in estimating these terms, there is not a clear gain in switching to stratified sampling, which may be why it is not particularly developed in the MCMC literature….

As an interesting aside, the illustration in this talk comes from the Mexican stamp thickness data I also used in my earlier mixture papers, concerning the 1872 Hidalgo issue that was printed on different qualities of paper. This makes the number k of components somewhat uncertain, although k=3 is sometimes used as a default. Hence a parameter and simulation space of dimension 8, even though the method is used toward approximating the marginal posteriors on the weights λ¹ and λ².

## Bayesian inference with intractable normalizing functions

Posted in Books, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2018 by xi'an

In the latest September issue of JASA I received a few days ago, I spotted a review paper by Jaewoo Park & Murali Haran on intractable normalising constants Z(θ). There have been many proposals for solving this problem as well as several surveys, some conferences and even a book. The current survey focus on MCMC solutions, from auxiliary variable approaches to likelihood approximation algorithms (albeit without ABC entries, even though the 2006 auxiliary variable solutions of Møller et al. et of Murray et al. do simulate pseudo-observations and hence…). This includes the MCMC approximations to auxiliary sampling proposed by Faming Liang and co-authors across several papers. And the paper Yves Atchadé, Nicolas Lartillot and I wrote ten years ago on an adaptive MCMC targeting Z(θ) and using stochastic approximation à la Wang-Landau. Park & Haran stress the relevance of using sufficient statistics in this approach towards fighting computational costs, which makes me wonder if an ABC version could be envisioned.  The paper also includes pseudo-marginal techniques like Russian Roulette (once spelled Roullette) and noisy MCMC as proposed in Alquier et al.  (2016). These methods are compared on three examples: (1) the Ising model, (2) a social network model, the Florentine business dataset used in our original paper, and a larger one where most methods prove too costly, and (3) an attraction-repulsion point process model. In conclusion, an interesting survey, taking care to spell out the calibration requirements and the theoretical validation, if of course depending on the chosen benchmarks.

## Gibbs for incompatible kids

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2018 by xi'an

In continuation of my earlier post on Bayesian GANs, which resort to strongly incompatible conditionals, I read a 2015 paper of Chen and Ip that I had missed. (Published in the Journal of Statistical Computation and Simulation which I first confused with JCGS and which I do not know at all. Actually, when looking at its editorial board,  I recognised only one name.) But the study therein is quite disappointing and not helping as it considers Markov chains on finite state spaces, meaning that the transition distributions are matrices, meaning also that convergence is ensured if these matrices have no null probability term. And while the paper is motivated by realistic situations where incompatible conditionals can reasonably appear, the paper only produces illustrations on two and three states Markov chains. Not that helpful, in the end… The game is still afoot!

## subset sampling

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2018 by xi'an

A paper by Au and Beck (2001) was mentioned during a talk at MCqMC 2018 in Rennes and I checked Probabilistic Engineering Mechanics for details. There is no clear indication that the subset simulation advocated therein is particularly effective. The core idea is to obtain the probability to belong to a small set A by a cascading formula, namely the product of the probability to belong to A¹, then the conditional probability to belong to A² given A¹, &tc. When the subsets A¹, A², …, A constitute a decreasing embedded sequence. The simulation conditional on being in one of the subsets $A^i$ is operated by a random-walk Metropolis-within-Gibbs scheme, with an additional rejection when the value is not in the said subset. (Surprisingly, the authors re-establish the validity of this scheme.) Hence the proposal faces similar issues as nested sampling, except that the nested subsets here are defined quite differently as they are essentially free, provided they can be easily evaluated. Each of the random walks need be scaled, the harder a task because this depends on the corresponding subset volume. The subsets $A^i$ themselves are rarely defined in a natural manner, except when being tail events. And need to be calibrated so that the conditional probability of falling into each remains large enough, the cost of free choice. The Markov chain on the previous subset $A^i$ can prove useful to build the next subset $A^{i+1}$, but there is no general principle behind this remark. (If any, this is connected with X entropy.) But else, the past chains are very much wasted, compared with, say, an SMC treatment of the problem. The paper also notices that starting a Markov chain in the set $A^{i+1}$ means there is no burnin time and hence that the probability estimators are thus unbiased. (This creates a correlation between successive Markov chains, but I think it could be ignored if the starting point was chosen at random or after a random number of extra steps.) The authors further point out that the chain may fail to be ergodic, if the proposal distribution lacks energy to link connected regions of the current subset $A^i$. They suggest using multiple chains with multiple starting points, which alleviates the issue only to some extent, as it ultimately depends on the spread of the starting points. As acknowledged in the paper.

## MCqMC 2018, Rennes [slides]

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , on July 3, 2018 by xi'an

Here are my slides for the talk I give this morning at MCqMC 20188. Based on slides first written by Changye Wu and on our joint papers. As it happens, I was under the impression I would give a survey on partially deterministic Markov processes. But, as it goes (!), my talk takes place after a superb plenary talk by Christophe Andrieu on non-reversibility, where he gave motivations for recoursing to non-reversibility and general results for variance reduction, plus a whole session on the topic by Jorens Bierkens, Alex Thiéry, Alain Durmus, and Arnak Dalalyan (CREST), which covered the topics in the following slides, only better! Reducing the informative contents of my talk to the alternative to the Zig-Zag sampler Changye proposed, which makes the talk of limited appeal, I am afraid. (There are four other sessions at the same time, fortunately!)