Archive for O’Bayes17

post-COVID post-conference mood

Posted in Kids, Running, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2020 by xi'an

Nature ran a 4-page comment on the post-COVID future of massive conferences (NeurIPS or JSM style) and on how to make them less carbon greedy. Some of their common-sense suggestions come close to what I had suggested a while ago and some became promptly implemented in these times of COVID-19 travel restrictions, as, e.g., to systematically include virtual attendance option(s), with provisions from one’s institutions for quality time (as if one was indeed away), to add multiple (3?) regional hubs to a single location, which also offers the perk of a round-the-clock meeting, with an optimisation of the three places chosen to minimise (estimated) total flight distances for the potential participants, as in e.g. choosing U.S. central Chicago rather than extremes like Seattle or Miami, and possibly adding Tokyo and Paris, to reduce the frequency of the monster meetings by coordinating with sister societies, to enforce an individual or institutional maximum yearly budget, to have corporate sponsors turning from travel support to improving remote access in less favoured countries.

Obviously, it seems difficult to completely switch to a fully virtual solution, as attending a conference has many academic dimensions to be accounted for, but the “big ones” should be the first to shrink, if only because the most impacting. And also because small, high quality workshops have much more impact research-wise on their attendants. With the above still offering some savings. And also the possibility to bypass financial, personal, visa, political, life-threatening impossibilities to attend a meeting in a specific foreign country. Provided uncensored remote communication tools are allowed or possible from the said  country. (Calling for the question, barring financial difficulties, and once COVID-related restrictions have been lifted, what are the countries where everyone could consider attending?!)

This year, before lockdown forced the cancellation of ABC in Grenoble, we had set a mirror version in Warwick. Which led us to create the One World ABC seminar. The Bernoulli-IMS World congress was postponed by one year but a few dedicated volunteers managed to build within a few weeks a free impressive virtual substitute with more than 600 talks and close to 2000 participants (so far). Remember it is to take place on 24-28 August, on different time zones and with ten live plenaries repeated twice to this effect.

Next year, we still hope to organise an Objective Bayesian workshop at Casa Matemática Oaxaca (CMO) in México and the current sanitary conditions imply a reduction of the physically present participants by two thirds. Meaning for certain a remote component and possibly a mirror location depending on the state of the World in December 2021.

O’Bayes 2017 group photograph

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2017 by xi'an

off to Austin!

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2017 by xi'an

Today I am flying to Austin, Texas, on the occasion of the O’Bayes 2017 conference, the 12th meeting in the series. In complete objectivity (I am a member of the scientific committee!), the scientific program looks quite exciting, with new themes and new faces. (And Peter Müller concocted a special social program as well!) As indicated above [with an innovative spelling of my first name!] I will give my “traditional” tutorial on O’Bayes testing and model choice tomorrow, flying back to Paris on Wednesday (and alas missing the final talks, including Better together by Pierre!). A nice pun is that the conference centre is located on Robert De[a]dman Drive, which I hope is not premonitory of a fatal ending to my talk there..!

priors without likelihoods are like sloths without…

Posted in Books, Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2017 by xi'an

“The idea of building priors that generate reasonable data may seem like an unusual idea…”

Andrew, Dan, and Michael arXived a opinion piece last week entitled “The prior can generally only be understood in the context of the likelihood”. Which connects to the earlier Read Paper of Gelman and Hennig I discussed last year. I cannot state strong disagreement with the positions taken in this piece, actually, in that I do not think prior distributions ever occur as a given but are rather chosen as a reference measure to probabilise the parameter space and eventually prioritise regions over others. If anything I find myself even further on the prior agnosticism gradation.  (Of course, this lack of disagreement applies to the likelihood understood as a function of both the data and the parameter, rather than of the parameter only, conditional on the data. Priors cannot be depending on the data without incurring disastrous consequences!)

“…it contradicts the conceptual principle that the prior distribution should convey only information that is available before the data have been collected.”

The first example is somewhat disappointing in that it revolves as so many Bayesian textbooks (since Laplace!) around the [sex ratio] Binomial probability parameter and concludes at the strong or long-lasting impact of the Uniform prior. I do not see much of a contradiction between the use of a Uniform prior and the collection of prior information, if only because there is not standardised way to transfer prior information into prior construction. And more fundamentally because a parameter rarely makes sense by itself, alone, without a model that relates it to potential data. As for instance in a regression model. More, following my epiphany of last semester, about the relativity of the prior, I see no damage in the prior being relevant, as I only attach a relative meaning to statements based on the posterior. Rather than trying to limit the impact of a prior, we should rather build assessment tools to measure this impact, for instance by prior predictive simulations. And this is where I come to quite agree with the authors.

“…non-identifiabilities, and near nonidentifiabilites, of complex models can lead to unexpected amounts of weight being given to certain aspects of the prior.”

Another rather straightforward remark is that non-identifiable models see the impact of a prior remain as the sample size grows. And I still see no issue with this fact in a relative approach. When the authors mention (p.7) that purely mathematical priors perform more poorly than weakly informative priors it is hard to see what they mean by this “performance”.

“…judge a prior by examining the data generating processes it favors and disfavors.”

Besides those points, I completely agree with them about the fundamental relevance of the prior as a generative process, only when the likelihood becomes available. And simulatable. (This point is found in many references, including our response to the American Statistician paper Hidden dangers of specifying noninformative priors, with Kaniav Kamary. With the same illustration on a logistic regression.) I also agree to their criticism of the marginal likelihood and Bayes factors as being so strongly impacted by the choice of a prior, if treated as absolute quantities. I also if more reluctantly and somewhat heretically see a point in using the posterior predictive for assessing whether a prior is relevant for the data at hand. At least at a conceptual level. I am however less certain about how to handle improper priors based on their recommendations. In conclusion, it would be great to see one [or more] of the authors at O-Bayes 2017 in Austin as I am sure it would stem nice discussions there! (And by the way I have no prior idea on how to conclude the comparison in the title!)

OBayes 17 travel support

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2017 by xi'an

The OBayes 17 conference in Austin, Texas, next December is getting nearer! This post is to advertise for the availability of a dozen travel grants for junior investigators, as detailed on the webpage of the conference. One of those grants will even become an ISBA New Researchers Travel Award for the event! This comes on top of registration and accommodation being quite reasonable, thanks to Peter Mueller’s efforts, and hence makes this conference most affordable and attractive for young researchers. Apply now!!!