Archive for organisers

ISBA 2021 low key

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2021 by xi'an

Fourth day of ISBA (and ISB@CIRM), which was a bit low key for me as I had a longer hike with my wife in the morning, including a swim in a sea as cold as the Annecy lake last month!, but nonetheless enjoyable and crystal clear, then attacked my pile of Biometrika submissions that had accumulated beyond the reasonable since last week, chased late participants who hadn’t paid yet, reviewed a paper that was due two weeks ago, chatted with participants before they left, discussed a research problem, and as a result ended attending only four sessions over the whole day. Including one about Models and Methods for Networks and Graphs, with interesting computation challenges, esp. in block models, the session in memoriam of Hélène Massam, where Gérard Letac (part of ISB@CIRM!), Jacek Wesolowski, and Reza Mohammadi, all coauthors of Hélène, made presentations on their joint advances. Hélène was born in Marseille, actually, in 1949, and even though she did not stay in France after her École Normale studies, it was a further commemoration to attend this session in her birth-place. I also found out about them working on the approximation of a ratio of normalising constants for the G-Wishart. The last session of my data was the Susie Bayarri memorial lecture, with Tamara Roderick as the lecturer. Reporting on an impressive bunch of tricks to reduce computing costs for hierarchical models with Gaussian processes.

ISBA 2021.3

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2021 by xi'an

Now on the third day which again started early with a 100% local j-ISBA session. (After a group run to and around Mont Puget, my first real run since 2020!!!) With a second round of talks by junior researchers from master to postdoc level. Again well-attended. A talk about Bayesian non-parametric sequential taxinomy by Alessandro Zito used the BayesANT acronym, which reminded me of the new vave group Adam and the Ants I was listening to forty years ago, in case they need a song as well as a logo! (Note that BayesANT is also used for a robot using Bayesian optimisation!) And more generally a wide variety in the themes. Thanks to the j-organisers of this 100% live session!

The next session was on PDMPs, which I helped organise, with Manon Michel speaking from Marseille, exploiting the symmetry around the gradient, which is distribution-free! Then, remotely, Kengo Kamatani, speaking from Tokyo, who expanded the high-dimensional scaling limit to the Zig-Zag sampler, exhibiting an argument against small refreshment rates, and Murray Pollock, from Newcastle, who exposed quite clearly the working principles of the Restore algorithm, including why coupling from the past was available in this setting. A well-attended session despite the early hour (in the USA).

Another session of interest for me [which I attended by myself as everyone else was at lunch in CIRM!] was the contributed C16 on variational and scalable inference that included a talk on hierarchical Monte Carlo fusion (with my friends Gareth and Murray as co-authors), Darren’s call to adopt functional programming in order to save Bayesian computing from extinction, normalising flows for modularisation, and Dennis’ adversarial solutions for Bayesian design, avoiding the computation of the evidence.

Wes Johnson’s lecture was about stories with setting prior distributions based on experts’ opinions. Which reminded me of the short paper Kaniav Kamary and myself wrote about ten years ago, in response to a paper on the topic in the American Statistician. And could not understand the discrepancy between two Bayes factors based on Normal versus Cauchy priors, until I was told they were mistakenly used repeatedly.

Rushing out of dinner, I attended both the non-parametric session (live with Marta and Antonio!) and the high-dimension computational session on Bayesian model choice (mute!). A bit of a schizophrenic moment, but allowing to get a rough picture in both areas. At once. Including an adaptive MCMC scheme for selecting models by Jim Griffin. Which could be run directly over the model space. With my ever-going wondering at the meaning of neighbour models.

ISBA 20.2.21

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2021 by xi'an

A second day which started earlier and more smoothly with a 100% local j-ISBA session. (Not counting the invigorating swim in Morgiou!) With talks by junior researchers from master to postdoc level, as this ISBA mirror meeting was primarily designed for them, so that they could all present their work, towards gaining more visibility for their research and facilitating more interactions with the participants. CIRM also insisted on this aspect of the workshop, which was well-attended.

I alas had to skip the poster session [and the joys of gather.town] despite skipping lunch [BND], due to organisational constraints. Then attended the Approximate Bayesian computation section, including one talk by Geoff Nicholls on confidence estimation for ABC, following upon the talk given by Kate last evening. And one by Florian Maire on learning the bound in accept-reject algorithms on the go, as in Caffo et al. (2002), which I found quite exciting and opening new possibilities, esp. if the Markov chain thus produced can be recycled towards unbiasedness without getting the constant right! For instance, by Rao-Blackwellisation, multiple mixtures, black box importance sampling, whatever. (This also reminded me of the earlier Goffinet et al. 1996.)

Followed by another Bayesian (modeling and) computation session. With my old friend Peter Müller talking about mixture inference with dependent priors (and a saturated colour scheme!), Matteo Ruggieri [who could not make it to CIRM!] on computable Bayesian inference for HMMs. Providing an impressive improvement upon particle filters for approximating the evidence. Also bringing the most realistic Chinese restaurant with conveyor belt! And Ming Yuan Zhou using optimal transport to define distance between distributions. With two different conditional distributions depending on which marginal is first fixed. And a connection with GANs (of course!).

And it was great to watch and listen to my friend Alicia Carriquiry talking on forensic statistics and the case for (or not?!) Bayes factors. And remembering Dennis Lindley. And my friend Jim Berger on frequentism versus Bayes! Consistency seems innocuous as most Bayes procedures are. Empirical coverage is another kind of consistency, isn’t it?

A remark I made when re-typing the program for CIRM is that there are surprisingly few talks about COVID-19 overall, maybe due to the program being mostly set for ISBA 2020 in Kunming. Maybe because we are more cautious than the competition…?!

And, at last, despite a higher density of boars around the CIRM facilities, no one got hurt yesterday! Unless one counts the impact of the French defeat at the Euro 2021 on the football fans here…

ISBA 2021.1

Posted in Kids, Mountains, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2021 by xi'an

An infinite (mixture) session was truly the first one I could attend on Day 1, as a heap of unexpected last minute issues kept me busy or on hedge for the beginning of the day (if not preventing me from a dawn dip in Calanque de Morgiou). Using the CIRM video system for zoom talked required more preparation than I had thought and we made it barely in time for the first session, while I had to store zoom links for all speakers present in Luminy.  Plus allocate sessions to the rooms provided by CIRM, twice since there was a mishap with the other workshop present at CIRM. And reassuring speakers, made anxious by the absence of a clear schedule. Chairing the second ABC session was also a tense moment, from checking every speaker could connect and share slides, to ensuring they kept on schedule (and they did on both!, ta’), to checking for questions at the end. Spotting a possible connection between Takuo Mastubara’s Stein’s approximation for in the ABC setup and a related paper by Liu and Lee I had read just a few days ago. Alas, it was too early to relax as an inverter in the CIRM room burned and led to a local power failure. Fortunately this was restored prior to the mixture session! (As several boars were spotted on the campus yesternight, I hope no tragic encounter happens before the end of the meeting!!!) So the mixture session proposed new visions on infering K, the number of components, some of which reminded me of… my first talk at CIRM where I was trying to get rid of empty components at each MCMC step, albeit in a much more rudimentary way obviously. And later had the wonderful surprise of hearing Xiao-Li’s lecture start by an excerpt from Car Talk, the hilarious Sunday morning radio talk-show about the art of used car maintenance on National Public Radio (NPR) that George Casella could not miss (and where a letter he wrote them about a mistaken probability computation was mentioned!). The final session of the day was an invited ABC session I chaired (after being exfiltrated from the CIRM dinner table!) with Kate Lee, Ryan Giordano, and Julien Stoehr as speakers. Besides Julien’s talk on our Gibbs-ABC paper, both other talks shared a concern with the frequentist properties of the ABC posterior, either to be used as a control tool or as a faster assessment of the variability of the (Monte Carlo) ABC output.

[o-l] ISBA 2021 [百花齊放,百家爭鳴]

Posted in pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2021 by xi'an

As usual, when looking for our ISBA World conference, ISBA [now] 2021, many alternative realities emerge, ISBA being such a popular acronym! The actual dates for the (true and only) ISBA 2021 conference are 28 June – 02 July and the location is no longer Kunming, China, since there is a pandemic going on!!! The conference is now on-line, which forces a complete rethinking of its organisation, away from a sheer replica on Zoom of the traditional conference. And with no registration fees!! I have agreed to join other ISBA members to contribute (with limited abilities) to this switch and obviously welcome comments towards it! Having greatly learned from the earlier experience with the One World Bernoulli+IMS conference last summer, thanks to the dedication and imagination of Leif Döring!, here are some line of thought:

  • Keep in mind days are 24 hours long and attention span much smaller, towards keeping the offer manageable for a fully engaged participant
  • Account and take advantage of the multiple time zones available to virtual participants to stretch the schedule to cover as many participants as possible, with a potential multiplication of (plenary) talks and posters
  • Avoid filling the on-line schedule with live talks but have them pre-registered, possibly with several levels of length and depth, including a one-slide two-minute version
  • Exploit on-line abilities to focus solely (?) on interactions, which is the main point of conferences, meaning participants joining for a thematic session over a reasonable duration to discuss talks or posters they had attended on their own before, with a catalyst leading the show with prepared questions
  • Preregister poster presentations as well, so that live poster sessions involve only questions and discussions, and group poster by theme (an attempt of mine at the earlier ISBA conferences) so that presenters and visitors can interact at the theme level rather than being stuck in an empty room with one’s poster
  • Create local mirrors when people could physically (safely!) gather to attend the conference, from watching videos and poster together to engage into a local plus virtual discussion during interaction sessions. I certainly plan to hold one such session in Paris [if there and not in Eindhoven on 28 June – 02 July]
  • Find ways to engage participants to fully commit to the conference (see above), for instance by preparing a “I am away at ISBA 2021” card one could post on whatever social or asocial networks one favours (but maybe not as one’s vacation email automated reply, unless the card is a few bytes…)