Archive for stochastic processes

probabilistic numerics

Posted in pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2015 by xi'an

sunwar2I attended an highly unusual workshop while in Warwick last week. Unusual for me, obviously. It was about probabilistic numerics, i.e., the use of probabilistic or stochastic arguments in the numerical resolution of (possibly) deterministic problems. The notion in this approach is fairly Bayesian in that it makes use to prior information or belief about the quantity of interest, e.g., a function, to construct an usually Gaussian process prior and derive both an estimator that is identical to a numerical method (e.g., Runge-Kutta or trapezoidal integration) and uncertainty or variability around this estimator. While I did not grasp much more than the classy introduction talk by Philipp Hennig, this concept sounds fairly interesting, if only because of the Bayesian connection, and I wonder if we will soon see a probability numerics section at ISBA! More seriously, placing priors on functions or functionals is a highly formal perspective (as in Bayesian non-parametrics) and it makes me wonder how much of the data (evaluation of a function at a given set of points) and how much of the prior is reflected in the output [variability]. (Obviously, one could also ask a similar question for statistical analyses!)  For instance, issues of singularity arise among those stochastic process priors.

Another question that stemmed from this talk is whether or not more efficient numerical methods can derived that way, in addition to recovering the most classical ones. Somewhat, somehow, given the idealised nature of the prior, it feels like priors could be more easily compared or ranked than in classical statistical problems. Since the aim is to figure out the value of an integral or the solution to an ODE. (Or maybe not, since again almost the same could be said about estimating a normal mean.)

a partial review of BISP8 [guest post]

Posted in Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , on June 17, 2013 by xi'an

Chris Drovandi (QUT) sent me his impression on BISP8 that just took place in Milano, Italia (BISP stands for Bayesian inference in stochastic processes):

Here is a review of some of the talks at BISP8. For the other talks I do not have sufficient background to give the talks the justice that they deserve. It was a very enjoyable small workshop with many talks in my areas of interest.

In the first session Vanja Dukic presented bayesian inference of SEIR epidemic DE models and state space models of google flu trends data. In the case of the state space models a particle learning algorithm was developed. The author considered both fixed and random effects for the data in each US state. In the second session, Murali Haran presented a likelihood-free approach for inferring the parameters of a spatio-temporal epidemic model. The speaker used a Gaussian process emulator of the model based on model simulations from a regulator grid of parameter values. The emulator approach is suggested to be less intensive in terms of the number of model simulations compared with abc but is only suitable for low dimensional inference problems (even less so than abc).

In the first session of day 2 Ana Palacios combined the gompertz model with Markov processes to create flexible and realistic stochastic growth models. The resulting model has a difficult likelihood and inference was performed by completing the likelihood creating simple Gibbs moves and by ABC.

There were 3 talks in a row on inference for SDEs. The first, by Simon Särkkä, avoids evaluating an intractable transition density by proposing from another diffusion model and computing importance weights using the girsanov theorem. Next, Samuel Kou used a population MCMC type approach where each chain had a different Euler discretisation. This helps improve mixing for the chain with the finest grid. Moves between chains are complicated by the different dimension for each chain. The author used a filling approach to overcome this. A very interesting aspect of the talk was using information from all chains to extrapolate various posterior quantiles to delta_t is 0 (no discretisation implying the correct posterior). I assume the extrapolation may not work as well for the extreme quantiles. The third talk, by Andrew Golightly, proposed an auxiliary approach to improve PMCMC for these models. This talk was the most technical (for me) so need more time to digest. Following my talk (based on some work here.  And some current work.) was an applied talk using smc2 methodology.

On the final day Alexandros Beskos investigated the use of SMC for Bayesian inference for a high dimensional (static) parameter. SMC is advocated here due to the ease of adaptation relative to MCMC when there is no structure in the model. The base of the approach I believe was that of Chopin (2002).

workshop in Columbia

Posted in Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2011 by xi'an

The workshop in Columbia University on Computational Methods in Applied Sciences is quite diverse in its topics.  Reminding me of the conference on Efficient Monte Carlo in Sandbjerg Estate, Sønderborg in 2008, celebrating the 70th birthday of Reuven Rubinstein, incl. some colleagues I had not met since this meeting. Yesterday I thus heard (quite interesting) talks on domains somehow far from my own, from Robert Adler on cohomology (giving a second look  at the thing after the talk I head in Wharton last year), to José Blanchet on simulation for infinite server queues (with a link to perfect sampling I could not exactly trace but that was certainly there). Several of the talks made me think of our Brownian motion confidence band paper, with Wilfrid Kendall and Jean-Michel Marin, esp. Gennady Samorodnitsky’s on the maximum of stochastic processes (and wonder whether we could have gone further in that direction). Pierre Del Moral presented a broad overview of the Feynman-Kacs’ approaches to particle methods, in particular particle MCMC, with application to some financial objects. Paul Glasserman talked about robust MCMC, which I found quite an appealing concept in that it included uncertainties about the model itself. And linked with minimax concepts. And Paul Dupuis exposed a parallel tempering method linked with large deviations, whose paper I am definitely looking forward. Now it is more than time to work on my own talk! (On a very personal basis, I sadly lost my sturdy Canon camera in the taxi from the airport! Will need a new one for the ‘Og!)