Archive for Université Paris Dauphine

ABCDE for approximate Bayesian conditional density estimation

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2018 by xi'an

Another arXived paper I surprisingly (?) missed, by George Papamakarios and Iain Murray, on an ABCDE (my acronym!) substitute to ABC for generative models. The paper was reviewed [with reviews made available!] and accepted by NIPS 2016. (Most obviously, I was not one of the reviewers!)

“Conventional ABC algorithms such as the above suffer from three drawbacks. First, they only represent the parameter posterior as a set of (possibly weighted or correlated) samples [for which] it is not obvious how to perform some other computations using samples, such as combining posteriors from two separate analyses. Second, the parameter samples do not come from the correct Bayesian posterior (…) Third, as the ε-tolerance is reduced, it can become impractical to simulate the model enough times to match the observed data even once [when] simulations are expensive to perform”

The above criticisms are a wee bit overly harsh as, well…, Monte Carlo approximations remain a solution worth considering for all Bayesian purposes!, while the approximation [replacing the data with a ball] in ABC is replaced with an approximation of the true posterior as a mixture. Both requiring repeated [and likely expensive] simulations. The alternative is in iteratively simulating from pseudo-predictives towards learning better pseudo-posteriors, then used as new proposals at the next iteration modulo an importance sampling correction.  The approximation to the posterior chosen therein is a mixture density network, namely a mixture distribution with parameters obtained as neural networks based on the simulated pseudo-observations. Which the authors claim [p.4] requires no tuning. (Still, there are several aspects to tune, from the number of components to the hyper-parameter λ [p.11, eqn (35)], to the structure of the neural network [20 tanh? 50 tanh?], to the number of iterations, to the amount of X checking. As usual in NIPS papers, it is difficult to assess how arbitrary the choices made in the experiments are. Unless one starts experimenting with the codes provided.) All in all, I find the paper nonetheless exciting enough (!) to now start a summer student project on it in Dauphine and hope to check the performances of ABCDE on different models, as well as comparing this ABC implementation with a synthetic likelihood version.

 As an addendum, let me point out the very pertinent analysis of this paper by Dennis Prangle, 18 months ago!

complex Cauchys

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2018 by xi'an

During a visit of Don Fraser and Nancy Reid to Paris-Dauphine where Nancy gave a nice introduction to confidence distributions, Don pointed out to me a 1992 paper by Peter McCullagh on the Cauchy distribution. Following my recent foray into the estimation of the Cauchy location parameter. Among several most interesting aspects of the Cauchy, Peter re-expressed the density of a Cauchy C(θ¹,θ²) as

f(x;θ¹,θ²) = |θ²| / |x-θ|²

when θ=θ¹+ιθ² [a complex number on the half-plane]. Denoting the Cauchy C(θ¹,θ²) as Cauchy C(θ), the property that the ratio aX+b/cX+d follows a Cauchy for all real numbers a,b,c,d,


[when X is C(θ)] follows rather readily. But then comes the remark that

“those properties follow immediately from the definition of the Cauchy as the ratio of two correlated normals with zero mean.”

which seems to relate to the conjecture solved by Natesh Pillai and Xiao-Li Meng a few years ago. But the fact that  a ratio of two correlated centred Normals is Cauchy is actually known at least from the1930’s, as shown by Feller (1930, Biometrika) and Geary (1930, JRSS B).


Posted in Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , on February 7, 2018 by xi'an
As in every term, here comes the painful week of grading hundreds of exams! My mathematical statistics exam was highly traditional and did not even involve Bayesian material, as the few students who attended the lectures were so eager to discuss sufficiency and ancilarity, that I decided to spend an extra lecture on these notions rather than rushing though conjugate priors. Highly traditional indeed with an inverse Gaussian model and a few basic consequences of Basu’s theorem. actually exposed during this lecture. Plus mostly standard multiple choices about maximum likelihood estimation and R programming… Among the major trends this year, I spotted out the widespread use of strange derivatives of negative powers, the simultaneous derivation of two incompatible convergent estimates, the common mixup between the inverse of a sum and the sum of the inverses, the inability to produce the MLE of a constant transform of the parameter, the choice of estimators depending on the parameter, and a lack of concern for Fisher informations equal to zero.

distributions for parameters [seminar]

Posted in Books, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2018 by xi'an
Next Thursday, January 25, Nancy Reid will give a seminar in Paris-Dauphine on distributions for parameters that covers different statistical paradigms and bring a new light on the foundations of statistics. (Coffee is at 10am in the Maths department common room and the talk is at 10:15 in room A, second floor.)

Nancy Reid is University Professor of Statistical Sciences and the Canada Research Chair in Statistical Theory and Applications at the University of Toronto and internationally acclaimed statistician, as well as a 2014 Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. In 2015, she received the Order of Canada, was elected a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences in 2016 and has been awarded many other prestigious statistical and science honours, including the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies (COPSS) Award in 1992.

Nancy Reid’s research focuses on finding more accurate and efficient methods to deduce and conclude facts from complex data sets to ultimately help scientists find specific solutions to specific problems.

There is currently some renewed interest in developing distributions for parameters, often without relying on prior probability measures. Several approaches have been proposed and discussed in the literature and in a series of “Bayes, fiducial, and frequentist” workshops and meeting sessions. Confidence distributions, generalized fiducial inference, inferential models, belief functions, are some of the terms associated with these approaches.  I will survey some of this work, with particular emphasis on common elements and calibration properties. I will try to situate the discussion in the context of the current explosion of interest in big data and data science. 

two Parisian talks by Pierre Jacob in January

Posted in pictures, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2017 by xi'an

While back in Paris from Harvard in early January, Pierre Jacob will give two talks on works of his:

January 09, 10:30, séminaire d’Analyse-Probabilités, Université Paris-Dauphine: Unbiased MCMC

Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods provide consistent approximations of integrals as the number of iterations goes to infinity. However, MCMC estimators are generally biased after any fixed number of iterations, which complicates both parallel computation and the construction of confidence intervals. We propose to remove this bias by using couplings of Markov chains and a telescopic sum argument, inspired by Glynn & Rhee (2014). The resulting unbiased estimators can be computed independently in parallel, and confidence intervals can be directly constructed from the Central Limit Theorem for i.i.d. variables. We provide practical couplings for important algorithms such as the Metropolis-Hastings and Gibbs samplers. We establish the theoretical validity of the proposed estimators, and study their variances and computational costs. In numerical experiments, including inference in hierarchical models, bimodal or high-dimensional target distributions, logistic regressions with the Pólya-Gamma Gibbs sampler and the Bayesian Lasso, we demonstrate the wide applicability of the proposed methodology as well as its limitations. Finally, we illustrate how the proposed estimators can approximate the “cut” distribution that arises in Bayesian inference for misspecified models.

January 11, 10:30, CREST-ENSAE, Paris-Saclay: Better together? Statistical learning in models made of modules [Warning: Paris-Saclay is not in Paris!]

In modern applications, statisticians are faced with integrating heterogeneous data modalities relevant for an inference or decision problem. It is convenient to use a graphical model to represent the statistical dependencies, via a set of connected “modules”, each relating to a specific data modality, and drawing on specific domain expertise in their development. In principle, given data, the conventional statistical update then allows for coherent uncertainty quantification and information propagation through and across the modules. However, misspecification of any module can contaminate the update of others. In various settings, particularly when certain modules are trusted more than others, practitioners have preferred to avoid learning with the full model in favor of “cut distributions”. In this talk, I will discuss why these modular approaches might be preferable to the full model in misspecified settings, and propose principled criteria to choose between modular and full-model approaches. The question is intertwined with computational difficulties associated with the cut distribution, and new approaches based on recently proposed unbiased MCMC methods will be described.

Long enough after the New Year festivities (if any) to be fully operational for them!

resampling methods

Posted in Books, pictures, Running, Statistics, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2017 by xi'an

A paper that was arXived [and that I missed!] last summer is a work on resampling by Mathieu Gerber, Nicolas Chopin (CREST), and Nick Whiteley. Resampling is used to sample from a weighted empirical distribution and to correct for very small weights in a weighted sample that otherwise lead to degeneracy in sequential Monte Carlo (SMC). Since this step is based on random draws, it induces noise (while improving the estimation of the target), reducing this noise is preferable, hence the appeal of replacing plain multinomial sampling with more advanced schemes. The initial motivation is for sequential Monte Carlo where resampling is rife and seemingly compulsory, but this also applies to importance sampling when considering several schemes at once. I remember discussing alternative schemes with Nicolas, then completing his PhD, as well as Olivier Cappé, Randal Douc, and Eric Moulines at the time (circa 2004) we were working on the Hidden Markov book. And getting then a somewhat vague idea as to why systematic resampling failed to converge.

In this paper, Mathieu, Nicolas and Nick show that stratified sampling (where a uniform is generated on every interval of length 1/n) enjoys some form of consistent, while systematic sampling (where the “same” uniform is generated on every interval of length 1/n) does not necessarily enjoy this consistency. There actually exists cases where convergence does not occur. However, a residual version of systematic sampling (where systematic sampling is applied to the residuals of the decimal parts of the n-enlarged weights) is itself consistent.

The paper also studies the surprising feature uncovered by Kitagawa (1996) that stratified sampling applied to an ordered sample brings an error of O(1/n²) between the cdf rather than the usual O(1/n). It took me a while to even understand the distinction between the original and the ordered version (maybe because Nicolas used the empirical cdf during his SAD (Stochastic Algorithm Day!) talk, ecdf that is the same for ordered and initial samples).  And both systematic and deterministic sampling become consistent in this case. The result was shown in dimension one by Kitagawa (1996) but extends to larger dimensions via the magical trick of the Hilbert curve.

journée algorithmes stochastiques à Dauphine vendredi

Posted in Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2017 by xi'an

A final reminder (?) that we hold a special day of five talks around stochastic algorithms at Dauphine this Friday, from 10:00 till 17:30. Attendance is free, coffee and tea are free (while they last!), come and join us!