Statistical Science

Approximate Bayesian Computation and Simulation-Based Inference for Complex Stochastic Epidemic Models

Trevelyan J. McKinley, Ian Vernon, Ioannis Andrianakis, Nicky McCreesh, Jeremy E. Oakley, Rebecca N. Nsubuga, Michael Goldstein, and Richard G. White

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Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) and other simulation-based inference methods are becoming increasingly used for inference in complex systems, due to their relative ease-of-implementation. We briefly review some of the more popular variants of ABC and their application in epidemiology, before using a real-world model of HIV transmission to illustrate some of challenges when applying ABC methods to high-dimensional, computationally intensive models. We then discuss an alternative approach—history matching—that aims to address some of these issues, and conclude with a comparison between these different methodologies.

Article information

Statist. Sci., Volume 33, Number 1 (2018), 4-18.

First available in Project Euclid: 2 February 2018

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Approximate Bayesian Computation history matching emulation Bayesian inference infectious disease models


McKinley, Trevelyan J.; Vernon, Ian; Andrianakis, Ioannis; McCreesh, Nicky; Oakley, Jeremy E.; Nsubuga, Rebecca N.; Goldstein, Michael; White, Richard G. Approximate Bayesian Computation and Simulation-Based Inference for Complex Stochastic Epidemic Models. Statist. Sci. 33 (2018), no. 1, 4--18. doi:10.1214/17-STS618.

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Supplemental materials

  • Supplement A: Bisection method. Details the bisection method used to generate tolerances at each generation of ABC.
  • Supplement B: Approximate posterior distributions for ABC vs. nonimplausible region for HM. Plots of the approximate posterior distributions after 11 generations of ABC, and depth plots after 9 waves of history matching. (Note that HM does not produce posterior samples, rather these correspond to the densities of nonimplausible points.).