We put forward the Scaled Beta2 (SBeta2) as a flexible and tractable family for modeling scales in both hierarchical and non-hierarchical settings. Various sensible alternatives to the overuse of vague Inverted Gamma priors have been proposed, mainly for hierarchical models. Several of these alternatives are particular cases of the SBeta2 or can be well approximated by it. This family of distributions can be obtained in closed form as a Gamma scale mixture of Gamma distributions, as the Student distribution can be obtained as a Gamma scale mixture of Normal variables. Members of the SBeta2 family arise as intrinsic priors and as divergence based priors in diverse situations, hierarchical and non-hierarchical.
The SBeta2 family unifies and generalizes different proposals in the Bayesian literature, and has numerous theoretical and practical advantages: it is flexible, its members can be lighter, as heavy or heavier tailed as the half-Cauchy, and different behaviors at the origin can be modeled. It has the reciprocality property, i.e if the variance parameter is in the family the precision also is. It is easy to simulate from, and can be embedded in a Gibbs sampling scheme. Short of not being conjugate, it is also amazingly tractable: when coupled with a conditional Cauchy prior for locations, the marginal prior for locations can be found explicitly as proportional to known transcendental functions, and for integer values of the hyperparameters an analytical closed form exists. Furthermore, for specific choices of the hyperparameters, the marginal is found to be an explicit “horseshoe prior”, which are known to have excellent theoretical and practical properties. To our knowledge this is the first closed form horseshoe prior obtained. We also show that for certain values of the hyperparameters the mixture of a Normal and a Scaled Beta2 distribution also gives a closed form marginal.
Examples include robust normal and binomial hierarchical modeling and meta-analysis, with real and simulated data.
"The Scaled Beta2 Distribution as a Robust Prior for Scales." Bayesian Anal. 12 (3) 615 - 637, September 2017. https://doi.org/10.1214/16-BA1015