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Dirichlet process mixture (DPM) models provide flexible modeling for distributions of data as an infinite mixture of distributions from a chosen collection. Specifying priors for these models in individual data contexts can be challenging. In this paper, we introduce a scheme which requires the investigator to specify only simple scaling information. This is used to transform the data to a fixed scale on which a low information prior is constructed. Samples from the posterior with the rescaled data are transformed back for inference on the original scale. The low information prior is selected to provide a wide variety of components for the DPM to generate flexible distributions for the data on the fixed scale. The method can be applied to all DPM models with kernel functions closed under a suitable scaling transformation. Construction of the low information prior, however, is kernel dependent. Using DPM-of-Gaussians and DPM-of-Weibulls models as examples, we show that the method provides accurate estimates of a diverse collection of distributions that includes skewed, multimodal, and highly dispersed members. With the recommended priors, repeated data simulations show performance comparable to that of standard empirical estimates. Finally, we show weak convergence of posteriors with the proposed priors for both kernels considered.
Model criticism is usually carried out by assessing if replicated data generated under the fitted model looks similar to the observed data, see e.g. Gelman, Carlin, Stern, and Rubin (2004, p. 165). This paper presents a method for latent variable models by pulling back the data into the space of latent variables, and carrying out model criticism in that space. Making use of a model's structure enables a more direct assessment of the assumptions made in the prior and likelihood. We demonstrate the method with examples of model criticism in latent space applied to factor analysis, linear dynamical systems and Gaussian processes.
We develop a general Bayesian semiparametric change-point model in which separate groups of structural parameters (for example, location and dispersion parameters) can each follow a separate multiple change-point process, driven by time-dependent transition matrices among the latent regimes. The distribution of the observations within regimes is unknown and given by a Dirichlet process mixture prior. The properties of the proposed model are studied theoretically through the analysis of inter-arrival times and of the number of change-points in a given time interval. The prior-posterior analysis by Markov chain Monte Carlo techniques is developed on a forward-backward algorithm for sampling the various regime indicators. Analysis with simulated data under various scenarios and an application to short-term interest rates are used to show the generality and usefulness of the proposed model.
Sequential Monte Carlo (SMC) methods for sampling from the posterior of static Bayesian models are flexible, parallelisable and capable of handling complex targets. However, it is common practice to adopt a Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) kernel with a multivariate normal random walk (RW) proposal in the move step, which can be both inefficient and detrimental for exploring challenging posterior distributions. We develop new SMC methods with independent proposals which allow recycling of all candidates generated in the SMC process and are embarrassingly parallelisable. A novel evidence estimator that is easily computed from the output of our independent SMC is proposed. Our independent proposals are constructed via flexible copula-type models calibrated with the population of SMC particles. We demonstrate through several examples that more precise estimates of posterior expectations and the marginal likelihood can be obtained using fewer likelihood evaluations than the more standard RW approach.
We introduce a novel Bayesian approach for quantitative learning for graphical log-linear marginal models. These models belong to curved exponential families that are difficult to handle from a Bayesian perspective. The likelihood cannot be analytically expressed as a function of the marginal log-linear interactions, but only in terms of cell counts or probabilities. Posterior distributions cannot be directly obtained, and Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods are needed. Finally, a well-defined model requires parameter values that lead to compatible marginal probabilities. Hence, any MCMC should account for this important restriction. We construct a fully automatic and efficient MCMC strategy for quantitative learning for such models that handles these problems. While the prior is expressed in terms of the marginal log-linear interactions, we build an MCMC algorithm that employs a proposal on the probability parameter space. The corresponding proposal on the marginal log-linear interactions is obtained via parameter transformation. We exploit a conditional conjugate setup to build an efficient proposal on probability parameters. The proposed methodology is illustrated by a simulation study and a real dataset.
In observational studies, estimation of a causal effect of a treatment on an outcome relies on proper adjustment for confounding. If the number of the potential confounders () is larger than the number of observations (), then direct control for all potential confounders is infeasible. Existing approaches for dimension reduction and penalization are generally aimed at predicting the outcome, and are less suited for estimation of causal effects. Under standard penalization approaches (e.g. Lasso), if a variable is strongly associated with the treatment but weakly with the outcome , the coefficient will be shrunk towards zero thus leading to confounding bias. Under the assumption of a linear model for the outcome and sparsity, we propose continuous spike and slab priors on the regression coefficients corresponding to the potential confounders . Specifically, we introduce a prior distribution that does not heavily shrink to zero the coefficients (s) of the s that are strongly associated with but weakly associated with . We compare our proposed approach to several state of the art methods proposed in the literature. Our proposed approach has the following features: 1) it reduces confounding bias in high dimensional settings; 2) it shrinks towards zero coefficients of instrumental variables; and 3) it achieves good coverages even in small sample sizes. We apply our approach to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data to estimate the causal effects of persistent pesticide exposure on triglyceride levels.
Motivated by a study examining spatiotemporal patterns in inpatient hospitalizations, we propose an efficient Bayesian approach for fitting zero-inflated negative binomial models. To facilitate posterior sampling, we introduce a set of latent variables that are represented as scale mixtures of normals, where the precision terms follow independent Pólya-Gamma distributions. Conditional on the latent variables, inference proceeds via straightforward Gibbs sampling. For fixed-effects models, our approach is comparable to existing methods. However, our model can accommodate more complex data structures, including multivariate and spatiotemporal data, settings in which current approaches often fail due to computational challenges. Using simulation studies, we highlight key features of the method and compare its performance to other estimation procedures. We apply the approach to a spatiotemporal analysis examining the number of annual inpatient admissions among United States veterans with type 2 diabetes.
Gaussian stochastic process (GaSP) has been widely used in two fundamental problems in uncertainty quantification, namely the emulation and calibration of mathematical models. Some objective priors, such as the reference prior, are studied in the context of emulating (approximating) computationally expensive mathematical models. In this work, we introduce a new class of priors, called the jointly robust prior, for both the emulation and calibration. This prior is designed to maintain various advantages from the reference prior. In emulation, the jointly robust prior has an appropriate tail decay rate as the reference prior, and is computationally simpler than the reference prior in parameter estimation. Moreover, the marginal posterior mode estimation with the jointly robust prior can separate the influential and inert inputs in mathematical models, while the reference prior does not have this property. We establish the posterior propriety for a large class of priors in calibration, including the reference prior and jointly robust prior in general scenarios, but the jointly robust prior is preferred because the calibrated mathematical model typically predicts the reality well. The jointly robust prior is used as the default prior in two new R packages, called “RobustGaSP” and “RobustCalibration”, available on CRAN for emulation and calibration, respectively.
Gaussian processes (GPs) are very widely used for modeling of unknown functions or surfaces in applications ranging from regression to classification to spatial processes. Although there is an increasingly vast literature on applications, methods, theory and algorithms related to GPs, the overwhelming majority of this literature focuses on the case in which the input domain corresponds to a Euclidean space. However, particularly in recent years with the increasing collection of complex data, it is commonly the case that the input domain does not have such a simple form. For example, it is common for the inputs to be restricted to a non-Euclidean manifold, a case which forms the motivation for this article. In particular, we propose a general extrinsic framework for GP modeling on manifolds, which relies on embedding of the manifold into a Euclidean space and then constructing extrinsic kernels for GPs on their images. These extrinsic Gaussian processes (eGPs) are used as prior distributions for unknown functions in Bayesian inferences. Our approach is simple and general, and we show that the eGPs inherit fine theoretical properties from GP models in Euclidean spaces. We consider applications of our models to regression and classification problems with predictors lying in a large class of manifolds, including spheres, planar shape spaces, a space of positive definite matrices, and Grassmannians. Our models can be readily used by practitioners in biological sciences for various regression and classification problems, such as disease diagnosis or detection. Our work is also likely to have impact in spatial statistics when spatial locations are on the sphere or other geometric spaces.
We consider the problem of model choice for stochastic epidemic models given partial observation of a disease outbreak through time. Our main focus is on the use of Bayes factors. Although Bayes factors have appeared in the epidemic modelling literature before, they can be hard to compute and little attention has been given to fundamental questions concerning their utility. In this paper we derive analytic expressions for Bayes factors given complete observation through time, which suggest practical guidelines for model choice problems. We adapt the power posterior method for computing Bayes factors so as to account for missing data and apply this approach to partially observed epidemics. For comparison, we also explore the use of a deviance information criterion for missing data scenarios. The methods are illustrated via examples involving both simulated and real data.
A fundamental task in numerical computation is the solution of large linear systems. The conjugate gradient method is an iterative method which offers rapid convergence to the solution, particularly when an effective preconditioner is employed. However, for more challenging systems a substantial error can be present even after many iterations have been performed. The estimates obtained in this case are of little value unless further information can be provided about, for example, the magnitude of the error. In this paper we propose a novel statistical model for this error, set in a Bayesian framework. Our approach is a strict generalisation of the conjugate gradient method, which is recovered as the posterior mean for a particular choice of prior. The estimates obtained are analysed with Krylov subspace methods and a contraction result for the posterior is presented. The method is then analysed in a simulation study as well as being applied to a challenging problem in medical imaging.