On the low-rank approach for semidefinite programs arising in synchronization and community detection

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Afonso S. Bandeira, Nicolas Boumal, Vladislav Voroninski ;
29th Annual Conference on Learning Theory, PMLR 49:361-382, 2016.

Abstract

To address difficult optimization problems, convex relaxations based on semidefinite programming are now common place in many fields. Although solvable in polynomial time, large semidefinite programs tend to be computationally challenging. Over a decade ago, exploiting the fact that in many applications of interest the desired solutions are low rank, Burer and Monteiro proposed a heuristic to solve such semidefinite programs by restricting the search space to low-rank matrices. The accompanying theory does not explain the extent of the empirical success. We focus on Synchronization and Community Detection problems and provide theoretical guarantees shedding light on the remarkable efficiency of this heuristic.

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