Annular Augmentation Sampling

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Francois Fagan, Jalaj Bhandari, John Cunningham ;
Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, PMLR 54:139-147, 2017.

Abstract

The exponentially large sample space of general binary probabilistic models renders intractable standard operations such as exact marginalization, inference, and normalization. Typically, researchers deal with these distributions via deterministic approximations, the class of belief propagation methods being a prominent example. Comparatively, Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods have been significantly less used in this domain. In this work, we introduce an auxiliary variable MCMC scheme that samples from an annular augmented space, translating to a great circle path around the hypercube of the binary sample space. This annular augmentation sampler explores the sample space more effectively than coordinate-wise samplers and has no tunable parameters, leading to substantial performance gains in estimating quantities of interest in large binary models. We extend the method to incorporate into the sampler any existing mean-field approximation (such as from belief propagation), leading to further performance improvements. Empirically, we consider a range of large Ising models and an application to risk factors for heart disease.

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