Variational Boosting: Iteratively Refining Posterior Approximations


Andrew C. Miller, Nicholas J. Foti, Ryan P. Adams ;
Proceedings of the 34th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 70:2420-2429, 2017.


We propose a black-box variational inference method to approximate intractable distributions with an increasingly rich approximating class. Our method, variational boosting, iteratively refines an existing variational approximation by solving a sequence of optimization problems, allowing a trade-off between computation time and accuracy. We expand the variational approximating class by incorporating additional covariance structure and by introducing new components to form a mixture. We apply variational boosting to synthetic and real statistical models, and show that the resulting posterior inferences compare favorably to existing variational algorithms.

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