On Statistical Optimality of Variational Bayes


Debdeep Pati, Anirban Bhattacharya, Yun Yang ;
Proceedings of the Twenty-First International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics, PMLR 84:1579-1588, 2018.


The article addresses a long-standing open problem on the justification of using variational Bayes methods for parameter estimation. We provide general conditions for obtaining optimal risk bounds for point estimates acquired from mean-field variational Bayesian inference. The conditions pertain to the existence of certain test functions for the distance metric on the parameter space and minimal assumptions on the prior. A general recipe for verification of the conditions is outlined which is broadly applicable to existing Bayesian models with or without latent variables. As illustrations, specific applications to Latent Dirichlet Allocation and Gaussian mixture models are discussed.

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