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# Variational inference with continuously-indexed normalizing flows

*Proceedings of the Thirty-Seventh Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence*, PMLR 161:44-53, 2021.

#### Abstract

Continuously-indexed flows (CIFs) have recently achieved improvements over baseline normalizing flows on a variety of density estimation tasks. CIFs do not possess a closed-form marginal density, and so, unlike standard flows, cannot be plugged in directly to a variational inference (VI) scheme in order to produce a more expressive family of approximate posteriors. However, we show here how CIFs can be used as part of an auxiliary VI scheme to formulate and train expressive posterior approximations in a natural way. We exploit the conditional independence structure of multi-layer CIFs to build the required auxiliary inference models, which we show empirically yield low-variance estimators of the model evidence. We then demonstrate the advantages of CIFs over baseline flows in VI problems when the posterior distribution of interest possesses a complicated topology, obtaining improved results in both the Bayesian inference and surrogate maximum likelihood settings.