Variational Inference is a powerful tool in the Bayesian modeling toolkit, however, its effectiveness is determined by the expressivity of the utilized variational distributions in terms of their ability to match the true posterior distribution. In turn, the expressivity of the variational family is largely limited by the requirement of having a tractable density function. To overcome this roadblock, we introduce a new family of variational upper bounds on a marginal log-density in the case of hierarchical models (also known as latent variable models). We then derive a family of increasingly tighter variational lower bounds on the otherwise intractable standard evidence lower bound for hierarchical variational distributions, enabling the use of more expressive approximate posteriors. We show that previously known methods, such as Hierarchical Variational Models, Semi-Implicit Variational Inference and Doubly Semi-Implicit Variational Inference can be seen as special cases of the proposed approach, and empirically demonstrate superior performance of the proposed method in a set of experiments.
We present a general method for deriving collapsed variational inference algorithms for probabilistic models in the conjugate exponential family. Our method unifies many existing approaches to collapsed variational inference. Our collapsed variational inference leads to a new lower bound on the marginal likelihood. We exploit the information geometry of the bound to derive much faster optimization methods based on conjugate gradients for these models. Our approach is very general and is easily applied to any model where the mean field update equations have been derived.
Recent work used importance sampling ideas for better variational bounds on likelihoods. We clarify the applicability of these ideas to pure probabilistic inference, by showing the resulting Importance Weighted Variational Inference (IWVI) technique is an instance of augmented variational inference, thus identifying the looseness in previous work. Experiments confirm IWVI's practicality for probabilistic inference. As a second contribution, we investigate inference with elliptical distributions, which improves accuracy in low dimensions, and convergence in high dimensions. Papers published at the Neural Information Processing Systems Conference.
In this work, we present a method for differentially private data sharing by training a mixture model on vertically partitioned data, where each party holds different features for the same set of individuals. We use secure multi-party computation (MPC) to combine the contribution of the data from the parties to train the model. We apply the differentially private variational inference (DPVI) for learning the model. Assuming the mixture components contain no dependencies across different parties, the objective function can be factorized into a sum of products of individual components of each party. Therefore, each party can calculate its shares on its own without the use of MPC. Then MPC is only needed to get the product between the different shares and add the noise. Applying the method to demographic data from the US Census, we obtain comparable accuracy to the non-partitioned case with approximately 20-fold increase in computing time.
Beta process is the standard nonparametric Bayesian prior for latent factor model. In this paper, we derive a structured mean-field variational inference algorithm for a beta process non-negative matrix factorization (NMF) model with Poisson likelihood. Unlike the linear Gaussian model, which is well-studied in the nonparametric Bayesian literature, NMF model with beta process prior does not enjoy the conjugacy. We leverage the recently developed stochastic structured mean-field variational inference to relax the conjugacy constraint and restore the dependencies among the latent variables in the approximating variational distribution. Preliminary results on both synthetic and real examples demonstrate that the proposed inference algorithm can reasonably recover the hidden structure of the data.