He, Jingyu, Yalov, Saar, Hahn, P. Richard

Bayesian additive regression trees (BART) (Chipman et. al., 2010) is a powerful predictive model that often outperforms alternative models at out-of-sample prediction. BART is especially well-suited to settings with unstructured predictor variables and substantial sources of unmeasured variation as is typical in the social, behavioral and health sciences. This paper develops a modified version of BART that is amenable to fast posterior estimation. We present a stochastic hill climbing algorithm that matches the remarkable predictive accuracy of previous BART implementations, but is many times faster and less memory intensive. Simulation studies show that the new method is comparable in computation time and more accurate at function estimation than both random forests and gradient boosting.

Mohammadi, Abdolreza, Wit, Ernst C.

Graphical models provide powerful tools to uncover complicated patterns in multivariate data and are commonly used in Bayesian statistics and machine learning. In this paper, we introduce an R package BDgraph which performs Bayesian structure learning for general undirected graphical models with either continuous or discrete variables. The package efficiently implements recent improvements in the Bayesian literature. To speed up computations, the computationally intensive tasks have been implemented in C++ and interfaced with R. In addition, the package contains several functions for simulation and visualization, as well as two multivariate datasets taken from the literature and are used to describe the package capabilities. The paper includes a brief overview of the statistical methods which have been implemented in the package. The main body of the paper explains how to use the package. Furthermore, we illustrate the package's functionality in both real and artificial examples, as well as in an extensive simulation study.

Lakshminarayanan, Balaji, Roy, Daniel M., Teh, Yee Whye

Additive regression trees are flexible non-parametric models and popular off-the-shelf tools for real-world non-linear regression. In application domains, such as bioinformatics, where there is also demand for probabilistic predictions with measures of uncertainty, the Bayesian additive regression trees (BART) model, introduced by Chipman et al. (2010), is increasingly popular. As data sets have grown in size, however, the standard Metropolis-Hastings algorithms used to perform inference in BART are proving inadequate. In particular, these Markov chains make local changes to the trees and suffer from slow mixing when the data are high-dimensional or the best fitting trees are more than a few layers deep. We present a novel sampler for BART based on the Particle Gibbs (PG) algorithm (Andrieu et al., 2010) and a top-down particle filtering algorithm for Bayesian decision trees (Lakshminarayanan et al., 2013). Rather than making local changes to individual trees, the PG sampler proposes a complete tree to fit the residual. Experiments show that the PG sampler outperforms existing samplers in many settings.

Kudlicka, Jan, Murray, Lawrence M., Ronquist, Fredrik, Schön, Thomas B.

We consider probabilistic programming for birth-death models of evolution and introduce a new widely-applicable inference method that combines an extension of the alive particle filter (APF) with automatic Rao-Blackwellization via delayed sampling. Birth-death models of evolution are an important family of phylogenetic models of the diversification processes that lead to evolutionary trees. Probabilistic programming languages (PPLs) give phylogeneticists a new and exciting tool: their models can be implemented as probabilistic programs with just a basic knowledge of programming. The general inference methods in PPLs reduce the need for external experts, allow quick prototyping and testing, and accelerate the development and deployment of new models. We show how these birth-death models can be implemented as simple programs in existing PPLs, and demonstrate the usefulness of the proposed inference method for such models. For the popular BiSSE model the method yields an increase of the effective sample size and the conditional acceptance rate by a factor of 30 in comparison with a standard bootstrap particle filter. Although concentrating on phylogenetics, the extended APF is a general inference method that shows its strength in situations where particles are often assigned zero weight. In the case when the weights are always positive, the extra cost of using the APF rather than the bootstrap particle filter is negligible, making our method a suitable drop-in replacement for the bootstrap particle filter in probabilistic programming inference.