Chérief-Abdellatif, Badr-Eddine, Alquier, Pierre

In some misspecified settings, the posterior distribution in Bayesian statistics may lead to inconsistent estimates. To fix this issue, it has been suggested to replace the likelihood by a pseudo-likelihood, that is the exponential of a loss function enjoying suitable robustness properties. In this paper, we build a pseudo-likelihood based on the Maximum Mean Discrepancy, defined via an embedding of probability distributions into a reproducing kernel Hilbert space. We show that this MMD-Bayes posterior is consistent and robust to model misspecification. As the posterior obtained in this way might be intractable, we also prove that reasonable variational approximations of this posterior enjoy the same properties. We provide details on a stochastic gradient algorithm to compute these variational approximations. Numerical simulations indeed suggest that our estimator is more robust to misspecification than the ones based on the likelihood. Keywords: Maximum Mean Discrepancy, Robust estimation, Variational inference.

"No free lunch" results state the impossibility of obtaining meaningful bounds on the error of a learning algorithm without prior assumptions and modelling. Some models are expensive (strong assumptions, such as as subgaussian tails), others are cheap (simply finite variance). As it is well known, the more you pay, the more you get: in other words, the most expensive models yield the more interesting bounds. Recent advances in robust statistics have investigated procedures to obtain tight bounds while keeping the cost minimal. The present paper explores and exhibits what the limits are for obtaining tight PAC-Bayes bounds in a robust setting for cheap models, addressing the question: is PAC-Bayes good value for money?

Erven, Tim V., Rooij, Steven D., Grünwald, Peter

Bayesian model averaging, model selection and their approximations such as BIC are generally statistically consistent, but sometimes achieve slower rates of convergence thanother methods such as AIC and leave-one-out cross-validation. On the other hand, these other methods can be inconsistent. We identify the catchup phenomenon as a novel explanation for the slow convergence of Bayesian methods. Basedon this analysis we define the switch-distribution, a modification of the Bayesian model averaging distribution. We prove that in many situations model selection and prediction based on the switch-distribution is both consistent and achieves optimal convergence rates, thereby resolving the AIC-BIC dilemma. The method is practical; we give an efficient algorithm.

We study the problem of estimating high dimensional models with underlying sparse structures while preserving the privacy of each training example. We develop a differentially private high-dimensional sparse learning framework using the idea of knowledge transfer. More specifically, we propose to distill the knowledge from a "teacher" estimator trained on a private dataset, by creating a new dataset from auxiliary features, and then train a differentially private "student" estimator using this new dataset. In addition, we establish the linear convergence rate as well as the utility guarantee for our proposed method. For sparse linear regression and sparse logistic regression, our method achieves improved utility guarantees compared with the best known results (Kifer et al., 2012; Wang and Gu, 2019). We further demonstrate the superiority of our framework through both synthetic and real-world data experiments.

Ramírez, Ignacio, Sapiro, Guillermo

The power of sparse signal modeling with learned over-complete dictionaries has been demonstrated in a variety of applications and fields, from signal processing to statistical inference and machine learning. However, the statistical properties of these models, such as under-fitting or over-fitting given sets of data, are still not well characterized in the literature. As a result, the success of sparse modeling depends on hand-tuning critical parameters for each data and application. This work aims at addressing this by providing a practical and objective characterization of sparse models by means of the Minimum Description Length (MDL) principle -- a well established information-theoretic approach to model selection in statistical inference. The resulting framework derives a family of efficient sparse coding and dictionary learning algorithms which, by virtue of the MDL principle, are completely parameter free. Furthermore, such framework allows to incorporate additional prior information to existing models, such as Markovian dependencies, or to define completely new problem formulations, including in the matrix analysis area, in a natural way. These virtues will be demonstrated with parameter-free algorithms for the classic image denoising and classification problems, and for low-rank matrix recovery in video applications.