The Normal Means problem plays a fundamental role in many areas of modern high-dimensional statistics, both in theory and practice. And the Empirical Bayes (EB) approach to solving this problem has been shown to be highly effective, again both in theory and practice. However, almost all EB treatments of the Normal Means problem assume that the observations are independent. In practice correlations are ubiquitous in real-world applications, and these correlations can grossly distort EB estimates. Here, exploiting theory from Schwartzman (2010), we develop new EB methods for solving the Normal Means problem that take account of unknown correlations among observations. We provide practical software implementations of these methods, and illustrate them in the context of large-scale multiple testing problems and False Discovery Rate (FDR) control. In realistic numerical experiments our methods compare favorably with other commonly-used multiple testing methods.

Dutta, Ritabrata, Mira, Antonietta, Onnela, Jukka-Pekka

Infectious diseases are studied to understand their spreading mechanisms, to evaluate control strategies and to predict the risk and course of future outbreaks. Because people only interact with a small number of individuals, and because the structure of these interactions matters for spreading processes, the pairwise relationships between individuals in a population can be usefully represented by a network. Although the underlying processes of transmission are different, the network approach can be used to study the spread of pathogens in a contact network or the spread of rumors in an online social network. We study simulated simple and complex epidemics on synthetic networks and on two empirical networks, a social / contact network in an Indian village and an online social network in the U.S. Our goal is to learn simultaneously about the spreading process parameters and the source node (first infected node) of the epidemic, given a fixed and known network structure, and observations about state of nodes at several points in time. Our inference scheme is based on approximate Bayesian computation (ABC), an inference technique for complex models with likelihood functions that are either expensive to evaluate or analytically intractable. ABC enables us to adopt a Bayesian approach to the problem despite the posterior distribution being very complex. Our method is agnostic about the topology of the network and the nature of the spreading process. It generally performs well and, somewhat counter-intuitively, the inference problem appears to be easier on more heterogeneous network topologies, which enhances its future applicability to real-world settings where few networks have homogeneous topologies.

A major inference task in Bayesian networks is explaining why some variables are observed in their particular states using a set of target variables. Existing methods for solving this problem often generate explanations that are either too simple (underspecified) or too complex (overspecified). In this paper, we introduce a method called Most Relevant Explanation (MRE) which finds a partial instantiation of the target variables that maximizes the generalized Bayes factor (GBF) as the best explanation for the given evidence. Our study shows that GBF has several theoretical properties that enable MRE to automatically identify the most relevant target variables in forming its explanation. In particular, conditional Bayes factor (CBF), defined as the GBF of a new explanation conditioned on an existing explanation, provides a soft measure on the degree of relevance of the variables in the new explanation in explaining the evidence given the existing explanation. As a result, MRE is able to automatically prune less relevant variables from its explanation. We also show that CBF is able to capture well the explaining-away phenomenon that is often represented in Bayesian networks. Moreover, we define two dominance relations between the candidate solutions and use the relations to generalize MRE to find a set of top explanations that is both diverse and representative. Case studies on several benchmark diagnostic Bayesian networks show that MRE is often able to find explanatory hypotheses that are not only precise but also concise.

Sudyanti, Putu Ayu, Rao, Vinayak

This paper addresses challenges in flexibly modeling multimodal data that lie on constrained spaces. Applications include climate or crime measurements in a geographical area, or flow-cytometry experiments, where unsuitable recordings are discarded. A simple approach to modeling such data is through the use of mixture models, with each component following an appropriate truncated distribution. Problems arise when the truncation involves complicated constraints, leading to difficulties in specifying the component distributions, and in evaluating their normalization constants. Bayesian inference over the parameters of these models results in posterior distributions that are doubly-intractable. We address this problem via an algorithm based on rejection sampling and data augmentation. We view samples from a truncated distribution as outcomes of a rejection sampling scheme, where proposals are made from a simple mixture model, and are rejected if they violate the constraints. Our scheme proceeds by imputing the rejected samples given mixture parameters, and then resampling parameters given all samples. We study two modeling approaches: mixtures of truncated components and truncated mixtures of components. In both situations, we describe exact Markov chain Monte Carlo sampling algorithms, as well as approximations that bound the number of rejected samples, achieving computational efficiency and lower variance at the cost of asymptotic bias. Overall, our methodology only requires practitioners to provide an indicator function for the set of interest. We present results on simulated data and apply our algorithm to two problems, one involving flow-cytometry data, and the other, crime recorded in the city of Chicago.

Bayesian networks are a popular representation of asymmetric (for example causal) relationships between random variables. Markov random fields (MRFs) are a complementary model of symmetric relationships used in computer vision, spatial modeling, and social and gene expression networks. A chain graph model under the Lauritzen-Wermuth-Frydenberg interpretation (hereafter a chain graph model) generalizes both Bayesian networks and MRFs, and can represent asymmetric and symmetric relationships together.As in other graphical models, the set of marginals from distributions in a chain graph model induced by the presence of hidden variables forms a complex model. One recent approach to the study of marginal graphical models is to consider a well-behaved supermodel. Such a supermodel of marginals of Bayesian networks, defined only by conditional independences, and termed the ordinary Markov model, was studied at length in (Evans and Richardson, 2014).In this paper, we show that special mixed graphs which we call segregated graphs can be associated, via a Markov property, with supermodels of a marginal of chain graphs defined only by conditional independences. Special features of segregated graphs imply the existence of a very natural factorization for these supermodels, and imply many existing results on the chain graph model, and ordinary Markov model carry over. Our results suggest that segregated graphs define an analogue of the ordinary Markov model for marginals of chain graph models.