Editor's note: The following is an interview with Columbia University Professor Andrew Gelman conducted by Marketing scientist Kevin Gray, in which Gelman spells out the ABCs of Bayesian statistics. Andrew Gelman: Bayesian statistics uses the mathematical rules of probability to combines data with "prior information" to give inferences which (if the model being used is correct) are more precise than would be obtained by either source of information alone. Classical statistical methods avoid prior distributions. In classical statistics, you might include in your model a predictor (for example), or you might exclude it, or you might pool it as part of some larger set of predictors in order to get a more stable estimate. These are pretty much your only choices.
Classical statistics is said to follow the frequentist approach because it interprets probability as the relative frequency of an event over the long run that is, after observing many trials. In the context of probabilities, an event is a combination of one or more elementary outcomes of an experiment, such as any of six equal results in rolls of two dice or an asset price dropping by 10 percent or more on a given day.
Who has not heard that Bayesian statistics are difficult, computationally slow, cannot scale-up to big data, the results are subjective; and we don't need it at all? Do we really need to learn a lot of math and a lot of classical statistics first before approaching Bayesian techniques. Why do the most popular books about Bayesian statistics have over 500 pages? Bayesian nightmare is real or myth? Someone once compared Bayesian approach to the kitchen of a Michelin star chef with high-quality chef knife, a stockpot and an expensive sautee pan; while Frequentism is like your ordinary kitchen, with banana slicers and pasta pots. People talk about Bayesianism and Frequentism as if they were two different religions. Does Bayes really put more burden on the data scientist to use her brain at the outset because Bayesianism is a religion for the brightest of the brightest?
Many domains of science have developed complex simulations to describe phenomena of interest. While these simulations provide high-fidelity models, they are poorly suited for inference and lead to challenging inverse problems. We review the rapidly developing field of simulation-based inference and identify the forces giving new momentum to the field. Finally, we describe how the frontier is expanding so that a broad audience can appreciate the profound change these developments may have on science.
We investigate Bayesian alternatives to classical Monte Carlo methods for evaluating integrals. Bayesian Monte Carlo (BMC) allows the incorporation of prior knowledge, such as smoothness of the integrand, into the estimation. In a simple problem we show that this outperforms any classical importance sampling method. We also attempt more challenging multidimensional integrals involved in computing marginal likelihoods of statistical models (a.k.a.