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Copula variational inference
Dustin Tran · David Blei · Edo M Airoldi

Mon Dec 07 04:00 PM -- 08:59 PM (PST) @ 210 C #37 #None

We develop a general variational inference method that preserves dependency among the latent variables. Our method uses copulas to augment the families of distributions used in mean-field and structured approximations. Copulas model the dependency that is not captured by the original variational distribution, and thus the augmented variational family guarantees better approximations to the posterior. With stochastic optimization, inference on the augmented distribution is scalable. Furthermore, our strategy is generic: it can be applied to any inference procedure that currently uses the mean-field or structured approach. Copula variational inference has many advantages: it reduces bias; it is less sensitive to local optima; it is less sensitive to hyperparameters; and it helps characterize and interpret the dependency among the latent variables.

Author Information

Dustin Tran (Columbia University)
David Blei (Columbia University)

David Blei is a Professor of Statistics and Computer Science at Columbia University, and a member of the Columbia Data Science Institute. His research is in statistical machine learning, involving probabilistic topic models, Bayesian nonparametric methods, and approximate posterior inference algorithms for massive data. He works on a variety of applications, including text, images, music, social networks, user behavior, and scientific data. David has received several awards for his research, including a Sloan Fellowship (2010), Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award (2011), Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2011), Blavatnik Faculty Award (2013), and ACM-Infosys Foundation Award (2013). He is a fellow of the ACM.

Edo M Airoldi (Harvard University)

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