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Global consensus Monte Carlo

by   Lewis J. Rendell, et al.

For Bayesian inference with large data sets, it is often convenient or necessary to distribute the data across multiple machines. We consider a likelihood function expressed as a product of terms, each associated with a subset of the data. Inspired by global variable consensus optimisation, we introduce an instrumental hierarchical model associating auxiliary statistical parameters with each term; these are conditionally independent given the top-level parameters, one of which controls their unconditional strength of association. This model leads to a distributed MCMC algorithm on an extended state space yielding approximations of posterior expectations. A trade-off between computational tractability and fidelity to the original model can be controlled by changing the association strength in the instrumental model. We propose the use of a SMC sampler with a sequence of association strengths, allowing both the automatic determination of appropriate strengths and for a bias correction technique to be applied. In contrast to similar distributed Monte Carlo algorithms, this approach requires few distributional assumptions. The performance of the algorithms is illustrated with a number of simulated examples.


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