Learning Bayesian Networks: The Combination of Knowledge and Statistical Data

02/27/2013 ∙ by David Heckerman, et al. ∙ 0

We describe algorithms for learning Bayesian networks from a combination of user knowledge and statistical data. The algorithms have two components: a scoring metric and a search procedure. The scoring metric takes a network structure, statistical data, and a user's prior knowledge, and returns a score proportional to the posterior probability of the network structure given the data. The search procedure generates networks for evaluation by the scoring metric. Our contributions are threefold. First, we identify two important properties of metrics, which we call event equivalence and parameter modularity. These properties have been mostly ignored, but when combined, greatly simplify the encoding of a user's prior knowledge. In particular, a user can express her knowledge-for the most part-as a single prior Bayesian network for the domain. Second, we describe local search and annealing algorithms to be used in conjunction with scoring metrics. In the special case where each node has at most one parent, we show that heuristic search can be replaced with a polynomial algorithm to identify the networks with the highest score. Third, we describe a methodology for evaluating Bayesian-network learning algorithms. We apply this approach to a comparison of metrics and search procedures.

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