Published on Wed Apr 01 2015

Bayesian model comparison with un-normalised likelihoods

Richard G. Everitt, Adam M. Johansen, Ellen Rowing, Melina Evdemon-Hogan

Bayesian analysis of Markov random field models is not possible due to the intractable likelihood functions. New methods that permit exact, or close to exact, simulation from the posterior distribution have been developed.

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Abstract

Models for which the likelihood function can be evaluated only up to a parameter-dependent unknown normalising constant, such as Markov random field models, are used widely in computer science, statistical physics, spatial statistics, and network analysis. However, Bayesian analysis of these models using standard Monte Carlo methods is not possible due to the intractability of their likelihood functions. Several methods that permit exact, or close to exact, simulation from the posterior distribution have recently been developed. However, estimating the evidence and Bayes' factors (BFs) for these models remains challenging in general. This paper describes new random weight importance sampling and sequential Monte Carlo methods for estimating BFs that use simulation to circumvent the evaluation of the intractable likelihood, and compares them to existing methods. In some cases we observe an advantage in the use of biased weight estimates. An initial investigation into the theoretical and empirical properties of this class of methods is presented. Some support for the use of biased estimates is presented, but we advocate caution in the use of such estimates.