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.

Citation information

Rendell, Lewis J.; Johansen, Adam M.; Lee, Anthony; Whiteley, Nick. (2018). Global consensus Monte Carlo. arXiv:1807.09288.

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