Geometry and Dynamics for Markov Chain Monte Carlo

Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods have revolutionised mathematical computation and enabled statistical inference within many previously intractable models. In this context, Hamiltonian dynamics have been proposed as an efficient way of building chains which can explore probability densities efficiently. The method emerges from physics and geometry and these links have been extensively studied by a series of authors through the last thirty years. However, there is currently a gap between the intuitions and knowledge of users of the methodology and our deep understanding of these theoretical foundations.

The aim of this review is to provide a comprehensive introduction to the geometric tools used in Hamiltonian Monte Carlo at a level accessible to statisticians, machine learners and other users of the methodology with only a basic understanding of Monte Carlo methods. This will be complemented with some discussion of the most recent advances in the field which we believe will become increasingly relevant to applied scientists.

Reference: Barp, A., Briol, F-X., Kennedy, A. D. & Girolami, M. (2017). Geometry and Dynamics for Markov Chain Monte Carlo. arXiv:1705.02891. Annual Review of Statistics and Its Applications, Vol. 5. 

Surfaces of constant energy of H


Riemann manifold Langevin and Hamiltonian Monte Carlo methods

This paper proposes Metropolis adjusted Langevin and Hamiltonian Monte Carlo sampling methods defined on the Riemann manifold to resolve the shortcomings of existing Monte Carlo algorithms when sampling from target densities that may be high dimensional and exhibit strong correlations. The methods provide fully automated adaptation mechanisms that circumvent the costly pilot runs required to tune proposal densities for Metropolis- Hastings or indeed Hamiltonian Monte Carlo and Metropolis Adjusted Langevin Algorithms. This allows for highly efficient sampling even in very high dimensions where different scalings may be required for the transient and stationary phases of the Markov chain.

The proposed methodology exploits the Riemannian geometry of the parameter space of statistical models and thus automatically adapts to the local structure when simulating paths across this manifold providing highly efficient convergence and exploration of the target density. The performance of these Riemannian Manifold Monte Carlo methods is rigorously assessed by performing inference on logistic regression models, log-Gaussian Cox point processes, stochastic volatility models, and Bayesian estimation of dynamical systems described by nonlinear differential equations. Substantial improvements in the time normalised Effective Sample Size are reported when compared to alternative sampling approaches.

Reference: Girolami, M. and Calderhead, B. (2011), Riemann manifold Langevin and Hamiltonian Monte Carlo methods. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B (Statistical Methodology), 73: 123–214. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9868.2010.00765.x