Approximate Bayesian Computation

Posterior updates without likelihood

Approximate Bayesian Computation is a terribly underspecified description. There are many ways that inference can be based upon simulations, many types of freedom from likelihood and many ways to approximate Bayesian computation. This page is about the dominant use of that term, which is the use of Simulation-based inference to do Bayes updates where the likelihood is not available but where we can simulate from the generative model.

Obviously there are other ways you can approximate Bayesian computation — see e.g. variational Bayes.

TBD: relationship between this and simulation-based inference in a frequentist setting, often called indirect inference. They look similar but tend not to cite each other. Is this a technical or sociological hurdle?

Miles Cranmer’s Introduction to Simulation-based inference.


One can solve for ABC using Sequential Monte Carlo. TBD.

Bayesian Synthetic Likelihood

TBD. Something about assuming the summary statistic is close to jointly Gaussian.


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Cranmer, Kyle, Johann Brehmer, and Gilles Louppe. 2020. “The Frontier of Simulation-Based Inference.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, May.
Cranmer, Kyle, Juan Pavez, and Gilles Louppe. 2015. “Approximating Likelihood Ratios with Calibrated Discriminative Classifiers,” June.
Diggle, Peter J., and Richard J. Gratton. 1984. “Monte Carlo Methods of Inference for Implicit Statistical Models.” Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B (Methodological) 46 (2): 193–212.
Drovandi, Christopher C., Clara Grazian, Kerrie Mengersen, and Christian Robert. 2018. “Approximating the Likelihood in Approximate Bayesian Computation.” March 18, 2018.
Drovandi, Christopher, and David T. Frazier. 2021. “A Comparison of Likelihood-Free Methods With and Without Summary Statistics.” March 3, 2021.
Durkan, Conor, George Papamakarios, and Iain Murray. 2018. “Sequential Neural Methods for Likelihood-Free Inference,” 9.
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Forneron, Jean-Jacques, and Serena Ng. 2015. “The ABC of Simulation Estimation with Auxiliary Statistics.” January 6, 2015.
Frazier, David T., and Christopher Drovandi. 2021. “Robust Approximate Bayesian Inference With Synthetic Likelihood.” Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics 0 (0): 1–19.
Frazier, David T., David J. Nott, Christopher Drovandi, and Robert Kohn. 2021. “Bayesian Inference Using Synthetic Likelihood: Asymptotics and Adjustments.” March 12, 2021.
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Sisson, S. A., Y. Fan, and Mark M. Tanaka. 2007. “Sequential Monte Carlo Without Likelihoods.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104 (6): 1760–65.
Sisson, Scott A., Yanan Fan, and Mark Beaumont. 2018. Handbook of Approximate Bayesian Computation. CRC Press.
Stoye, Markus, Johann Brehmer, Gilles Louppe, Juan Pavez, and Kyle Cranmer. 2018. “Likelihood-Free Inference with an Improved Cross-Entropy Estimator.” August 2, 2018.
Tran, Dustin, Rajesh Ranganath, and David Blei. 2017. “Hierarchical Implicit Models and Likelihood-Free Variational Inference.” In Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 30, edited by I. Guyon, U. V. Luxburg, S. Bengio, H. Wallach, R. Fergus, S. Vishwanathan, and R. Garnett, 5523–33. Curran Associates, Inc.

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