Chapter 10 Bayesian nonparametric models
10.1 Bayesian nonparametric mixture models
NIMBLE provides support for Bayesian nonparametric (BNP) mixture modeling. The current implementation provides support for hierarchical specifications involving Dirichlet process (DP) mixtures (Ferguson 1973, 1974; Lo 1984; Escobar 1994; Escobar and West 1995). More specifically, a DP mixture model takes the form
\[y_i \mid G \overset{iid}{\sim} \int h(y_i \mid \theta) G(d\theta),\] \[G \mid \alpha, G_0 \sim DP(\alpha, G_0),\]
where \(h(\cdot \mid \theta)\) is a suitable kernel with parameter \(\theta\), and \(\alpha\) and \(G_0\) are the concentration and baseline distribution parameters of the DP, respectively. DP mixture models can be written with different levels of hierarchy, all being equivalent to the model above.
When the random measure \(G\) is integrated out from the model, the DP mixture model can be written using latent or membership variables, \(z_i\), following a Chinese Restaurant Process (CRP) distribution (Blackwell and MacQueen 1973), discussed in Section 10.2. The model takes the form
\[y_i \mid \tilde{\boldsymbol{\theta}}, z_i \overset{ind}{\sim} h(\cdot \mid \tilde{\theta}_{z_i}),\] \[\boldsymbol{z}\mid \alpha \sim \mbox{CRP}(\alpha),\hspace{0.5cm} \tilde{\theta}_j \overset{iid}{\sim}G_0,\] where \(\mbox{CRP}(\alpha)\) denotes the CRP distribution with concentration parameter \(\alpha\).
If a stickbreaking representation (Sethuraman 1994), discussed in section 10.3, is assumed for the random measure \(G\), then the model takes the form
\[y_i \mid {\boldsymbol{\theta}}^{\star}, \boldsymbol{v} \overset{ind}{\sim} \sum_{l=1}^{\infty}\left\{ v_l\prod_{m<l}(1v_m)\right\} h(\cdot \mid {\theta}_l^{\star}),\] \[v_l \mid \alpha \overset{iid}{\sim} Beta(1, \alpha),\hspace{0.5cm} {\theta}_l^{\star} \overset{iid}{\sim}G_0.\]
More general representations of the random measure can be specify by considering \(v_l \mid \nu_l, \alpha_l \overset{ind}{\sim} Beta(\nu_l, \alpha_l)\). Finite dimensional approximations can be obtained by truncating the infinite sum to have \(L\) components.
Different representations of DP mixtures lead to different computational algorithms. NIMBLE supports sampling algorithms based on the CRP representation, as well as on the stickbreaking representation. NIMBLE includes definitions of structures required to implement the CRP and stickbreaking distributions, and the associated MCMC algorithms.
10.2 Chinese Restaurant Process model
The CRP is a distribution over the space of partitions of positive integers and is implemented in NIMBLE as the dCRP
distribution. More details for using this distribution are available using help(CRP)
.
The CRP can be described as a stochastic process in which customers arrive at a restaurant, potentially with an infinite number of tables. Each customer sits at an empty or occupied table according to probabilities that depend on the number of customers in the occupied tables. Thus, the CRP partitions the set of customers, through their assignment to tables in the restaurant.
10.2.1 Specification and density
NIMBLE parametrizes the dCRP
distribution by a concentration parameter and a size parameter.
10.2.1.1 Specification
The dCRP
distribution is specified in NIMBLE for a membership vector z
as
z[1:N] ~ dCRP(conc, size)
The conc
parameter is the concentration parameter of the CRP, controlling the probability of a customer sitting on a new table, i.e., creating a new cluster. The size
parameter defines the size of the set of integers to be partitioned.
The conc
parameter is a positive real value that can be treated as known or unknown. When a gamma prior is assumed for the conc
parameter, a specialized sampler is assigned. See more on this in section 10.4.1.
The size
parameter is a positive integer that has to be fixed and equal to the length of vector z
. It defines the set of consecutive integers from 1
to N
to be partitioned. Each element in z
can be an integer from 1
to N
, and repetitions are allowed.
10.2.1.2 Density
The CRP distribution partitions the set of positive integers \({1, \ldots, N}\), into \(N^{\star} \leq N\) disjoint subsets, indicating to which subset each element belongs. For instance, if \(N=6\), the set \(\{1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 \}\) can be partitioned into the subsets \(S_1=\{1, 2, 6\}\), \(S_2=\{4, 5\}\), and \(S_3=\{3\}\). Note that \(N^{\star} =3\), and this is one partition from out of 203 possibilities. The CRPdistributed vector \(\boldsymbol{z}\) encodes this partition and its observed values would be \((1, 1, 3, 2, 2, 1)\), for this example. In mixture modeling, this indicates that observations 1, 2, and 6 belong to cluster 1, observations 4 and 5 to cluster 2, and observation 3 to cluster 3. Note that this representation is not unique, vector \((2, 2, 1, 3, 3, 2)\) encodes the same partition.
The joint probability function of \(z=(z_1, \ldots, z_N)\), with concentration parameter \(\alpha\), is given by
\[p(\boldsymbol{z} \mid \alpha) \propto \frac{\Gamma{(\alpha)}}{\Gamma{(\alpha + n)}} \alpha^{N^{\star}(\boldsymbol{z})}\prod_{k=1}^{N^{\star}(\boldsymbol{z})}\Gamma(m_{k}(\boldsymbol{z})),\]
where \(m_k(\boldsymbol{z})\) denotes the number of elements in \(\boldsymbol{z}\) that are equal to \(k\), \(N^{\star}(\boldsymbol{z})\) denotes the number of unique elements in \(\boldsymbol{z}\), and \(\Gamma(\cdot)\) denotes the gamma function. The full conditional distribution for \(z_i\) given \(z_{i}\) is
\[p(z_i = m \mid z_{i}, \alpha) = \frac{1}{n1+\alpha} \sum_{j \neq i}1_{\{z_j\}} (m)+ \frac{\alpha}{n1+\alpha}1_{\{z^{new}\}}(m),\]
where \(z_{i}\) denotes vector \(\boldsymbol{z}\) after removing its \(i\)th component, \(z^{new}\) is a value not in \(z_{i}\), and \(1_{A}\) denotes the indicator function at set \(A\).
Note that the probability of creating a new cluster is proportional to \(\alpha\): the larger the concentration parameter, the more clusters are created.
10.2.2 Example
The following example illustrates how to use NIMBLE to perform single density estimation for realvalued data, under a BNP approach, using the dCRP
distribution. (Note that the BNP approach is also often used to perform density estimation on random effects.) The model is given by
\[ y_i \mid \tilde{\boldsymbol{\theta}}, \tilde{\boldsymbol{\sigma}}^2, z_i \overset{ind}{\sim} N(\tilde{\theta}_{z_i}, \tilde{\sigma}^2_{z_i}), \hspace{0.5cm} i = 1, \ldots, N, \] \[ \boldsymbol{z} \sim \mbox{CRP}(\alpha), \hspace{0.5cm} \alpha \sim \mbox{Gamma}(1, 1), \] \[ \tilde{\theta}_j \overset{iid}{\sim} N(0, 100), \hspace{0.5cm}\tilde{\sigma}^2_j \overset{iid}{\sim}\mbox{InvGamma}(1, 1), \hspace{0.2cm} j=1, \ldots, M. \]
code < nimbleCode({
z[1:N] ~ dCRP(alpha, size = N)
alpha ~ dgamma(1, 1)
for(i in 1:M) {
thetatilde[i] ~ dnorm(0, var = 100)
s2tilde[i] ~ dinvgamma(1, 1)
}
for(i in 1:N)
y[i] ~ dnorm(thetatilde[z[i]], var = s2tilde[z[i]])
})
set.seed(1)
constants < list(N = 100, M = 50)
data < list(y = c(rnorm(50, 5, sqrt(3)), rnorm(50, 5, sqrt(4))))
inits < list(thetatilde = rnorm(constants$M, 0, 10),
s2tilde = rinvgamma(constants$M, 1, 1),
z = sample(1:10, size = constants$N, replace = TRUE),
alpha = 1)
model < nimbleModel(code, constants, data, inits)
The model can be fitted through MCMC sampling. NIMBLE will assign a specialized sampler to update z
and alpha
. See Chapter 7 for information about NIMBLE’s MCMC engine, and Section 10.4.1 for details on MCMC sampling of the CRP.
One of the advantages of BNP mixture models is that the number of clusters is treated as random. Therefore, in MCMC sampling, the number of cluster parameters varies with the iteration. Since NIMBLE does not currently allow dynamic length allocation, the number of unique cluster parameters, \(N^{\star}\), has to be fixed. One safe option is to set this number to \(N\), but this is inefficient, both in terms of computation and in terms of storage, because in practice it is often that \(N^{\star} < N\). In addition, configuring and building the MCMC can be slow (and use a lot of memory) for large \(N\). In an effort to mitigate these inefficiencies, we allow the user to set \(N^{\star} = M\), with \(M<N\), as seen in the example above. However, if this number is too small and is exceeded in any iteration a warning is issued.
10.2.3 Extensions
The BNP functionality in NIMBLE was extended in version 0.10.0 to more general models. These extensions enable users, for instance, to use a DP or DPM prior for the distribution of the random effects in a generalized linear mixed effects model with mutiple measurements over time or multiple trials per participant.
The following example illustrates how to use NIMBLE in a random effects model with repeated measurements per subject using a DP prior for the distribution of the subject’s random effects. The model is given by
\[ y_{i,j} \mid \tilde{\boldsymbol{\theta}}, z_i, \sigma^2 \ {\sim}\ N(\tilde{\boldsymbol{\theta}}_{z_i}, {\sigma}^2), \hspace{0.5cm} i = 1, \ldots, N,\hspace{0.5cm} j = 1, \ldots, J, \]
\[ \boldsymbol{z} \sim \mbox{CRP}(\alpha), \hspace{0.5cm} \alpha \sim \mbox{Gamma}(1, 1), \]
\[ \tilde{\theta}_m \overset{iid}{\sim} N(0, 100), \hspace{0.2cm} m=1, \ldots, M, \hspace{0.5cm} {\sigma}^2 \sim \mbox{InvGamma}(1, 1). \]
The corresponding NIMBLE code is
code < nimbleCode({
z[1:N] ~ dCRP(alpha, size = N)
alpha ~ dgamma(1, 1)
sigma2 ~ dinvgamma(1, 1)
for(i in 1:M) {
thetatilde[i] ~ dnorm(0, var = 100)
}
for(i in 1:N) {
for(j in 1:J) {
y[i, j] ~ dnorm(thetatilde[z[i]], var = sigma2)
}
}
})
set.seed(1)
constants < list(N = 10, J = 5, M = 5)
data < list(y = matrix(c(rnorm(25, 25, 1), rnorm(25, 25, 1)), ncol=constants$J,
nrow=constants$N, byrow=TRUE))
inits < list(thetatilde = rnorm(constants$M, 0, 10),
z = sample(1:5, size = constants$N, replace = TRUE),
alpha = 1,
sigma2 = 1)
modelRandEff < nimbleModel(code, constants, data, inits)
Alternatively, each subject could have a vector of parameters being clustered. For example in the model above one could instead specify a vector of means, such as thetaTilde[z[i], j]
, instead of a single mean. This allows groupspecific parameters to also vary across the repeated mesasurements.
As before, the model can be fitted through MCMC sampling. NIMBLE will assign a specialized sampler to update z
and alpha
. See Chapter 7 for information about NIMBLE’s MCMC engine, and Section 10.4.1 for details on MCMC sampling of the CRP.
10.3 Stickbreaking model
In NIMBLE, weights defined by sequentially breaking a stick, as in the stickbreaking process, are implemented as the stick_breaking
link function. More details for using this function are available using help(stick_breaking)
.
10.3.1 Specification and function
NIMBLE parametrizes the stick_breaking
function by vector of values in \((0,1)\).
10.3.1.1 Function
The weights \((w_1, \ldots, w_L)\) follow a finite stickbreaking construction if
\[ \hspace{2cm} w_1 = v_1, \] \[ \hspace{2.2cm} w_l = v_l\prod_{m<l}(1v_m),l=2,\ldots,L1 \] \[ \hspace{0.4cm} w_L = \prod_{m<L}(1v_m).\]
for \(v_l \in [0,1], l=1,\ldots,L1\).
10.3.1.2 Specification
The stick_breaking
function is specified in NIMBLE for a vector w
of probabilities as
w[1:L] < stick_breaking(v[1:(L1)])
The argument v
is a vector of values between 0 and 1 defining the sequential breaking points of the stick after removing the previous portions already broken off. It is of length \(L1\), implicitly assuming that its last component is equal to 1.
In order to complete the definition of the weights in the stickbreaking representation of \(G\), a prior distribution on \((0,1)\) should to be assumed for \(v_l\), \(l =1, \ldots, L1\), for instance a beta prior.
10.3.2 Example
Here we illustrate how to use NIMBLE for the example described in section 10.2.2, but considering a stickbreaking representation for \(G\). The model is given by
\[ y_i \mid \boldsymbol{\theta}^{\star}, {\boldsymbol{\sigma}^{\star}}^2, z_i \overset{ind}{\sim} N({{\theta}^{\star}}_{z_i}, {{\sigma}^2}^{\star}_{z_i}),\hspace{0.5cm} i = 1, \ldots, N, \] \[ z_i \sim \mbox{Categorical}(\boldsymbol{w}),\hspace{0.5cm} i = 1, \ldots, N, \] \[v_l\overset{iid}{\sim} \mbox{Beta}(1, \alpha), \hspace{0.2cm}l=1, \ldots, L1, \] \[ \alpha \sim \mbox{Gamma}(1, 1),\] \[{\theta}^{\star}_l \overset{iid}{\sim} N(0, 100), \hspace{0.5cm}{{\sigma}^2}^{\star}_l \overset{iid}{\sim}\mbox{InvGamma}(1, 1), \hspace{0.2cm} l=1, \ldots, L.\]
where \(w_1=v_1\), \(w_l=v_l \prod_{m<l}(1v_m)\), for \(l=1, \ldots, L1\), and \(w_L=\prod_{m<L}(1v_m).\)
code < nimbleCode({
for(i in 1:(L1)){
v[i] ~ dbeta(1, alpha)
}
alpha ~ dgamma(1, 1)
w[1:L] < stick_breaking(v[1:(L1)])
for(i in 1:L) {
thetastar[i] ~ dnorm(0, var = 100)
s2star[i] ~ dinvgamma(1, 1)
}
for(i in 1:N) {
z[i] ~ dcat(w[1:L])
y[i] ~ dnorm(thetastar[z[i]], var = s2star[z[i]])
}
})
set.seed(1)
constants < list(N = 100, L=50)
data < list(y = c(rnorm(50, 5, sqrt(3)), rnorm(50, 5, sqrt(4))))
inits < list(thetastar = rnorm(constants$L, 0, 100),
s2star = rinvgamma(constants$L, 1, 1),
z = sample(1:10, size = constants$N, replace = TRUE),
v = rbeta(constants$L, 1, 1),
alpha = 1)
modelSB < nimbleModel(code, constants, data, inits)
The resulting model may be carried through to MCMC sampling. NIMBLE will assign a specialized sampler to update v
. See Chapter 7 for information about NIMBLE’s MCMC engine, and Section 10.4.2 for details on MCMC sampling of the stickbreaking weights.
10.4 MCMC sampling of BNP models
BNP models can be specified in different, yet equivalent, manners. Examples 10.2.2 and 10.3.2 are examples of density estimation for realvalued data, and are specified through the CRP and the stickbreaking process, respectively. Different specifications lead NIMBLE to assign different sampling algorithms for the model. When the model is specified through a CRP, a collapsed sampler (R. Neal 2000) is assigned. Under this specification, the random measure \(G\) is integrated out from the model. When a stickbreaking representation is used, a blocked Gibbs sampler is assigned, see Hemant Ishwaran and James (2001) and H. Ishwaran and James (2002).
10.4.1 Sampling CRP models
NIMBLE’s MCMC engine provides specialized samplers for the dCRP
distribution, updating each component of the membership vector sequentially. Internally, the sampler is assigned based on inspection of the model structure, evaluating conjugacy between the mixture kernel and the baseline distribution, as follows:
 A conjugate sampler in the case of the baseline distribution being conjugate for the mixture kernel.
 A nonconjugate sampler in the case of the baseline distribution not being conjugate for the mixture kernel.
Note that both samplers are specialized versions that operate on a vector having a CRP distribution. Details of these assignments are strictly internal to the CRP samplers. The current release of NIMBLE supports conjugate sampling for the dCRP
distribution for the relationships listed in Table 10.1. Additional relationships are provided in Table 10.2 for normal mixture kernels when both mean and variance are unknown.
Baseline Distribution  Mixture (Dependent Node) Distribution  Parameter 

Beta  Bernoulli  prob 
Binomial  prob 

Negative Binomial  prob 

Dirichlet  Multinomial  prob 
Gamma  Poisson  lambda 
Normal  tau 

Gamma  rate 

Inverse Gamma  scale 

Exponential  rate 

Weibull  lambda 

Inverse Gamma  Normal  var 
Normal  Normal  mean 
Multivariate Normal  Multivariate Normal  mean 
Wishart  Multivariate Normal  prec 
Inverse Wishart  Multivariate Normal  cov 
Baseline Distribution  Mixture (Dependent Node) Distribution  Parameter 

NormalGamma  Normal  mean , tau 
NormalInverse Gamma  Normal  mean , var 
Multivariate NormalWishart  Multivariate Normal  mean , prec 
Multivariate NormalInverse Wishart  Multivariate Normal  mean , cov 
To reduce computation and improve mixing, we only sample the parameters of the clusters (e.g., \(\tilde{\theta}_j\) in 10.2.2 when the associated cluster is occupied, using the CRP_cluster_wrapper
sampler, which wraps around an underlying actual sampler. In addition, this approach requires that any sampler assigned to parameters of the base measure, \(G_0\), (i.e., unknown parameters in the prior for \(\tilde{\theta}_j\)) ignore cluster parameters associated with clusters that are not occupied, since their current values are meaningless. We assign a special slice sampler that determines the occupied clusters in any given iteration, called slice_CRP_base_param
. Note that if you choose to use a different sampler for the base measure parameters, you should also avoid using the CRP_cluster_wrapper
sampler.
Finally, a specialized sampler is assigned to the conc
hyper parameter when a gamma hyper prior is assigned, see section 6 in Escobar and West (1995) for more details. Otherwise, a random walk MetropolisHastings sampler is assigned.
10.4.1.1 Initial values
Valid initial values should be provided for all elements of the process specified by a CRP structure before running the MCMC. A simple and safe choice for z
is to provide a sample of size N
, the same as its length, of values between 1 and some reasonable number of clusters (less than or equal to the length of z
), with replacement, as done in the preceding CRP example. For the concentration parameter, a safe initial value is 1.
10.4.1.2 Sampling the random measure
In BNP models, it is oftenly of interest to make inference about the unknown measure \(G\). NIMBLE provides the getSamplesDPmeasure
sampler to generate posterior samples of the random measure \(G\) when a CRP structure is involved in the model.
The getSamplesDPmeasure
function has two arguments: MCMC
and epsilon
.
The MCMC
argument is a compiled or uncompiled MCMC object. The MCMC object should monitor the membership (or clustering) variable, the cluster parameters, all stochastic nodes of the cluster parameters, and the concentration parameter, if it is random. Use the monitors
argument when configuring the MCMC to ensure these variables are monitored.
The epsilon
argument is used to determine the truncation level of the representation of the random measure. Its default value is \(1e04\).
The sampler is used only after the MCMC for the model has been run; more details are available from help(getsamplesDPmeasure)
.
Posterior samples of the random measure \(G\) are (almost surely) of the form \(\sum_{l=1}^{\infty}w_l\delta_{\theta_l}\), where \(\delta_{\theta}\) is the Dirac measure at \(\theta\), \(w_l\) are stickbreaking weights, and \(\theta_l\) are atoms (or point masses). The variables that define the stickbreaking weights are iid \(Beta(1, \alpha + N)\) distributed, where \(\alpha\) is the concentration parameter of the CRP distribution and \(N\) is the sample size. Independently, the atoms, \(\theta_l\), are iid and follow a distribution of the form
\[(\alpha+N)^{1}\sum_{k=1}^{N^{\star}(\boldsymbol{z})}m_k(\boldsymbol{z})\delta_{\{\tilde{\theta}_k\}} + \alpha(\alpha+N)^{1}G_0,\]
where \(G_0\) is the prior baseline distribution, and \(\boldsymbol{z}\) and \(\tilde{\theta}_k\) are posterior samples of the labeling vector and cluster parameters, respectively. Their values, together with the values of \(\alpha\) (if random) are obtained from the MCMC’s output. Expressions \(m_k(\boldsymbol{z})\) and \(N^{\star}(\boldsymbol{z})\) are defined as in section 10.2.
The getsamplesDPmeasure
function provides samples of a truncated version of the infinite mixture to a level \(L\). The truncation level \(L\) is such that the tail probability left from the approximation is at most epsilon
, denoted \(\epsilon\). The following relationship determines the truncation level: \(L = \log(\epsilon) / \log[(\alpha+N) / (\alpha + N +1)]\). The value of \(L\) varies at each iteration of the MCMC’s output when \(\alpha\) is random, while it is the same at each iteration when \(\alpha\) is fixed. For more details about sampling the random measure and its truncation level see Gelfand and Kottas (2002).
Because of the discrete nature of the atom’s distribution, the stickbreaking representation truncated to a level \(L\) will generally have repeated values. Therefore, in order to reduce the output’s dimensionality, the stickbreaking weights of identical atoms are added up. This results in samples of \(G\) that have only the ‘unique’ atoms in \(\{\theta_l\}_{l=1}^L\).
The following code exemplifies how to generate samples from \(G\) after defining the model as in Section 10.2.2.
10.4.2 Sampling stickbreaking models
NIMBLE’s MCMC engine provides specialized samplers for the betadistributed random variables that are the arguments to the stickbreaking function, updating each component of the weight vector sequentially. The sampler is assigned based on inspection of the model structure. Specifically, the specialized sampler is assigned when the membership vector has a categorical distribution, its weights are defined by a stickbreaking function, and the vector defining the weights follows a beta distribution.
10.4.2.1 Initial values
Valid initial values should be provided for all elements of the stickbreaking function and membership variable before running the MCMC. A simple and safe choice for \(z\) is to provide a sample of size \(N\), of values between 1 and some value less than \(L\), with replacement, as done in the preceding stickbreaking example. For the stick variables, safe initial values can be simulated from a beta distribution.