The MIT Statistics and Data Science Center hosts guest lecturers from around the world in this weekly seminar.

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Inference on Winners

Isaiah Andrews (Harvard University)
E18-304

Abstract: Many empirical questions concern target parameters selected through optimization. For example, researchers may be interested in the effectiveness of the best policy found in a randomized trial, or the best-performing investment strategy based on historical data. Such settings give rise to a winner's curse, where conventional estimates are biased and conventional confidence intervals are unreliable. This paper develops optimal confidence intervals and median-unbiased estimators that are valid conditional on the target selected and so overcome this winner's curse. If…

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Mean-field approximations for high-dimensional Bayesian Regression

Subhabrata Sen (Harvard University)
E18-304

Abstract: Variational approximations provide an attractive computational alternative to MCMC-based strategies for approximating the posterior distribution in Bayesian inference. Despite their popularity in applications, supporting theoretical guarantees are limited, particularly in high-dimensional settings. In the first part of the talk, we will study bayesian inference in the context of a linear model with product priors, and derive sufficient conditions for the correctness (to leading order) of the naive mean-field approximation. To this end, we will utilize recent advances in the…

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The query complexity of certification

Li-Yang Tan (Stanford University)
E18-304

Abstract: We study the problem of certification: given queries to an n-variable boolean function f with certificate complexity k and an input x, output a size-k certificate for f's value on x. This abstractly models a problem of interest in explainable machine learning, where we think of f as a blackbox model that we seek to explain the predictions of. For monotone functions, classic algorithms of Valiant and Angluin accomplish this task with n queries to f. Our main result is…

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Causal Representation Learning – A Proposal

Caroline Uhler (MIT)
E18-304

Abstract: The development of CRISPR-based assays and small molecule screens holds the promise of engineering precise cell state transitions to move cells from one cell type to another or from a diseased state to a healthy state. The main bottleneck is the huge space of possible perturbations/interventions, where even with the breathtaking technological advances in single-cell biology it will never be possible to experimentally perturb all combinations of thousands of genes or compounds. This important biological problem calls for a…

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Learning with Random Features and Kernels: Sharp Asymptotics and Universality Laws

Yue M. Lu (Harvard University)
E18-304

Abstract:  Many new random matrix ensembles arise in learning and modern signal processing. As shown in recent studies, the spectral properties of these matrices help answer crucial questions regarding the training and generalization performance of neural networks, and the fundamental limits of high-dimensional signal recovery. As a result, there has been growing interest in precisely understanding the spectra and other asymptotic properties of these matrices. Unlike their classical counterparts, these new random matrices are often highly structured and are the…

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Is quantile regression a suitable method to understand tax incentives for charitable giving? Case study from the Canton of Geneva, Switzerland

Giedre Lideikyte Huber and Marta Pittavino (University of Geneva)
E18-304

Abstract:  Under the current Swiss law, taxpayers can deduct charitable donations from their individual’s taxable income subject to a 20%-ceiling. This deductible ceiling was increased at the communal and cantonal level from a previous 5%-ceiling in 2009. The goal of the reform was boosting charitable giving to non-profit entities. However, the effects of this reform, and more generally of the existing Swiss system of tax deductions for charitable giving has never been empirically studied. The aim of this work is…

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Sampling rare events in Earth and planetary science

Jonathan Weare (New York University)
E18-304

Abstract: This talk will cover recent work in our group developing and applying algorithms to simulate rare events in atmospheric science and other areas. I will review a rare event simulation scheme that biases model simulations toward the rare event of interest by preferentially duplicating simulations making progress toward the event and removing others. I will describe applications of this approach to rapid intensification of tropical cyclones and instability of Mercury's orbit with an emphasis on the elements of algorithm…

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Beyond UCB: statistical complexity and optimal algorithm for non-linear ridge bandits

Yanjun Han (MIT)
E18-304

Abstract: Many existing literature on bandits and reinforcement learning assume a linear reward/value function, but what happens if the reward is non-linear? Two curious phenomena arise for non-linear bandits: first, in addition to the "learning phase" with a standard \Theta(\sqrt(T)) regret, there is an "initialization phase" with a fixed cost determined by the reward function; second, achieving the smallest cost of the initialization phase requires new learning algorithms other than traditional ones such as UCB. For a special family of…

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Short Stories about Data and Sports

Anette "Peko" Hosoi (MIT)
E18-304

ABSTRACT Recent advances in data collection have made sports an attractive testing ground for new analyses and algorithms, and a fascinating controlled microcosm in which to explore social interactions. In this talk I will describe two studies in this arena: one related to public health and the pandemic and one related to decision-making in basketball.  In the first, I will discuss what can be learned from the natural experiments that were (fortuitously) run in America football stadiums. During the 2020…

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Regularized modified log-Sobolev inequalities, and comparison of Markov chains

Konstantin Tikhomirov (Georgia Institute of Technology)
E18-304

Abstract: In this work, we develop a comparison procedure for the Modified log-Sobolev Inequality (MLSI) constants of two reversible Markov chains on a finite state space. As an application, we provide a sharp estimate of the MLSI constant of the switch chain on the set of simple bipartite regular graphs of size n with a fixed degree d. Our estimate implies that the total variation mixing time of the switch chain is of order O(n log(n)). The result is optimal up to a multiple…

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