EDML for Learning Parameters in Directed and Undirected Graphical Models

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 26 (NIPS 2013)

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Khaled S. Refaat, Arthur Choi, Adnan Darwiche


EDML is a recently proposed algorithm for learning parameters in Bayesian networks. It was originally derived in terms of approximate inference on a meta-network, which underlies the Bayesian approach to parameter estimation. While this initial derivation helped discover EDML in the first place and provided a concrete context for identifying some of its properties (e.g., in contrast to EM), the formal setting was somewhat tedious in the number of concepts it drew on. In this paper, we propose a greatly simplified perspective on EDML, which casts it as a general approach to continuous optimization. The new perspective has several advantages. First, it makes immediate some results that were non-trivial to prove initially. Second, it facilitates the design of EDML algorithms for new graphical models, leading to a new algorithm for learning parameters in Markov networks. We derive this algorithm in this paper, and show, empirically, that it can sometimes learn better estimates from complete data, several times faster than commonly used optimization methods, such as conjugate gradient and L-BFGS.