On some provably correct cases of variational inference for topic models

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 28 (NIPS 2015)

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Pranjal Awasthi, Andrej Risteski


Variational inference is an efficient, popular heuristic used in the context of latent variable models. We provide the first analysis of instances where variational inference algorithms converge to the global optimum, in the setting of topic models. Our initializations are natural, one of them being used in LDA-c, the mostpopular implementation of variational inference.In addition to providing intuition into why this heuristic might work in practice, the multiplicative, rather than additive nature of the variational inference updates forces us to usenon-standard proof arguments, which we believe might be of general theoretical interest.