Intervention Generalization: A View from Factor Graph Models

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Gecia Bravo-Hermsdorff, David Watson, Jialin Yu, Jakob Zeitler, Ricardo Silva


One of the goals of causal inference is to generalize from past experiments and observational data to novel conditions. While it is in principle possible to eventually learn a mapping from a novel experimental condition to an outcome of interest, provided a sufficient variety of experiments is available in the training data, coping with a large combinatorial space of possible interventions is hard. Under a typical sparse experimental design, this mapping is ill-posed without relying on heavy regularization or prior distributions. Such assumptions may or may not be reliable, and can be hard to defend or test. In this paper, we take a close look at how to warrant a leap from past experiments to novel conditions based on minimal assumptions about the factorization of the distribution of the manipulated system, communicated in the well-understood language of factor graph models. A postulated interventional factor model (IFM) may not always be informative, but it conveniently abstracts away a need for explicitly modeling unmeasured confounding and feedback mechanisms, leading to directly testable claims. Given an IFM and datasets from a collection of experimental regimes, we derive conditions for identifiability of the expected outcomes of new regimes never observed in these training data. We implement our framework using several efficient algorithms, and apply them on a range of semi-synthetic experiments.