ABC-CDE: Towards Approximate Bayesian Computation with Complex High-Dimensional Data and Limited Simulations


Approximate Bayesian Computation (ABC) is typically used when the likelihood is either unavailable or intractable but where data can be simulated under different parameter settings using a forward model. Despite the recent interest in ABC, high-dimensional data and costly simulations still remain a bottleneck in some applications. There is also no consensus as to how to best assess the performance of such methods without knowing the true posterior. We show how a nonparametric conditional density estimation (CDE) framework, which we refer to as ABC-CDE, help address three nontrivial challenges in ABC: (i) how to efficiently estimate the posterior distribution with limited simulations and different types of data, (ii) how to tune and compare the performance of ABC and related methods in estimating the posterior itself, rather than just certain properties of the density, and (iii) how to efficiently choose among a large set of summary statistics based on a CDE surrogate loss. We provide theoretical and empirical evidence that justify ABC-CDE procedures that directly estimate and assess the posterior based on an initial ABC sample, and we describe settings where standard ABC and regression-based approaches are inadequate.

Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics