Estimating the partition function by discriminance sampling

Qiang Liu, Alexander Ihler, Jian Peng, John Fisher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Importance sampling (IS) and its variant, annealed IS (AIS) have been widely used for estimating the partition function in graphical models, such as Markov random fields and deep generative models. However, IS tends to underestimate the partition function and is subject to high variance when the proposal distribution is more peaked than the target distribution. On the other hand, "reverse" versions of IS and AIS tend to overestimate the partition function, and degenerate when the target distribution is more peaked than the proposal distribution. In this work, we present a simple, general method that gives much more reliable and robust estimates than either IS (AIS) or reverse IS (AIS). Our method works by converting the estimation problem into a simple classification problem that discriminates between the samples drawn from the target and the proposal. We give extensive theoretical and empirical justification; in particular, we show that an annealed version of our method significantly outperforms both AIS and reverse AIS as proposed by Burda et al. (2015), which has been the stateof-the-art for likelihood evaluation in deep generative models.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationUncertainty in Artificial Intelligence - Proceedings of the 31st Conference, UAI 2015
PublisherAUAI Press
Number of pages9
StatePublished - 2015
Event31st Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence, UAI 2015 - Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: Jul 12 2015Jul 16 2015


Other31st Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence, UAI 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence


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