Work done during GSoC

To see all the work done during the 2019 GSoC coding period, see this pull request (PR) list. This document contains all my contributions during GSoC coding period divided by category. In addition, the most important contributions in each topic are summarized. To read more details on the new or modified functions, see ArviZ docs, moreover, a direct link to each new or modified function is available in its changelog summary. These are the different categories into which PRs have been divided:

  1. Information Criteria
  2. Convergence Assessment
  3. Model Checking
  4. InferenceData scheme modifications
  5. Global parameters
  6. Other Pull Requests

Information Criteria

Information criteria allow to evaluate the predictive accuracy of a model. In some cases, this quantity is so relevant to the analysis that it can be used to compare different models and choose the one with the better predictive accuracy. ArviZ has some functions designed to calculate different information criteria (az.loo and az.waic) and to analyze its results (, az.plot_compare, az.plot_elpd and az.plot_khat). During GSoC, these functions have been modified in order to extend them and ease their interpretation:

  • A new class az.ELPDData was created. It is designed to store and print in an informative manner information criteria results. See the docs on az.loo and az.waic for examples.
  • The computation of information criteria was modified to use internally az.wrap_xarray_ufunc. This allows 3 key improvements. The first is that there is no longer the need to convert to unlabeled data, therefore pointwise information criteria results are labeled like the rest of the data in InferenceData objects which eases the identification of problematic observations. The second is that working with multidimensional data is automatically handled by xarray and the shape of the original object is kept. And the third is that this change allows easy parallelization of the calculations using dask via xarray.
  • This previous change also defines by convenience ArviZ’s default shapes and dimension names. InferenceData objects generally contain first the chain dimension followed by the draw dimension and then any number of dimensions depending on the variable shape. In some cases, we want to combine all chains into a single array; in ArviZ this should be done with xarray’s stack(sample=("chain", "draw")). This combines the chain and the draw dimension to a single dimension called sample which is placed as the last dimension, leaving an object with first the variable shape and then the sample shape.
  • A new plotting function az.plot_elpd was created in order to compare pointwise information criteria values of several models. Some of its options include coloring based on label values and non-degenerate pairwise plots to compare more than two models at once.
  • Many new customization options were added to az.plot_khat. Some examples are coloring based on labels, a summary of the quality of khat values and showing the labels of each observation when hovering over.
  • The context manager az.interactive_backend was created to allow temporal change of matplotlib backend between the ususal inline backend used in jupyter notebooks, jupyter lab or spyder and any of the supported interactive backends.
  • Tests of information criteria functions were extended. Now, the behaviour of these functions is also tested on multidimensional objects (chain, draw and at least 2 more dimensions).
  • Work on sampling wrappers was started in order to allow ArviZ to refit the same model on different sets of data. As ArviZ has no sampling capabilities and it is backend agnostic, this wrappers allow it to perform refits and to do them using any backend available like PyStan or emcee. At the time of writing, working sampling wrappers for PyStan and emcee have already been written. PyMC3 wrappers cannot work yet until this PyMC3 issue is fixed. The PR implementing this is still unmerged as it also depends on the changes on InferenceData scheme.
  • In parallel to the sampling wrappers, an ArviZ port of the brms reloo function was also written. This function uses the sampling wrappers to calculate exact cross validation values for problematic observations where numerical approximations do not work. After GSoC, we also plan on implementing a numerical approximation of the leave-future-out cross validation (which also needs to perform some refits of the model).

PRs in this caterory

  • #678: +809 −102
  • #700: +319 −38
  • #701 (bugfix for #678): +8 −13
  • #727: +118 −8
  • #748 (bugfix for #678): +3 −2
  • #755: +224 −143
  • #764: +6 −0
  • #771 [UNMERGED]: +844 −0
  • #790 (fix for #678): +24 −24

Total lines of code added/removed from ArviZ for this section: +2356 -330

Convergence Assessment

Bayesian Inference generally relies on Markov-Chain Monte Carlo samplers to aproximate numerically the posterior distributions of interest. These methods converge to the real posterior when the number of samples tends to infinite. Thus, in all real cases there is no guarantee (and there cannot be) that the approximated posterior is a good aproximation. Convergence assesment algorithms try to palliate this issue by detecting bad approximations; they cannot guarantee convergence but in many cases they can guarantee that the MCMC has not converged which is quite an improvement. ArviZ has several diagnostic functions which serve this convergence assesment purpose. Work on this section was basically to add some new diagnostic plots following Vehtari et al 2019.

  • New plotting function plot_ess was created. It produces three different kinds of plot. The two first kinds local and quantile are used to check that the MCMC has properly sampled all the parameter space; undersampling of some region indicates convergence issues. In these two kinds, plot_ess allows to customize the appearance of the plot, to show rug values for any variable in sample_stats or to compare the plotted values with the mean and sd effective sample. The third kind plots the evolution of the effective sample size which should be roughly linear.
  • Another plotting function plot_mcse was also added to ArviZ. It plots the local or quantile Monte Carlo standard error either as a scatter plot or as errorbars on the parameter values. Both kinds allow similar options to plot_ess such as customizing appearence or comparing with mean and sd MCSE.

PRs in this caterory

  • #708: +405 −0
  • #724: +397 −37
  • #778 (bugfix for both #708 and #724): +4 −2

Total lines of code added/removed from ArviZ for this section: +806 -39

Model Checking

In Bayesian modeling, observations are considered random variables defined by the model and some parameters. This allows us to calculate the best fit parameters and its uncertainty and then use them to predict possible future realizations. However, we should also check whether or not this model of random variables generates samples compatible with the observations. This can help in detecting model limitations and finding ways to improve it. One of the algorithms available for model checking is Leave-One-Out Probability Integral Transform (LOO-PIT) which also adds concepts from cross validation to model checking. This algorithm was added to ArviZ along with plots to interpretate it.

  • Calculation of LOO-PIT values was implemented in ArviZ using new stats function az.loo_pit. This function is extremely versatile and allows to combine data form InferenceData objects with array or DataArray inputs. As LOO-PIT uses also concepts from LOO information criterion, the defaults used for dimension order and names are the ones defined by the work in information criteria section.
  • A new plotting function az.plot_loo_pit was also added to plot and interpretate LOO-PIT values. It has two ways of showing LOO-PIT values, either plotting its kernel density estimate or plotting the difference between the empirical cumulative density function of LOO-PIT values and the exact cumulative density function of a uniform random variable.
  • Another stats function az.apply_test_function which eases the application of Bayesian test functions on InferenceData objects was also written. This function however, as its docs explain, is generally slower than using xarray or numpy vectorized calculations. This function is still relevant and useful for two main reasons. The first is because it also uses wrap_xarray_ufunc and can then ease parallelization of test functions calculations. The second reason is that having this function in ArviZ docs is a reminder that test functions can be useful by themselves and that any test function can be used to perform LOO-PIT checks on its results (see this thread for details).

PRs in this caterory

  • #696: +837 −24
  • #738 (documentation bugfix for #696): +2 −2
  • #781: +52 −4

Total lines of code added/removed from ArviZ for this section: +891 -30

InferenceData scheme modifications

InferenceData objects are one key aspect of ArviZ. They provide a unified data scheme to store Bayesian inference results from any library. They can contain the posterior, prior, prior predictive and posterior predictive samples along with sample stats and observed data in a single object. Due to the large number of new functionalities described in the previous three sections, we also found convenient to update the data scheme of InferenceData objects.

  • Handling of posterior predictive samples in from_pymc3 was modified so that whenever possible posterior predictive samples are reshaped into ArviZ default shape chain, draw, *shape. Moreover, when the shape of the posterior predictive does not match the posterior shape, a warning is printed to warn the user that the posterior predictive samples may omit whole chains.
  • ArviZ example datasets centered_eight and non_centered_eight were updated. Now their posterior predictive shape matches their prior shape.
  • A del method was added to InferenceData objects so that groups can be deleted.
  • A new group constant_data was added to InferenceData functions. It stores constants of the model in addition to the observed data which was already stored in observed_data group. This change is still unmerged.
  • Another new group was added to InferenceData objects: log_likelihoods group which makes ArviZ start supporting multiple log likelihoods to be stored in a single InferenceData object. This new group is intended to store all log likelihood data (preferably named like the variable in observed data it refers to) and the model log probability (named lp). Previously, this data was stored in sample_stats group and only one log likelihood could be stored. from_dict, from_emcee, from_pymc3 and from_pystan have already been updated but the changes are still unmerged.

PRs in this caterory

  • #702: +70 −17
  • #715: +24 −19
  • #720 (bugfix for #715): +2 −4
  • #739: +101 −9
  • #794 [UNMERGED]: +533 −291

Total lines of code added/removed from ArviZ for this section: +730 -340

Global parameters

ArviZ functions allow a great deal of custoization but are still simple to use. This is achieved by using extensive optional arguments in ArviZ functions each of which must have a default. Many of these defaults are shared between several functions. This forces users to change the default explicitely on a function basis instead of giving an option to change the default globally like matplotlib for example. Before the number of functions continues increasing making every time more difficult to create a way of handling global options it was decided to follow matplotlibs rcParams to implement an ArviZ’s rcParams version.

  • A new class to handle global options was created following matplotlib’s example. This az.rcParams class checks for an arvizrc in several locations in order to load the defaults defined there; otherwise, the defaults defined in are used. az.rcParams keys cannot be modified and when modifying the value of a parameter, this value is first validated. This two properties are key to prevent errors when functions use this az.rcParams. At the date of writing, 3 global parameters have been integrated in ArviZ which will be described below. To see an always up to date list of all global parameters in ArviZ check arvizrc.template. To see other parameters on the roadmap or how to add a new parameter see this issue).
    • data.load: this parameter defined how is data loaded when using from_netcdf methods. It accepts two values: lazy to lazyly load the data using xarray and read it from disk when needed for calculations or eager in order to load the data into memory the moment the file is read.
    • plot.max_subplots: defines the maximum number of subplots ArviZ can add to a single figure. This prevents users to inadvertedly call a plotting function on too many variables which would hang up its computer.
    • stats.information_criterion: sets the default information criterion between waic and loo.
  • A context manager, az.rc_context, was also added in order to temporarily change ArviZ defaults. It allows either a dictionary or a file from which to read the temporal defaults as an input.

PRs in this caterory

Total lines of code added/removed from ArviZ for this section: +582 -57

Other Pull Requests

Contributing to a software package is not only implementing new functions and documenting them. It is strongly recommended to implement continuous integration builds to test everything is working properly after every single change in the code. These test must also be maintained as they may break for external causes like a dependency changing its API. Documentation must also be kept up to date when functions are removed. Issues posted by users should also be addressed and so on. During my GSoC project, a small part of my work hours were dedicated to some of this ArviZ maintainment tasks. When looking at the number of PR in this category in this section it may seem that a lot of time was spent on this but that is not really the case. The lines of code have been included in all sections to show that all PRs in this category are small and quite simple. There is no changelog summary for this section as these PRs share no common topic and they change only one or two things, thus, looking at their description is enough to see what was changed or fixed.

Total lines of code added/removed from ArviZ for this section: +266 -98