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When dealing with Bayesian inference the choice of the prior often remains a debatable question. Empirical Bayes methods offer a data-driven solution to this problem by estimating the prior itself from an ensemble of data. In the nonparametric case, the maximum likelihood estimate is known to overfit the data, an issue that is commonly tackled by regularization. However, the majority of regularizations are ad hoc choices which lack invariance under reparametrization of the model and result in inconsistent estimates for equivalent models. We introduce a nonparametric, transformation-invariant estimator for the prior distribution. Being defined in terms of the missing information similar to the reference prior, it can be seen as an extension of the latter to the data-driven setting. This implies a natural interpretation as a trade-off between choosing the least informative prior and incorporating the information provided by the data, a symbiosis between the objective and empirical Bayes methodologies.

One of the main goals of mathematical modelling in systems biology related to medical applications is to obtain patient-specific parameterisations and model predictions.
In clinical practice, however, the number of available measurements for single patients is usually limited due to time and cost restrictions. This hampers the process of making patient-specific predictions about the outcome of a treatment. On the other hand, data are often available for many patients, in particular if extensive clinical studies have been performed. Using these population data, we propose an iterative algorithm for contructing an informative prior distribution, which then serves as the basis for computing patient-specific posteriors and obtaining individual predictions. We demonsrate the performance of our method by applying it to a low-dimensional parameter estimation problem in a toy model as well as to a high-dimensional ODE model of the human menstrual cycle, which represents a typical example from systems biology modelling.

One of the main goals of mathematical modelling in systems medicine related to medical applications is to obtain patient-specific parameterizations and model predictions. In clinical practice, however, the number of available measurements for single patients is usually limited due to time and cost restrictions. This hampers the process of making patient-specific predictions about the outcome of a treatment. On the other hand, data are often available for many patients, in particular if extensive clinical studies have been performed. Therefore, before applying Bayes’ rule separately to the data of each patient (which is typically performed using a non-informative prior), it is meaningful to use empirical Bayes methods in order to construct an informative prior from all available data. We compare the performance of four priors - a non-informative prior and priors chosen by nonparametric maximum likelihood estimation (NPMLE), by maximum penalized lilelihood estimation (MPLE) and by doubly-smoothed maximum likelihood estimation (DS-MLE) - by applying them to a low-dimensional parameter estimation problem in a toy model as well as to a high-dimensional ODE model of the human menstrual cycle, which represents a typical example from systems biology modelling.

Markov chain (MC) algorithms are ubiquitous in machine learning and statistics and many other disciplines. Typically, these algorithms can be formulated as acceptance rejection methods. In this work we present a novel estimator applicable to these methods, dubbed Markov chain importance sampling (MCIS), which efficiently makes use of rejected proposals. For the unadjusted Langevin algorithm, it provides a novel way of correcting the discretization error. Our estimator satisfies a central limit theorem and improves on error per CPU cycle, often to a large extent. As a by-product it enables estimating the normalizing constant, an important quantity in Bayesian machine learning and statistics.

When estimating a probability density within the empirical Bayes framework, the non-parametric maximum likelihood estimate (NPMLE) usually tends to overfit the data. This issue is usually taken care of by regularization - a penalization term is subtracted from the marginal log-likelihood before the maximization step, so that the estimate favors smooth solutions, resulting in the so-called maximum penalized likelihood estimation (MPLE).
The majority of penalizations currently in use are rather arbitrary brute-force solutions, which lack invariance under transformation of the parameters(reparametrization) and measurements.
This contradicts the principle that, if the underlying model
has several equivalent formulations, the methods of inductive inference should lead to consistent results. Motivated by this principle and using an information-theoretic point of view, we suggest an entropy-based penalization term that guarantees this kind of invariance. The resulting density estimate can be seen as a generalization of reference priors. Using the reference prior as a hyperprior, on the other hand, is argued to be a poor choice for regularization. We also present an insightful connection between the NPMLE, the cross entropy
and the principle of minimum discrimination information suggesting another method of inference that contains the doubly-smoothed maximum likelihood estimation as a special case.