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  1. Britton, Tom (Ed.)
    Accurate epidemiological models require parameter estimates that account for mobility patterns and social network structure. We demonstrate the effectiveness of probabilistic programming for parameter inference in these models. We consider an agent-based simulation that represents mobility networks as degree-corrected stochastic block models, whose parameters we estimate from cell phone co-location data. We then use probabilistic program inference methods to approximate the distribution over disease transmission parameters conditioned on reported cases and deaths. Our experiments demonstrate that the resulting models improve the quality of fit in multiple geographies relative to baselines that do not model network topology. 
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  2. Pretraining multimodal models on Electronic Health Records (EHRs) provides a means of learning representations that can transfer to downstream tasks with minimal supervision. Recent multimodal models induce soft local alignments between image regions and sentences. This is of particular interest in the medical domain, where alignments might highlight regions in an image relevant to specific phenomena described in free-text. While past work has suggested that attention “heatmaps” can be interpreted in this manner, there has been little evaluation of such alignments. We compare alignments from a state-of-the-art multimodal (image and text) model for EHR with human annotations that link image regions to sentences. Our main finding is that the text has an often weak or unintuitive influence on attention; alignments do not consistently reflect basic anatomical information. Moreover, synthetic modifications — such as substituting “left” for “right” — do not substantially influence highlights. Simple techniques such as allowing the model to opt out of attending to the image and few-shot finetuning show promise in terms of their ability to improve alignments with very little or no supervision. We make our code and checkpoints open-source. 
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  3. Abstract

    Degeneracy in biological systems refers to a many-to-one mapping between physical structures and their functional (including psychological) outcomes. Despite the ubiquity of the phenomenon, traditional analytical tools for modeling degeneracy in neuroscience are extremely limited. In this study, we generated synthetic datasets to describe three situations of degeneracy in fMRI data to demonstrate the limitations of the current univariate approach. We describe a novel computational approach for the analysis referred to as neural topographic factor analysis (NTFA). NTFA is designed to capture variations in neural activity across task conditions and participants. The advantage of this discovery-oriented approach is to reveal whether and how experimental trials and participants cluster into task conditions and participant groups. We applied NTFA on simulated data, revealing the appropriate degeneracy assumption in all three situations and demonstrating NTFA’s utility in uncovering degeneracy. Lastly, we discussed the importance of testing degeneracy in fMRI data and the implications of applying NTFA to do so.

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  4. III, H.D. ; Singh, A. (Ed.)
    We develop amortized population Gibbs (APG) samplers, a class of scalable methods that frame structured variational inference as adaptive importance sampling. APG samplers construct high-dimensional proposals by iterating over updates to lower-dimensional blocks of variables. We train each conditional proposal by minimizing the inclusive KL divergence with respect to the conditional posterior. To appropriately account for the size of the input data, we develop a new parameterization in terms of neural sufficient statistics. Experiments show that APG samplers can be used to train highly-structured deep generative models in an unsupervised manner, and achieve substantial improvements in inference accuracy relative to standard autoencoding variational methods. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    Recent work has shown that fine-tuning large networks is surprisingly sensitive to changes in random seed(s). We explore the implications of this phenomenon for model fairness across demographic groups in clinical prediction tasks over electronic health records (EHR) in MIMIC-III —— the standard dataset in clinical NLP research. Apparent subgroup performance varies substantially for seeds that yield similar overall performance, although there is no evidence of a trade-off between overall and subgroup performance. However, we also find that the small sample sizes inherent to looking at intersections of minority groups and somewhat rare conditions limit our ability to accurately estimate disparities. Further, we find that jointly optimizing for high overall performance and low disparities does not yield statistically significant improvements. Our results suggest that fairness work using MIMIC-III should carefully account for variations in apparent differences that may arise from stochasticity and small sample sizes. 
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  6. Ranzato, M. ; Beygelzimer, A. ; Dauphin, Y. ; Liang, P.S. ; Wortman Vaughan, J. (Ed.)
    We develop nested variational inference (NVI), a family of methods that learn proposals for nested importance samplers by minimizing an forward or reverse KL divergence at each level of nesting. NVI is applicable to many commonly-used importance sampling strategies and provides a mechanism for learning intermediate densities, which can serve as heuristics to guide the sampler. Our experiments apply NVI to (a) sample from a multimodal distribution using a learned annealing path (b) learn heuristics that approximate the likelihood of future observations in a hidden Markov model and (c) to perform amortized inference in hierarchical deep generative models. We observe that optimizing nested objectives leads to improved sample quality in terms of log average weight and effective sample size. 
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