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On Variational Inference in Biclustering Models

Guanhua Fang · Ping Li

Keywords: [ Statistical Learning Theory ]


Biclustering structures exist ubiquitously in data matrices and the biclustering problem was first formalized by John Hartigan (1972) to cluster rows and columns simultaneously. In this paper, we develop a theory for the estimation of general biclustering models, where the data is assumed to follow certain statistical distribution with underlying biclustering structure. Due to the existence of latent variables, directly computing the maximal likelihood estimator is prohibitively difficult in practice and we instead consider the variational inference (VI) approach to solve the parameter estimation problem. Although variational inference method generally has good empirical performance, there are very few theoretical results around VI. In this paper, we obtain the precise estimation bound of variational estimator and show that it matches the minimax rate in terms of estimation error under mild assumptions in biclustering setting. Furthermore, we study the convergence property of the coordinate ascent variational inference algorithm, where both local and global convergence results have been provided. Numerical results validate our new theories.

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