Variational Bayesian strategies for high-dimensional, stochastic design problems

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This paper is concerned with a lesser-studied problem in the context of model-based, uncertainty quantification (UQ), that of optimization/design/control under uncertainty. The solution of such problems is hindered not only by the usual difficulties encountered in UQ tasks (e.g. the high computational cost of each forward simulation, the large number of random variables) but also by the need to solve a nonlinear optimization problem involving large numbers of design variables and potentially constraints. We propose a framework that is suitable for a class of such problems and is based on the idea of recasting them as probabilistic inference tasks. To that end, we propose a Variational Bayesian (VB) formulation and an iterative VB-Expectation-Maximization scheme that is capable of identifying a local maximum as well as a low-dimensional set of directions in the design space, along which, the objective exhibits the largest sensitivity. We demonstrate the validity of the proposed approach in the context of two numerical examples involving thousands of random and design variables. In all cases considered the cost of the computations in terms of calls to the forward model was of the order of 100 or less. The accuracy of the approximations provided is assessed by information-theoretic metrics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-152
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Computational Physics
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016


  • Dictionary learning
  • Dimensionality reduction
  • Optimization
  • Uncertainty quantification
  • Variational Bayes


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