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CoLiDE: Concomitant Linear DAG Estimation

Seyed Saman Saboksayr · Gonzalo Mateos · Mariano Tepper

Halle B #172
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Thu 9 May 7:30 a.m. PDT — 9:30 a.m. PDT

Abstract: We deal with the combinatorial problem of learning directed acyclic graph (DAG) structure from observational data adhering to a linear structural equation model (SEM). Leveraging advances in differentiable, nonconvex characterizations of acyclicity, recent efforts have advocated a continuous constrained optimization paradigm to efficiently explore the space of DAGs. Most existing methods employ lasso-type score functions to guide this search, which (i) require expensive penalty parameter retuning when the $\textit{unknown}$ SEM noise variances change across problem instances; and (ii) implicitly rely on limiting homoscedasticity assumptions. In this work, we propose a new convex score function for sparsity-aware learning of linear DAGs, which incorporates concomitant estimation of scale and thus effectively decouples the sparsity parameter from noise levels. Regularization via a smooth, nonconvex acyclicity penalty term yields CoLiDE ($\textbf{Co}$ncomitant $\textbf{Li}$near $\textbf{D}$AG $\textbf{E}$stimation), a regression-based criterion amenable to efficient gradient computation and closed-form estimation of exogenous noise levels in heteroscedastic scenarios. Our algorithm outperforms state-of-the-art methods without incurring added complexity, especially when the DAGs are larger and the noise level profile is heterogeneous. We also find CoLiDE exhibits enhanced stability manifested via reduced standard deviations in several domain-specific metrics, underscoring the robustness of our novel linear DAG estimator.

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