Limits on Testing Structural Changes in Ising Models

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Aditya Gangrade, Bobak Nazer, Venkatesh Saligrama


We present novel information-theoretic limits on detecting sparse changes in Isingmodels, a problem that arises in many applications where network changes canoccur due to some external stimuli. We show that the sample complexity fordetecting sparse changes, in a minimax sense, is no better than learning the entiremodel even in settings with local sparsity. This is a surprising fact in light of priorwork rooted in sparse recovery methods, which suggest that sample complexityin this context scales only with the number of network changes. To shed light onwhen change detection is easier than structured learning, we consider testing ofedge deletion in forest-structured graphs, and high-temperature ferromagnets ascase studies. We show for these that testing of small changes is similarly hard, buttesting oflargechanges is well-separated from structure learning. These resultsimply that testing of graphical models may not be amenable to concepts such asrestricted strong convexity leveraged for sparsity pattern recovery, and algorithmdevelopment instead should be directed towards detection of large changes.