Gradient-Free Kernel Stein Discrepancy

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Matthew Fisher, Chris J. Oates


Stein discrepancies have emerged as a powerful statistical tool, being applied to fundamental statistical problems including parameter inference, goodness-of-fit testing, and sampling. The canonical Stein discrepancies require the derivatives of a statistical model to be computed, and in return provide theoretical guarantees of convergence detection and control. However, for complex statistical models, the stable numerical computation of derivatives can require bespoke algorithmic development and render Stein discrepancies impractical. This paper focuses on posterior approximation using Stein discrepancies, and introduces a collection of non-canonical Stein discrepancies that are gradient-free, meaning that derivatives of the statistical model are not required. Sufficient conditions for convergence detection and control are established, and applications to sampling and variational inference are presented.