CONALD, June 11-13 Conference on Automated Learning and Discovery
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Plenary Speakers

Tom Dietterich

Stuart Geman

David Heckerman

Michael Jordan

Daryl Pregibon

Herb Simon

Robert Tibshirani

David Heckerman
A Bayesian Approach to Causal Discovery

I will discuss the Bayesian approach to the discovery of causal DAG models and compare it to the constraint-based approach. Both approaches rely on the Causal Markov condition, but the two differ significantly in theory and practice. An important difference between the approaches is that the constraint-based approach uses categorical information about conditional-independence constraints in the domain, whereas the Bayesian approach weighs the degree to which such constraints hold. As a result, the Bayesian approach has three distinct advantages over its constraint-based counterpart. One, conclusions derived from the Bayesian approach are not susceptible to incorrect categorical decisions about independence facts that can occur with data sets of finite size. Two, using the Bayesian approach, finer distinctions among model structures---both quantitative and qualitative---can be made. Three, information from several models can be combined to make better inferences and to better account for modeling uncertainty. In addition to describing the general Bayesian approach to causal discovery, I will review approximation methods for missing data and hidden variables, and illustrate differences between the Bayesian and constraint-based methods using artificial and real examples. This work has been done in collaboration with Christopher Meek and Gregory Cooper.

David Heckerman is a Senior Researcher of Decision Theory & Adaptive Systems Group at Microsoft Research.
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The conference is sponsored by CMU's newly created Center for Automated Learning and Discovery.