Optimal L2-norm empirical importance weights for the change of probability measure Academic Article uri icon


  • 2016, Springer Science+Business Media New York. This work proposes an optimization formulation to determine a set of empirical importance weights to achieve a change of probability measure. The objective is to estimate statistics from a target distribution using random samples generated from a (different) proposal distribution. This work considers the specific case in which the proposal distribution from which the random samples are generated is unknown; that is, we have available the samples but no explicit description of their underlying distribution. In this setting, the RadonNikodym theorem provides a valid but indeterminable solution to the task, since the distribution from which the random samples are generated is inaccessible. The proposed approach employs the well-defined and determinable empirical distribution function associated with the available samples. The core idea is to compute importance weights associated with the random samples, such that the distance between the weighted proposal empirical distribution function and the desired target distribution function is minimized. The distance metric selected for this work is the L2-norm and the importance weights are constrained to define a probability measure. The resulting optimization problem is shown to be a single linear equality and box-constrained quadratic program. This problem can be solved efficiently using optimization algorithms that scale well to high dimensions. Under some conditions restricting the class of distribution functions, the solution of the optimization problem is shown to result in a weighted proposal empirical distribution function that converges to the target distribution function in the L1-norm, as the number of samples tends to infinity. Results on a variety of test cases show that the proposed approach performs well in comparison with other well-known approaches.

published proceedings

  • Statistics and Computing

author list (cited authors)

  • Amaral, S., Allaire, D., & Willcox, K.

complete list of authors

  • Amaral, Sergio||Allaire, Douglas||Willcox, Karen

publication date

  • January 1, 2016 11:11 AM