Conference on Uncertainty in Artificial Intelligence (UAI 2008)
Parameter estimation in Markov random fields (MRFs) is a difficult task, in which inference over the network is run in the inner loop of a gradient descent procedure. Replacing exact inference with approximate methods such as loopy belief propagation (LBP) can suffer from poor convergence. In this paper, we provide a different approach for combining MRF learning and Bethe approximation. We consider the dual of maximum likelihood Markov network learning -- maximizing entropy with moment matching constraints -- and then approximate both the objective and the constraints in the resulting optimization problem. Our forumlation allows parameter sharing between features in a general log-linear model, parameter regularization and conditional training. We show that piecewise training is a very restricted special case of this formulation. We study two optimization strategies: one based on a single convex approximation and one that uses repeated convex approximations. We show results on several real-world networks that demonstrate that these algorithms can significantly outperform learning with loopy and piecewise. Our results also provide a framework for analyzing the trade-offs of different relaxations of the entropy objective and of the constraints.