DAGMA: Learning DAGs via M-matrices and a Log-Determinant Acyclicity CharacterizationDownload PDF

Published: 31 Oct 2022, Last Modified: 16 Jan 2023NeurIPS 2022 AcceptReaders: Everyone
Keywords: structure learning, causal discovery, graphical models, continuous optimization, non-convex optimization, log-determinant, directed acyclic graphs
Abstract: The combinatorial problem of learning directed acyclic graphs (DAGs) from data was recently framed as a purely continuous optimization problem by leveraging a differentiable acyclicity characterization of DAGs based on the trace of a matrix exponential function. Existing acyclicity characterizations are based on the idea that powers of an adjacency matrix contain information about walks and cycles. In this work, we propose a new acyclicity characterization based on the log-determinant (log-det) function, which leverages the nilpotency property of DAGs. To deal with the inherent asymmetries of a DAG, we relate the domain of our log-det characterization to the set of $\textit{M-matrices}$, which is a key difference to the classical log-det function defined over the cone of positive definite matrices. Similar to acyclicity functions previously proposed, our characterization is also exact and differentiable. However, when compared to existing characterizations, our log-det function: (1) Is better at detecting large cycles; (2) Has better-behaved gradients; and (3) Its runtime is in practice about an order of magnitude faster. From the optimization side, we drop the typically used augmented Lagrangian scheme and propose DAGMA ($\textit{Directed Acyclic Graphs via M-matrices for Acyclicity}$), a method that resembles the central path for barrier methods. Each point in the central path of DAGMA is a solution to an unconstrained problem regularized by our log-det function, then we show that at the limit of the central path the solution is guaranteed to be a DAG. Finally, we provide extensive experiments for $\textit{linear}$ and $\textit{nonlinear}$ SEMs and show that our approach can reach large speed-ups and smaller structural Hamming distances against state-of-the-art methods. Code implementing the proposed method is open-source and publicly available at https://github.com/kevinsbello/dagma.
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TL;DR: Faster and more accurate score-based learning for directed acyclic graphs through a new acyclicity characterization based on log-det constraints and M-matrices
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