Bayesian Neural Network Priors Revisited

NeurIPS 2020

Isotropic Gaussian priors are the de facto standard for modern Bayesian neural network inference. However, such simplistic priors are unlikely to either accurately reflect our true beliefs about the weight distributions, or to give optimal performance. We study summary statistics of neural network weights in different networks trained using SGD. We find that fully connected networks (FCNNs) display heavy-tailed weight distributions, while convolutional neural network (CNN) weights display strong spatial correlations. Building these observations into the respective priors leads to improved performance on a variety of image classification datasets. Moreover, we find that these priors also mitigate the cold posterior effect in FCNNs, while in CNNs we see strong improvements at all temperatures, and hence no reduction in the cold posterior effect. Speakers: Vincent Fortuin, Adrià Garriga-Alonso, Florian Wenzel, Gunnar Rätsch, Richard Turner, Mark van der Wilk, Laurence Aitchison