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Surrogate Active Subspaces for Jump-Discontinuous Functions

Nathan Wycoff

MR1 & MR2 - Number 59
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Fri 3 May 8 a.m. PDT — 8:30 a.m. PDT


Surrogate modeling and active subspaces have emerged as powerful paradigms in computational science and engineering. Porting such techniques to computational models in the social sciences brings into sharp relief their limitations in dealing with discontinuous simulators, such as Agent-Based Models, which have discrete outputs. Nevertheless, prior applied work has shown that surrogate estimates of active subspaces for such estimators can yield interesting results. But given that active subspaces are defined by way of gradients, it is not clear what quantity is being estimated when this methodology is applied to a discontinuous simulator. We begin this article by showing some pathologies that can arise when conducting such an analysis. This motivates an extension of active subspaces to discontinuous functions, clarifying what is actually being estimated in such analyses. We also conduct numerical experiments on synthetic test functions to compare Gaussian process estimates of active subspaces on continuous and discontinuous functions. Finally, we deploy our methodology on Flee, an agent-based model of refugee movement, yielding novel insights into which parameters of the simulation are most important across 8 displacement crises in Africa and the Middle East.

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