Example script: running MCMC chains in parallel

This example illustrates how to call JAGS and run a number of MCMC chains in parallel. It requires that you have the Matlab Parallel Computing Toolbox installed http://www.mathworks.com/products/parallel-computing


Model definition

The BUGS example was taken from the WinBUGS course developed by Michael Lee and Eric-Jan Wagenmakers at http://www.ejwagenmakers.com/BayesCourse/BayesBook.html

In this example, the goal is to infer a rate with the following model:

model {
   # Prior on Rate
   theta ~ dbeta(1,1)
   # Observed Counts
   k ~ dbin(theta,n)

This script is stored in the text file "Rate_1.txt" The data is initialized in Matlab with variables k (number of successes) and n (total number of observations). In the rate problem, the goal is to get samples of theta, the rate of Beta prior for the binomial distribution.


Defining some MCMC parameters for JAGS

nchains  = 7; % How Many Chains?
nburnin  = 1000; % How Many Burn-in Samples?
nsamples = 5000;  % How Many Recorded Samples?

Defining observed data

k=8;  % number of observed successes
n=10; % number of observations total

% Create a single structure that has the data for all observed JAGS nodes
datastruct = struct('k',k,'n',n);

Set initial values for latent variable in each chain

for i=1:nchains
    S.theta = 0.5; % An Initial Value for the Success Rate
    init0(i) = S; % init0 is a structure array that has the initial values for all latent variables for each chain

Calling JAGS to sample using parallelization

Note that execution times do not reflect linear speedfactor factors when execution times are short. In this case, the overhead produced by the file reading and writing (a serial process) will dominate performance.

if matlabpool('size') == 0
    matlabpool open 7; % initialize 7 local workers
doparallel = 1; % use parallelization
fprintf( 'Running JAGS...\n' );
[samples, stats, structArray] = matjags( ...
    datastruct, ...                     % Observed data
    fullfile(pwd, 'Rate_1.txt'), ...    % File that contains model definition
    init0, ...                          % Initial values for latent variables
    'doparallel' , doparallel, ...      % Parallelization flag
    'nchains', nchains,...              % Number of MCMC chains
    'nburnin', nburnin,...              % Number of burnin steps
    'nsamples', nsamples, ...           % Number of samples to extract
    'thin', 1, ...                      % Thinning parameter
    'monitorparams', {'theta'}, ...     % List of latent variables to monitor
    'savejagsoutput' , 1 , ...          % Save command line output produced by JAGS?
    'verbosity' , 1 , ...               % 0=do not produce any output; 1=minimal text output; 2=maximum text output
    'cleanup' , 0 );                    % clean up of temporary files?
Running JAGS...
Running chain 1 (parallel execution)
Running chain 2 (parallel execution)
Running chain 3 (parallel execution)
Running chain 4 (parallel execution)
Running chain 5 (parallel execution)
Running chain 6 (parallel execution)
Running chain 7 (parallel execution)
Elapsed time is 0.586403 seconds.

Analyze samples produced by JAGS

samples.theta contains a matrix of samples where each row corresponds to the samples from a single MCMC chain

figure(1);clf;hold on;
ylabel('Posterior Density','fontsize',16);

Analyze summary statistics

stats.mean and stats.std contain the mean and standard deviation of the posterior distribution for each latent variable that was monitored. For example, we can read out the mean and std of theta:

ans =


ans =


Analyze the Rhat value

ans =