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Tuning of Prior Covariance in Generalized Least Squares

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Document pages: 14 pages

Abstract: Generalized Least Squares (least squares with prior information) requires the correct assignment of two prior covariance matrices: one associated with the uncertainty of measurements; the other with the uncertainty of prior information. These assignments often are very subjective, especially when correlations among data or among prior information are believed to occur. However, in cases in which the general form of these matrices can be anticipated up to a set of poorly-known parameters, the data and prior information may be used to better-determine (or “tune”) the parameters in a manner that is faithful to the underlying Bayesian foundation of GLS. We identify an objective function, the minimization of which leads to the best-estimate of the parameters and provide explicit and computationally-efficient formula for calculating the derivatives needed to implement the minimization with a gradient descent method. Furthermore, the problem is organized so that the minimization need be performed only over the space of covariance parameters, and not over the combined space of model and covariance parameters. We show that the use of trade-off curves to select the relative weight given to observations and prior information is not a form of tuning, because it does not, in general maximize the posterior probability of the model parameters, and can lead to a different weighting than the procedure described here. We also provide several examples that demonstrate the viability, and discuss both the advantages and limitations of the method.

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