Statistical mechanics of the inverse Ising problem and the optimal objective function


The inverse Ising problem seeks to reconstruct the parameters of an Ising Hamiltonian on the basis of spin configurations sampled from the Boltzmann measure. Over the last decade, many applications of the inverse Ising problem have arisen, driven by the advent of large-scale data across different scientific disciplines. Recently, strategies to solve the inverse Ising problem based on convex optimisation have proven to be very successful. These approaches maximise particular objective functions with respect to the model parameters. Examples are the pseudolikelihood method and interaction screening. In this paper, we establish a link between approaches to the inverse Ising problem based on convex optimisation and the statistical physics of disordered systems. We characterise the performance of an arbitrary objective function and calculate the objective function which optimally reconstructs the model parameters. We evaluate the optimal objective function within a replica-symmetric ansatz and compare the results of the optimal objective function with other reconstruction methods. Apart from giving a theoretical underpinning to solving the inverse Ising problem by convex optimisation, the optimal objective function outperforms state-of-the-art methods, albeit by a small margin.


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