### January 14, 2019

ICML deadline is upon us (on Jan 23)... Everyone in my group is working hard towards the deadline.

### January 10, 2019

I've been asked to lead an Aritificial Intelligence Committee at KAUST whose role is to prepare a strategic plan for growing AI research and activities at KAUST over the next 5 years. This will be a substantial investment, and will involve a large number of new faculty, research scientist, postdoc and PhD and MS/PhD positions; investment into computing infrastructure and more. (The committee started its work in 2018; I am positing the news with some delay...)

Independently to this, Bernard Ghanem, Marco Canini, Panos Kalnis and me have established the Machine Learning Hub at KAUST, with the aim to advance ML research and training activities for the benefit of the entire KAUST community. The website is only visible from within the KAUST network at the moment.

### January 6, 2019

I am back at KAUST. El Houcine, Konstantin and Xun are here. Aritra is on his way to WACV 2019, Hawaii. Samuel and Filip will come back tomorrow. Alibek and Elnur are arriving soon, too.

I will have several interns/research visitors from my group at MIPT visiting me at KAUST during January-February:

- Egor Shulgin (Jan 6 - Feb 21)
- Dmitry Kamzolov (Jan 10 - Feb 18)
- Vladislav Elsukov (Jan 11 - Feb 15)
- Eduard Gorbunov (Jan 13 - Feb 24)
- Igor Sokolov (Jan 18 - Feb 25)

### January 3, 2019

I am visiting Radoslav Harman @ Comenius University, Slovakia.

### December 22, 2018

I am on vacation until the end of the year.

### December 22, 2018

The paper "Accelerated coordinate descent with arbitrary sampling and best rates for minibatches", coauthored with Filip Hanzely, was accepted to the 22nd International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Statistics (AISTATS 2019). The conference will take place in Naha, Okinawa, Japan, during April 16-18, 2019. The acceptance email said: "There were 1,111 submissions for AISTATS this year, of which the program committee accepted 360 for presentation at the conference; among these, 28 papers were accepted for oral presentation, and 332 for poster presentation."

### December 22, 2018

I have accepted an invite to deliver half-a-day worth of summer school lectures on optimization in machine learning at the International Conference on Continuous Optimization (ICCOPT 2019). The Summer School and the main conference take place in Berlin in August 2019. The Summer School precedes the main event, and spans two days: August 3-4. The main conference runs from August 5 until August 8.

ICCOPT is the flagship conference series of the Mathematical Optimization Society (MOS) on continuous optimization, covering a wide range of topics in the field. The individual conferences are typically held once every three years. The last three editions of the conference took place in Tokyo, Japan (2016), Lisbon, Portugal (2013), and Santiago, Chile (2010). I attended all three.

There are two more key conferences in optimization that take place once in three years; each runs in a differenty year, so that one takes place every year. They are: ISMP (International Symposium on Mathematical Programming) and OP (SIAM Conference on Optimization). The last ISMP took place in Bordeaux in Summer 2018. The next OP conference will be in Hong Kong during May 26-29, 2020. I am a member of the organizing committee for OP2020 which is collectively responsible for the selection of invited plenary and tutorial speakers, summer school lecturers, and the organization of mini-symposia.

### December 14, 2018

Alibek and Samuel received their MS degrees today. Congratulations! Both will continue as PhD students in my group as of January 2019.

Earlier today, I had the great pleasure and honor to meet with Kai-Fu Lee (CEO of Sinovation Ventures; former president of Google China; founder & former managing director of Microsoft Research Asia) for a 2hr discussion about AI. I recommend that you watch some of his videos

TED Talk 2018: How AI Can Save Humanity
'AI Superpowers': A Conversation With Kai-Fu Lee
The Future of AI with Kai-Fu Lee: Udacity Talks
The Race for AI: Book Talk with Dr. Kai-Fu Lee

and read his most recent book:

AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order

### December 11, 2018

Konstantin and Filip are back (from Amazon internship / Microsoft Research visit, respectively). They stopped by NeurIPS on their way back.

### December 10, 2018

The final exam for CS 390FF course is today. Robert Gower arrived at KAUST for a research visit; he will stay until December 20.

### December 8, 2018

I am back at KAUST now.

### December 2, 2018

I have arrived in Montréal to attend the NeurIPS (formerly known as NIPS) conference. I was welcome with rain, which this is a good thing as far as I am concerned!. Tutorials are starting tomorrow; after that we have three days of the main conference and then two days of workshops. My group is presening three papers accepted to the main conference (paper SEGA, ASBFGS and SSCD) and one paper accepted to a workshop.

I am using the conference Whova app; feel free to get in touch! I am leaving on Thursday evening, so catch me before then... I've posted a few job openings we have at KAUST through the app: internships in my lab (apply by sending me your cv and transcript of university grades), postdoc and research scientist positions (apply by sending a cv + motivation letter), and machine learning faculty positions at all ranks (women and junior applicants are particularly encouraged to apply).

### November 30, 2018

New paper out: "New convergence aspects of stochastic gradient algorithms" - joint work with Lam M. Nguyen, Phuong Ha Nguyen, Katya Scheinberg, Martin Takáč, and Marten van Dijk.

Abstract: The classical convergence analysis of SGD is carried out under the assumption that the norm of the stochastic gradient is uniformly bounded. While this might hold for some loss functions, it is violated for cases where the objective function is strongly convex. In Bottou et al. (2016), a new analysis of convergence of SGD is performed under the assumption that stochastic gradients are bounded with respect to the true gradient norm. We show that for stochastic problems arising in machine learning such bound always holds; and we also propose an alternative convergence analysis of SGD with diminishing learning rate regime, which results in more relaxed conditions than those in Bottou et al. (2016). We then move on the asynchronous parallel setting, and prove convergence of Hogwild! algorithm in the same regime in the case of diminished learning rate. It is well-known that SGD converges if a sequence of learning rates {ηt} satisfies t=0ηt and t=0η2t<. We show the convergence of SGD for strongly convex objective function without using bounded gradient assumption when {ηt} is a diminishing sequence and t=0ηt. In other words, we extend the current state-of-the-art class of learning rates satisfying the convergence of SGD.

### November 28, 2018

Nicolas Loizou is on the job market; he will get is PhD in 2019. He is looking for research positions in academia (Assistant Prof / postdoc) and industry (Research Scientist). Nicolas will be at NeurIPS next week, presenting his work on privacy-preserving randomized gossip algorithms in the PPML workshop. At the moment, Nicolas is interning at Facebook AI Research (FAIR), where he has done some great work on decentralized training of deep learning models, and on accelerated decentralized gossip communication protocols.

### November 22, 2018

Here are the posters of our papers accepted to this year's NeurIPS:

[paper on arXiv]

[paper on arXiv]

[paper on arXiv]

The poster for our Privacy Preserving Machine Learning NeurIPS workshop paper was not finalized yet. I will include a link here once it is ready. Update (November 28): The poster is now ready:

[full-length paper on arXiv]

### November 18, 2018

Xun QIAN just joined my group at KAUST as a postdoc. He has a PhD in Mathematics (August 2017) from Hong Kong Baptist University. His PhD thesis is on "Continuous methods for convex programming and convex semidefinite programming" (pdf), supervised by Li-Zhi Liao.

Some of Xun's papers:

H. W. Yue, Li-Zhi Liao, and Xun Qian. Two interior point continuous trajectory models for convex quadratic programming with bound constraints, to appear in Pacific Journal on Optimization

Xun Qian, Li-Zhi Liao, Jie Sun and Hong Zhu. The convergent generalized central paths for linearly constrained convex programming, SIAM Journal on Optimization 28(2):1183-1204, 2018

Xun Qian and Li-Zhi Liao. Analysis of the primal affine scaling continuous trajectory for convex programming, Pacific Journal on Optimization 14(2):261-272, 2018

Xun Qian and Li-Zhi Liao and Jie Sun. Analysis of some interior point continuous trajectories for convex programming, Optimization 66(4):589-608, 2017

### November 16, 2018

Nicolas Loizou is giving a talk today at Mila, University of Montréal. He is speaking about "Momentum and Stochastic Momentum for Stochastic Gradient, Newton, Proximal Point and Subspace Descent Methods".

### November 13, 2018

Nicolas Loizou is giving a talk today in the Mathematics in Machine Learning Seminar at McGill University. He is speaking about "Momentum and Stochastic Momentum for Stochastic Gradient, Newton, Proximal Point and Subspace Descent Methods", joint work with me.

### November 12, 2018

Today I am giving a talk at the Statistics and Data Science Workshop held here at KAUST. I am speaking about the JacSketch paper. Here is a YouTube video of the same talk, one I gave in September at the Simons Institute.

### November 4, 2018

A paper accepted to IEEE Winter Conference on Applications of Computer Vision (WACV 2019)

The paper "Online and batch incremental video background estimation", joint work with Aritra Dutta, has just been accepted to the WACV 2019. The conference will take place during January 7-January 11, 2019 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

### November 4, 2018

I am back from annual leave.

### November 3, 2018

A paper accepted to NIPS Workshop on Privacy-Preserving Machine Learning (PPML18)

The paper "A Privacy Preserving Randomized Gossip Algorithm via Controlled Noise Insertion", joint work with Nicolas Loizou, Filip Hanzely, Jakub Konečný and Dmitry Grishchenko, has been accepted to the NIPS Workshop on Privacy-Preserving Machine Learning. The full-length paper, which includes a number of additional algorithms and results, can be found on arXiv here.

The acceptance email said: "We received an astonishing number of high quality submissions to the Privacy Preserving Machine Learning workshop and we are delighted to inform you that your submission A Privacy Preserving Randomized Gossip Algorithm via Controlled Noise Insertion (57) was accepted to be presented at the workshop."

### November 1, 2018

New paper out: "A stochastic penalty model for convex and nonconvex optimization with big constraints" - joint work with Konstantin Mishchenko.

Abstract: The last decade witnessed a rise in the importance of supervised learning applications involving big data and big models. Big data refers to situations where the amounts of training data available and needed causes difficulties in the training phase of the pipeline. Big model refers to situations where large dimensional and over-parameterized models are needed for the application at hand. Both of these phenomena lead to a dramatic increase in research activity aimed at taming the issues via the design of new sophisticated optimization algorithms. In this paper we turn attention to the big constraints scenario and argue that elaborate machine learning systems of the future will necessarily need to account for a large number of real-world constraints, which will need to be incorporated in the training process. This line of work is largely unexplored, and provides ample opportunities for future work and applications. To handle the big constraints regime, we propose a stochastic penalty formulation which reduces the problem to the well understood big data regime. Our formulation has many interesting properties which relate it to the original problem in various ways, with mathematical guarantees. We give a number of results specialized to nonconvex loss functions, smooth convex functions, strongly convex functions and convex constraints. We show through experiments that our approach can beat competing approaches by several orders of magnitude when a medium accuracy solution is required.

### November 1, 2018

Aritra Dutta and El Houcine Bergou are on their way to Phoenix, Arizona, to give talks at the 2018 INFORMS Annual Meeting.

### October 31, 2018

New paper out: "Provably accelerated randomized gossip algorithms" - joint work with Nicolas Loizou and
Michael G. Rabbat.

Abstract: In this work we present novel provably accelerated gossip algorithms for solving the average consensus problem. The proposed protocols are inspired from the recently developed accelerated variants of the randomized Kaczmarz method - a popular method for solving linear systems. In each gossip iteration all nodes of the network update their values but only a pair of them exchange their private information. Numerical experiments on popular wireless sensor networks showing the benefits of our protocols are also presented.

### October 31, 2018

A paper accepted to The Thirty-Third AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-19)

The paper "A nonconvex projection method for robust PCA", joint work with Aritra Dutta and Filip Hanzely, has been accepted to AAAI-19. The conference will take place during January 27-February 1, 2019, in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.

The acceptance email said: "We had a record number of over 7,700 submissions this year. Of those, 7,095 were reviewed, and due to space limitations we were only able to accept 1,150 papers, yielding an acceptance rate of 16.2%. There was especially stiff competition this year because of the number of submissions, and you should be proud of your success."

Abstract: Robust principal component analysis (RPCA) is a well-studied problem with the goal of decomposing a matrix into the sum of low-rank and sparse components. In this paper, we propose a nonconvex feasibility reformulation of RPCA problem and apply an alternating projection method to solve it. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to propose a method that solves RPCA problem without considering any objective function, convex relaxation, or surrogate convex constraints. We demonstrate through extensive numerical experiments on a variety of applications, including shadow removal, background estimation, face detection, and galaxy evolution, that our approach matches and often significantly outperforms current state-of-the-art in various ways.

### October 30, 2018

A paper accepted to Journal of the American Statistical Association (JASA)

The paper "A randomized exchange algorithm for computing optimal approximate designs of experiments", joint work with Radoslav Harman and Lenka Filová, has been accepted to Journal of the American Statistical Association.

Abstract: We propose a class of subspace ascent methods for computing optimal approximate designs that covers both existing as well as new and more efficient algorithms. Within this class of methods, we construct a simple, randomized exchange algorithm (REX). Numerical comparisons suggest that the performance of REX is comparable or superior to the performance of state-of-the-art methods across a broad range of problem structures and sizes. We focus on the most commonly used criterion of D-optimality that also has applications beyond experimental design, such as the construction of the minimum volume ellipsoid containing a given set of data-points. For D-optimality, we prove that the proposed algorithm converges to the optimum. We also provide formulas for the optimal exchange of weights in the case of the criterion of A-optimality. These formulas enable one to use REX for computing A-optimal and I-optimal designs.

### October 25, 2018

I am about to go on an annual leave to an island in the Indian ocean. I will likely have no functioning internet, and will not be reading my emails (maybe I'll read one or two *if* I get internet over there, but do not expect me to respond as the purpose of annual leave is to relax and recharge). I will be back at KAUST and operational on November 4, teaching at 9am.

### October 22, 2018

Sebastian Stich is visiting me at KAUST. He will stay here for three weeks, and will give a CS seminar talk on November 12.

### October 20, 2018

Filip Hanzely is visiting Lin Xiao at Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington. He will be back roughly in a month. While in the US, he will also drop by Phoenix to give a talk at the 2018 INFORMS Annual Meeting.

### February 10, 2018

New paper out: "Stochastic spectral and conjugate descent methods" - joint work with Dmitry Kovalev, Eduard Gorbunov and Elnur Gasanov.

Abstract: The state-of-the-art methods for solving optimization problems in big dimensions are variants of randomized coordinate descent (RCD). In this paper we introduce a fundamentally new type of acceleration strategy for RCD based on the augmentation of the set of coordinate directions by a few spectral or conjugate directions. As we increase the number of extra directions to be sampled from, the rate of the method improves, and interpolates between the linear rate of RCD and a linear rate independent of the condition number. We develop and analyze also inexact variants of these methods where the spectral and conjugate directions are allowed to be approximate only. We motivate the above development by proving several negative results which highlight the limitations of RCD with importance sampling.

### February 5, 2018

OBD 2018 is starting! The KAUST Workshop on Optimization and Big Data just started. We have 19 amazing speakers and 21 deluxe e-posters lined up.

Update (February 12): Thanks for all who participated in the workshop, thanks you to this was an excellent event! Group photos:

### February 4, 2018

KAUST Research Workshop on Optimization and Big Data is starting tomorrow! We have 19 amazing speakers, and 21 deluxe poster talks and ePoster presentations.

This year, Tamás Terlaky (Lehigh) is the keynote speaker.

Thanks to the KAUST Office for Sponsored Research, The Alan Turing Institute and KICP.

### February 1, 2018

Nicolas Loizou is back at KAUST on a research visit. Welcome!

### January 28, 2018

Aritra Dutta (postdoc), Alibek Sailanbayev (MS/PhD student) and Samuel Horvath (MS/PhD student) are attending Applied Machine Learning Days at EPFL, Lausanne, Switzerland.

### January 27, 2018

Let me welcome Dmitry Kovalev and Elnur Gasanov (master students visiting from MIPT, Moscow) and Slavomir Hanzely (undergraduate student at Comenius University), who arrived at KAUST about a week ago and are working with me as interns.They will be here for about a month.

### January 18, 2018

New paper out: "A randomized exchange algorithm for computing optimal approximate designs of experiments" - joint work with Radoslav Harman and Lenka Filová.

Abstract: We propose a class of subspace ascent methods for computing optimal approximate designs that covers both existing as well as new and more efficient algorithms. Within this class of methods, we construct a simple, randomized exchange algorithm (REX). Numerical comparisons suggest that the performance of REX is comparable or superior to the performance of state-of-the-art methods across a broad range of problem structures and sizes. We focus on the most commonly used criterion of D-optimality that also has applications beyond experimental design, such as the construction of the minimum volume ellipsoid containing a given set of datapoints. For D-optimality, we prove that the proposed algorithm converges to the optimum. We also provide formulas for the optimal exchange of weights in the case of the criterion of A-optimality. These formulas enable one to use REX for computing A-optimal and I-optimal designs.

### January 16, 2018

I was travelling and am back at KAUST now. Let me welcome Eduard Gorbunov (a master's student visiting from MIPT, Moscow; will be here untill Feb 8), Matthias Ehrhardt (visiting from Cambridge, UK, untill February 10) and Elhoucine Bergou (new postdoc in my group, starting today).

### January 15, 2018

New paper out: "Randomized projection methods for convex feasibility problems: conditioning and convergence rates" - joint work with Ion Necoara and Andrei Patrascu.

Abstract: Finding a point in the intersection of a collection of closed convex sets, that is the convex feasibility problem, represents the main modeling strategy for many computational problems. In this paper we analyze new stochastic reformulations of the convex feasibility problem in order to facilitate the development of new algorithmic schemes. We also analyze the conditioning problem parameters using certain (linear) regularity assumptions on the individual convex sets. Then, we introduce a general random projection algorithmic framework, which extends to the random settings many existing projection schemes, designed for the general convex feasibility problem. Our general random projection algorithm allows to project simultaneously on several sets, thus providing great flexibility in matching the implementation of the algorithm on the parallel architecture at hand. Based on the conditioning parameters, besides the asymptotic convergence results, we also derive explicit sublinear and linear convergence rates for this general algorithmic framework.

Read Old News (2017 and earlier)
"