Our paper on how to learn sparse distributions using non-convex iterative hard thresholding algorithms is accepted at the NeurIPS conference 2020 (Vancouver, Canada).

Abstract. Iterative hard thresholding (IHT) is a projected gradient descent algorithm, known to achieve state of the art performance for a wide range of structured estimation problems, such as sparse inference. In this work, we consider IHT as a solution to the problem of learning sparse discrete distributions. We study the hardness of using IHT on the space of measures. As a practical alternative, we propose a greedy approximate projection which simultaneously captures appropriate notions of sparsity in distributions, while satisfying the simplex constraint, and investigate the convergence behavior of the resulting procedure in various settings. Our results show, both in theory and practice, that IHT can achieve state of the art results for learning sparse distributions.