Methods for sequential design of computer experiments typically consist of two phases. In the first phase, the exploratory phase, a space-filling initial design is used to estimate hyperparameters of a Gaussian process emulator (GPE) and to provide some initial global exploration of the model function. In the second phase, more design points are added one by one to improve the GPE and to solve the actual problem at hand (e.g., Bayesian optimization, estimation of failure probabilities, solving Bayesian inverse problems). In this article, we investigate whether hyperparameters can be estimated without a separate exploratory phase. Such an approach will leave hyperparameters uncertain in the first iterations, so the acquisition function (which tells where to evaluate the model function next) and the GPE-based estimator need to be adapted to non-Gaussian random fields. Numerical experiments are performed exemplarily on a sequential method for solving Bayesian inverse problems. These experiments show that hyperparameters can indeed be estimated without an exploratory phase and the resulting method works almost as efficient as if the hyperparameters had been known beforehand. This means that the estimation of hyperparameters should not be the reason for including an exploratory phase. Furthermore, we show numerical examples, where these results allow us to eliminate the exploratory phase to make the sequential design method both faster (requiring fewer model evaluations) and easier to use (requiring fewer choices by the user).
Keywords: Bayesian inference; Gaussian process emulators; adaptive sampling; hyperparameter estimation; sequential design of computer experiments.
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