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Data from: Properties of Markov chain Monte Carlo performance across many empirical alignments --part II

Cite this dataset

Harrington, Sean M; Wishingrad, Van; Thomson, Robert C (2020). Data from: Properties of Markov chain Monte Carlo performance across many empirical alignments --part II [Dataset]. Dryad.


Nearly all current Bayesian phylogenetic applications rely on Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) methods to approximate the posterior distribution for trees and other parameters of the model. These approximations are only reliable if Markov chains adequately converge and sample from the joint posterior distribution. While several studies of phylogenetic MCMC convergence exist, these have focused on simulated datasets or select empirical examples. Therefore, much that is considered common knowledge about MCMC in empirical systems derives from a relatively small family of analyses under ideal conditions. To address this, we present an overview of commonly applied phylogenetic MCMC diagnostics and an assessment of patterns of these diagnostics across more than 18,000 empirical analyses. Many analyses appeared to perform well and failures in convergence were most likely to be detected using the average standard deviation of split frequencies, a diagnostic that compares topologies among independent chains. Different diagnostics yielded different information about failed convergence, demonstrating that multiple diagnostics must be employed to reliably detect problems. The number of taxa and average branch lengths in analyses have clear impacts on MCMC performance, with more taxa and shorter branches leading to more difficult convergence. We show that the usage of models that include both Γ-distributed among-site rate variation and a proportion of invariable sites are not broadly problematic for MCMC convergence but are also unnecessary. Changes to heating and the usage of model-averaged substitution models can both offer improved convergence in some cases, but neither are a panacea.

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National Science Foundation, Award: DBI-1356796