[Rd] Optimization in R

From: Andrew Clausen <clausen_at_econ.upenn.edu>
Date: Sat, 04 Aug 2007 01:12:31 -0400

Hi all,

I've been working on improving R's optim() command, which does general purpose unconstrained optimization. Obviously, this is important for many statistics computations, such as maximum likelihood, method of moments, etc. I have focused my efforts of the BFGS method, mainly because it best matches my current projects.

Here's a quick summary of what I've done:

My own implementation has several advantages over optim()'s implementation (which you can see in the vmmin() function in


Of course, this comes at the (slight?) overhead cost of being written in R.

The test suite above takes the first few functions from the paper

        Moré, Garbow, and Hillstrom, "Testing Unconstrained
        Optimization Software", ACM Trans Math Softw 7:1 (March 1981)

The test results appear below, where "*" means "computed the right solution", and "!" means "got stuck".

test                    optim           clausen         gsl
bard                                                    !
gaussian                                                *
helical-valley          *               *
jennrich-sampson                                        *
meyer                                                   *
powell-scaled                           *
rosenbrock                              *

The table indiciates that all three implementations of BFGS failed to compute the right answer in most cases. I suppose this means they are all quite deficient. Of course, this doesn't imply that they perform badly on real statistics problems -- but in my limited experience with my crude econometric models, they do perform badly. Indeed, that's why I started investigating in the first place.

For what it's worth, I think:


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