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Sören Mindermann

PhD, started 2019

Sören is a DPhil student in CS supervised by Yarin Gal from OATML and Allan Dafoe from Oxford’s Centre for the Governance of AI. His interests in machine learning include its economic and political properties, how it scales, and safety. Before joining OATML, he worked on reward inference and machine learning for game theory with David Duvenaud and Roger Grosse at Toronto’s Vector Institute, with the Center for Human-compatible AI at UC Berkeley, and at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford. He has degrees in machine learning (UCL), maths (Amsterdam) and Future Planet Studies (Amsterdam). Sören is co-funded by Oxford and DeepMind.


Publications while at OATMLNews items mentioning Sören MindermannReproducibility and CodeBlog Posts

Publications while at OATML:

Seasonal variation in SARS-CoV-2 transmission in temperate climates: A Bayesian modelling study in 143 European regions

Although seasonal variation has a known influence on the transmission of several respiratory viral infections, its role in SARS-CoV-2 transmission remains unclear. While there is a sizable and growing literature on environmental drivers of COVID-19 transmission, recent reviews have highlighted conflicting and inconclusive findings. This indeterminacy partly owes to the fact that seasonal variation relates to viral transmission by a complicated web of causal pathways, including many interacting biological and behavioural factors. Since analyses of specific factors cannot determine the aggregate strength of seasonal forcing, we sidestep the challenge of disentangling various possible causal paths in favor of a holistic approach. We model seasonality as a sinusoidal variation in transmission and infer a single Bayesian estimate of the overall seasonal effect. By extending two state-of-the-art models of non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI) effects and their datasets covering 143 regio... [full abstract]


Tomáš Gavenčiak*, Joshua Teperowsky Monrad*, Gavin Leech, Mrinank Sharma, Sören Mindermann, Samir Bhatt, Jan Brauner, Jan Kulveit*
PLoS Computational Biology 18(8): e1010435. (2022)
[Paper]

Mask wearing in community settings reduces SARS-CoV-2 transmission

The effectiveness of mask wearing at controlling severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmission has been unclear. While masks are known to substantially reduce disease transmission in healthcare settings, studies in community settings report inconsistent results. Most such studies focus on how masks impact transmission, by analyzing how effective government mask mandates are. However, we find that widespread voluntary mask wearing, and other data limitations, make mandate effectiveness a poor proxy for mask-wearing effectiveness. We directly analyze the effect of mask wearing on SARS-CoV-2 transmission, drawing on several datasets covering 92 regions on six continents, including the largest survey of wearing behavior (n= 20 million). Using a Bayesian hierarchical model, we estimate the effect of mask wearing on transmission, by linking reported wearing levels to reported cases in each region, while adjusting for mobility and nonpharmaceutical intervention... [full abstract]


Gavin Leech, Charlie Rogers-Smith, Joshua Teperowsky Monrad, Jonas B. Sandbrink, Benedict Snodin, Robert Zinkov, Benjamin Rader, John S. Brownstein, Yarin Gal, Samir Bhatt, Mrinank Sharma, Sören Mindermann, Jan Brauner, Laurence Aitchinson
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) (2022) 119 (23) e2119266119
[Paper]

Prioritized Training on Points that are Learnable, Worth Learning, and not yet Learnt

Training on web-scale data can take months. But much computation and time is wasted on redundant and noisy points that are already learnt or not learnable. To accelerate training, we introduce Reducible Holdout Loss Selection (RHO-LOSS), a simple but principled technique which selects approximately those points for training that most reduce the model’s generalization loss. As a result, RHO-LOSS mitigates the weaknesses of existing data selection methods: techniques from the optimization literature typically select "hard" (e.g. high loss) points, but such points are often noisy (not learnable) or less task-relevant. Conversely, curriculum learning prioritizes "easy" points, but such points need not be trained on once learned. In contrast, RHO-LOSS selects points that are learnable, worth learning, and not yet learnt. RHO-LOSS trains in far fewer steps than prior art, improves accuracy, and speeds up training on a wide range of datasets, hyperparameters, and architectures (MLPs, CNNs... [full abstract]


Sören Mindermann, Jan Brauner, Muhammed Razzak, Mrinank Sharma, Andreas Kirsch, Winnie Xu, Benedikt Höltgen, Aidan Gomez, Adrien Morisot, Sebastian Farquhar, Yarin Gal
ICML, 2022 [Paper]

Understanding the effectiveness of government interventions against the resurgence of COVID-19 in Europe

During the second half of 2020, many European governments responded to the resurging transmission of SARS-CoV-2 with wide-ranging non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). These efforts were often highly targeted at the regional level and included fine-grained NPIs. This paper describes a new dataset designed for the accurate recording of NPIs in Europe’s second wave to allow precise modelling of NPI effectiveness. The dataset includes interventions from 114 regions in 7 European countries during the period from the 1st August 2020 to the 9th January 2021. The paper includes NPI definitions tailored to the second wave following an exploratory data collection. Each entry has been extensively validated by semi-independent double entry, comparison with existing datasets, and, when necessary, discussion with local epidemiologists. The dataset has considerable potential for use in disentangling the effectiveness of NPIs and comparing the impact of interventions across different phases of... [full abstract]


George Altman, Janvi Ahuja, Joshua Teperowsky Monrad, Gurpreet Dhaliwal, Charlie Rogers-Smith, Gavin Leech, Benedict Snodin, Jonas B. Sandbrink, Lukas Finnveden, Alexander John Norman, Sebastian B. Oehm, Julia Fabienne Sandkühler, Jan Kulveit, Seth Flaxman, Yarin Gal, Swapnil Mishra, Samir Bhatt, Mrinank Sharma, Sören Mindermann, Jan Brauner
Nature Scientific Data 9, Article number: 145 (2022)
[Paper]

Understanding the effectiveness of government interventions against the resurgence of COVID-19 in Europe

Governments are attempting to control the COVID-19 pandemic with nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). However, the effectiveness of different NPIs at reducing transmission is poorly understood. We gathered chronological data on the implementation of NPIs for several European, and other, countries between January and the end of May 2020. We estimate the effectiveness of NPIs, ranging from limiting gathering sizes, business closures, and closure of educational institutions to stay-at-home orders. To do so, we used a Bayesian hierarchical model that links NPI implementation dates to national case and death counts and supported the results with extensive empirical validation. Closing all educational institutions, limiting gatherings to 10 people or less, and closing face-to-face businesses each reduced transmission considerably. The additional effect of stay-at-home orders was comparatively small.


Mrinank Sharma, Sören Mindermann, Charlie Rogers-Smith, Gavin Leech, Benedict Snodin, Janvi Ahuja, Jonas B. Sandbrink, Joshua Teperowsky Monrad, George Altman, Gurpreet Dhaliwal, Lukas Finnveden, Alexander John Norman, Sebastian B. Oehm, Julia Fabienne Sandkühler, Laurence Aitchison, Tomas Gavenciak, Thomas Mellan, Jan Kulveit, Leonid Chindelevitch, Seth Flaxman, Yarin Gal, Swapnil Mishra, Samir Bhatt, Jan Brauner
Nature Communications (2021) 12: 5820
[Paper]

Changing composition of SARS-CoV-2 lineages and rise of Delta variant in England

Background Since its emergence in Autumn 2020, the SARS-CoV-2 Variant of Concern (VOC) B.1.1.7 (WHO label Alpha) rapidly became the dominant lineage across much of Europe. Simultaneously, several other VOCs were identified globally. Unlike B.1.1.7, some of these VOCs possess mutations thought to confer partial immune escape. Understanding when and how these additional VOCs pose a threat in settings where B.1.1.7 is currently dominant is vital. Methods We examine trends in the prevalence of non-B.1.1.7 lineages in London and other English regions using passive-case detection PCR data, cross-sectional community infection surveys, genomic surveillance, and wastewater monitoring. The study period spans from 31st January 2021 to 15th May 2021. Findings Across data sources, the percentage of non-B.1.1.7 variants has been increasing since late March 2021. This increase was initially driven by a variety of lineages with immune escape. From mid-April, B.1.617.2 (WHO label Delta) spread ra... [full abstract]


Swapnil Mishra, Sören Mindermann, Mrinank Sharma, Charles Whittaker, Thomas A. Mellan, Thomas Wilton, Dimitra Klapsa, Ryan Mate, Martin Fritzsche, Maria Zambon, Janvi Ahuja, Adam Howes, Xenia Miscouridou, Guy P. Nason, Oliver Ratmann, Elizaveta Semenova, Gavin Leech, Julia Fabienne Sandkühler, Charlie Rogers-Smith, Michaela Vollmer, H. Juliette T. Unwin, Yarin Gal, Meera Chand, Axel Gandy, Javier Martin, Erik Volz, Neil M. Ferguson, Samir Bhatt, Jan Brauner, Seth Flaxman
EClinicalMedicine (2021), 39:101064
[Paper]

Is the cure really worse than the disease? The health impacts of lockdowns during COVID-19

During the pandemic, there has been ongoing and contentious debate around the impact of restrictive government measures to contain SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks, often termed ‘lockdowns’. We define a ‘lockdown’ as a highly restrictive set of non-pharmaceutical interventions against COVID-19, including either stay-at-home orders or interventions with an equivalent effect on movement in the population through restriction of movement. While necessarily broad, this definition encompasses the strict interventions embraced by many nations during the pandemic, particularly those that have prevented individuals from venturing outside of their homes for most reasons. The claims often include the idea that the benefits of lockdowns on infection control may be outweighed by the negative impacts on the economy, social structure, education and mental health. A much stronger claim that has still persistently appeared in the media as well as peer-reviewed research concerns only health effects: that there... [full abstract]


Gideon Mayerowitz-Katz, Samir Bhatt, Oliver Ratmann, Jan Brauner, Seth Flaxman, Swapnil Mishra, Mrinank Sharma, Sören Mindermann, Valerie Bradley, Michaela Vollmer, Lea Merone, Gavin Yamey
BMJ Global Health, 2021, 6:e006653
[Paper]

Quantifying Ignorance in Individual-Level Causal-Effect Estimates under Hidden Confounding

We study the problem of learning conditional average treatment effects (CATE) from high-dimensional, observational data with unobserved confounders. Unobserved confounders introduce ignorance -- a level of unidentifiability -- about an individual's response to treatment by inducing bias in CATE estimates. We present a new parametric interval estimator suited for high-dimensional data, that estimates a range of possible CATE values when given a predefined bound on the level of hidden confounding. Further, previous interval estimators do not account for ignorance about the CATE stemming from samples that may be underrepresented in the original study, or samples that violate the overlap assumption. Our novel interval estimator also incorporates model uncertainty so that practitioners can be made aware of out-of-distribution data. We prove that our estimator converges to tight bounds on CATE when there may be unobserved confounding, and assess it using semi-synthetic, high-dimensional ... [full abstract]


Andrew Jesson, Sören Mindermann, Yarin Gal, Uri Shalit
ICML, 2021
[arXiv]

Understanding the effectiveness of government interventions in Europe's second wave of COVID-19

As European governments face resurging waves of COVID-19, non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) continue to be the primary tool for infection control. However, updated estimates of their relative effectiveness have been absent for Europe's second wave, largely due to a lack of collated data that considers the increased subnational variation and diversity of NPIs. We collect the largest dataset of NPI implementation dates in Europe, spanning 114 subnational areas in 7 countries, with a systematic categorisation of interventions tailored to the second wave. Using a hierarchical Bayesian transmission model, we estimate the effectiveness of 17 NPIs from local case and death data. We manually validate the data, address limitations in modelling from previous studies, and extensively test the robustness of our estimates. The combined effect of all NPIs was smaller relative to estimates from the first half of 2020, indicating the strong influence of safety measures and individual protect... [full abstract]


Mrinank Sharma, Sören Mindermann, Charlie Rogers-Smith, Gavin Leech, Benedict Snodin, Janvi Ahuja, Jonas B. Sandbrink, Joshua Teperowski Monrad, George Altman, Gurpreet Dhaliwal, Lukas Finnveden, Alexander John Norman, Sebastian B. Oehm, Julia Fabienne Sandkühler, Thomas Mellan, Jan Kulveit, Leonid Chindelevitch, Seth Flaxman, Yarin Gal, Swapnil Mishra, Jan Brauner, Samir Bhatt
MedRxiv
[Paper]

Inferring the effectiveness of government interventions against COVID-19

Governments are attempting to control the COVID-19 pandemic with nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). However, the effectiveness of different NPIs at reducing transmission is poorly understood. We gathered chronological data on the implementation of NPIs for several European, and other, countries between January and the end of May 2020. We estimate the effectiveness of NPIs, ranging from limiting gathering sizes, business closures, and closure of educational institutions to stay-at-home orders. To do so, we used a Bayesian hierarchical model that links NPI implementation dates to national case and death counts and supported the results with extensive empirical validation. Closing all educational institutions, limiting gatherings to 10 people or less, and closing face-to-face businesses each reduced transmission considerably. The additional effect of stay-at-home orders was comparatively small.


Jan Brauner, Sören Mindermann, Mrinank Sharma, David Johnston, John Salvatier, Tomáš Gavenčiak, Anna B Stephenson, Gavin Leech, George Altman, Vladimir Mikulik, Alexander John Norman, Joshua Teperowski Monrad, Tamay Besiroglu, Hong Ge, Meghan A Hartwick, Yee Whye Teh, Leonid Chindelevitch, Yarin Gal, Jan Kulveit
Science (2020): eabd9338
[Paper]

On the robustness of effectiveness estimation of nonpharmaceutical interventions against COVID-19 transmission

There remains much uncertainty about the relative effectiveness of different nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) against COVID-19 transmission. Several studies attempt to infer NPI effectiveness with cross-country, data-driven modelling, by linking from NPI implementation dates to the observed timeline of cases and deaths in a country. These models make many assumptions. Previous work sometimes tests the sensitivity to variations in explicit epidemiological model parameters, but rarely analyses the sensitivity to the assumptions that are made by the choice the of model structure (structural sensitivity analysis). Such analysis would ensure that the inferences made are consistent under plausible alternative assumptions. Without it, NPI effectiveness estimates cannot be used to guide policy. We investigate four model structures similar to a recent state-of-the-art Bayesian hierarchical model. We find that the models differ considerably in the robustness of their NPI effectiveness ... [full abstract]


Mrinank Sharma, Sören Mindermann, Jan Brauner, Gavin Leech, Anna B. Stephenson, Tomáš Gavenčiak, Jan Kulveit, Yee Whye Teh, Leonid Chindelevitch, Yarin Gal
NeurIPS, 2020
[Paper]

Identifying Causal Effect Inference Failure with Uncertainty-Aware Models

Recommending the best course of action for an individual is a major application of individual-level causal effect estimation. This application is often needed in safety-critical domains such as healthcare, where estimating and communicating uncertainty to decision-makers is crucial. We introduce a practical approach for integrating uncertainty estimation into a class of state-of-the-art neural network methods used for individual-level causal estimates. We show that our methods enable us to deal gracefully with situations of "no-overlap", common in high-dimensional data, where standard applications of causal effect approaches fail. Further, our methods allow us to handle covariate shift, where test distribution differs to train distribution, common when systems are deployed in practice. We show that when such a covariate shift occurs, correctly modeling uncertainty can keep us from giving overconfident and potentially harmful recommendations. We demonstrate our methodology with a ra... [full abstract]


Andrew Jesson, Sören Mindermann, Uri Shalit, Yarin Gal
NeurIPS, 2020
[arXiv] [BibTex]
More publications on Google Scholar.

News items mentioning Sören Mindermann:

Sören Mindermann, Muhammed Razzak, and Jan Brauner speak at Meta AI Research

Sören Mindermann, Muhammed Razzak, and Jan Brauner speak at Meta AI Research

21 Sep 2022

OATML PhD Students Sören Mindermann, Muhammed Razzak, and Jan Brauner delivered a talk to Meta AI Research on their work on prioritised training.

Link to this news item
OATML graduate students recognized as highlighted reviewers at ICLR 2022

OATML graduate students recognized as highlighted reviewers at ICLR 2022

25 Apr 2022

OATML graduate students Lars Holdijk, Jannik Kossen, Clare Lyle, and Sören Mindermann are recognized as Highlighted Reviewers for their reviewing at ICLR 2022.

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OATML researchers advise UK Cabinet Office

OATML researchers advise UK Cabinet Office

24 Sep 2021

Jan Brauner and Sören Mindermann have presented their work with Professor Yarin Gal and other collaborators on the effectiveness of mask-wearing at reducing COVID-19 transmission to the UK Cabinet Office and advised the office on mask-wearing policies.

Link to this news item
ICML 2021

ICML 2021

17 Jul 2021

Seven papers with OATML members accepted to ICML 2021, together with 14 workshop papers. More information in our blog post.

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OATML researchers publish paper in Science

OATML researchers publish paper in Science

15 Dec 2020

The paper called “Inferring the effectiveness of government interventions against COVID-19” was published in Science today. The work is a collaboration with researchers from 9 universities, led by OATML graduate students Sören Mindermann and Jan Brauner, together with Mrinank Sharma from the Department of Statistics.

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OATML researchers invited to speak at the German Centre for Infection Research

OATML researchers invited to speak at the German Centre for Infection Research

26 Oct 2020

OATML graduate students Sören Mindermann and Jan Brauner, together with Mrinank Sharma from the Department of Statistics, were invited to give a talk about their work with Professor Yarin Gal on ‘inferring the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions against COVID-19’, at the German Centre for Infection Research/University of Cologne.

Link to this news item
OATML researchers to speak at Africa CDC on COVID-19

OATML researchers to speak at Africa CDC on COVID-19

06 Jun 2020

OATML graduate students Jan Brauner and Sören Mindermann will give an invited talk at Africa CDC, Africa’s intercontinental public health agency, on June 12. They will present their work with Professor Yarin Gal on nonpharmacetical interventions against COVID-19 to the COVID-19 modelling group.

Link to this news item


Blog Posts

OATML at ICML 2022

OATML group members and collaborators are proud to present 11 papers at the ICML 2022 main conference and workshops. Group members are also co-organizing the Workshop on Computational Biology, and the Oxford Wom*n Social. …

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Sören Mindermann, Jan Brauner, Muhammed Razzak, Andreas Kirsch, Aidan Gomez, Sebastian Farquhar, Pascal Notin, Tim G. J. Rudner, Freddie Bickford Smith, Neil Band, Panagiotis Tigas, Andrew Jesson, Lars Holdijk, Joost van Amersfoort, Kelsey Doerksen, Jannik Kossen, Yarin Gal, 17 Jul 2022

21 OATML Conference and Workshop papers at ICML 2021

OATML group members and collaborators are proud to present 21 papers at ICML 2021, including 7 papers at the main conference and 14 papers at various workshops. Group members will also be giving invited talks and participate in panel discussions at the workshops. …

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Angelos Filos, Clare Lyle, Jannik Kossen, Sebastian Farquhar, Tom Rainforth, Andrew Jesson, Sören Mindermann, Tim G. J. Rudner, Oscar Key, Binxin (Robin) Ru, Pascal Notin, Panagiotis Tigas, Andreas Kirsch, Jishnu Mukhoti, Joost van Amersfoort, Lisa Schut, Muhammed Razzak, Aidan Gomez, Jan Brauner, Yarin Gal, 17 Jul 2021

When causal inference fails - detecting violated assumptions with uncertainty-aware models

NeurIPS 2020. Tl;dr: Uncertainty-aware deep models can identify when some causal-effect inference assumptions are violated.

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Andrew Jesson, Sören Mindermann, Uri Shalit, Yarin Gal, 08 Dec 2020

22 OATML Conference and Workshop papers at NeurIPS 2020

OATML group members and collaborators are proud to be presenting 22 papers at NeurIPS 2020. Group members are also co-organising various events around NeurIPS, including workshops, the NeurIPS Meet-Up on Bayesian Deep Learning and socials. …

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Muhammed Razzak, Panagiotis Tigas, Angelos Filos, Atılım Güneş Baydin, Andrew Jesson, Andreas Kirsch, Clare Lyle, Freddie Kalaitzis, Jan Brauner, Jishnu Mukhoti, Lewis Smith, Lisa Schut, Mizu Nishikawa-Toomey, Oscar Key, Binxin (Robin) Ru, Sebastian Farquhar, Sören Mindermann, Tim G. J. Rudner, Yarin Gal, 04 Dec 2020

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