Nested sampling cross-checks using order statistics

Andrew Fowlie, Will Handley, Liangliang Su

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Nested sampling (NS) is an invaluable tool in data analysis in modern astrophysics, cosmology, gravitational wave astronomy, and particle physics. We identify a previously unused property of NS related to order statistics: The insertion indexes of new live points into the existing live points should be uniformly distributed. This observation enabled us to create a novel cross-check of single NS runs. The tests can detect when an NS run failed to sample new live points from the constrained prior and plateaus in the likelihood function, which break an assumption of NS and thus leads to unreliable results. We applied our cross-check to NS runs on toy functions with known analytic results in 2-50 dimensions, showing that our approach can detect problematic runs on a variety of likelihoods, settings, and dimensions. As an example of a realistic application, we cross-checked NS runs performed in the context of cosmological model selection. Since the cross-check is simple, we recommend that it become a mandatory test for every applicable NS run.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5256-5263
Number of pages8
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • methods: data analysis
  • methods: numerical
  • methods: statistical


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