Relational Markov Random Fields are a general and flexible framework for reasoning about the joint distribution over attributes of a large number of interacting entities. The main computational difficulty in learning such models is inference. Even when dealing with complete data, where one can summarize a large domain by sufficient statistics, learning requires one to compute the expectation of the sufficient statistics given different parameter choices. The typical solution to this problem is to resort to approximate inference procedures, such as loopy belief propagation. Although these procedures are quite efficient, they still require computation that is on the order of the number of interactions (or features) in the model. When learning a large relational model over a complex domain, even such approximations require unrealistic running time.
In this paper we show that for a particular class of relational MRFs, which have inherent symmetry, we can perform the inference needed for learning procedures using a template-level belief propagation. This procedure's running time is proportional to the size of the relational model rather than the size of the domain. Moreover, we show that this computational procedure is equivalent to the original loopy belief propagation. This enables a dramatic speedup in inference and learning time. We use this procedure to learn relational MRFs for capturing the joint distribution of large protein-protein interaction networks.