Multivariate Hawkes processes are temporal point processes extensively applied to model event data with dependence on past occurrences and interaction phenomena. In the generalised nonlinear model, positive and negative interactions between the components of the process are allowed, therefore accounting for so-called excitation and inhibition effects. In the nonparametric setting, learning the temporal dependence structure of Hawkes processes is often a computationally expensive task, all the more with Bayesian estimation methods. In general, the posterior distribution in the nonlinear Hawkes model is non-conjugate and doubly intractable. Moreover, existing Monte-Carlo Markov Chain methods are often slow and not scalable to high-dimensional processes in practice. Recently, efficient algorithms targeting a mean-field variational approximation of the posterior distribution have been proposed. In this work, we unify existing variational Bayes inference approaches under a general framework, that we theoretically analyse under easily verifiable conditions on the prior, the variational class, and the model. We notably apply our theory to a novel spike-and-slab variational class, that can induce sparsity through the connectivity graph parameter of the multivariate Hawkes model. Then, in the context of the popular sigmoid Hawkes model, we leverage existing data augmentation technique and design adaptive and sparsity-inducing mean-field variational methods. In particular, we propose a two-step algorithm based on a thresholding heuristic to select the graph parameter. Through an extensive set of numerical simulations, we demonstrate that our approach enjoys several benefits: it is computationally efficient, can reduce the dimensionality of the problem by selecting the graph parameter, and is able to adapt to the smoothness of the underlying parameter.
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