Analyzing data from a nonlinear dynamical system to understand its qualitative behavior and accurately predict future states is a ubiquitous problem in science and engineering. In many instances, this problem is further compounded by a lack of available data and only partial observations of the system state, e.g., forecasting fluid flow driven by unknown sources or predicting optical signal propagation without phase measurements. This means that, in addition to identifying and modeling the underlying dynamics, we must also reconstruct the hidden or unobserved variables of the system state. While traditional approaches to system identification have had significant success with linear systems, nonlinear system identification and state reconstruction is a much more difficult and open problem1. Moreover, modeling nonlinear dynamics in a way that provides interpretability and physical insight is also a major challenge.

Modern machine learning approaches have made significant strides in black box predictive performance on many tasks2, such as data-driven prediction of nonlinear dynamics3,4,5 including methods that only use partial observations6,7,8,9. However, because deep learning models often fail to take into account known physics, they require vast quantities of data to train and tend to generalize poorly outside of their training distribution. Standard deep learning models also lack the interpretability necessary for developing a detailed physical understanding of the system, although new approaches incorporating intrinsic dimensionality estimation10 and recent unsupervised learning methods11 can help mitigate this issue. Introducing physical priors and building physics-informed inductive biases, such as symmetries, into neural network architectures can significantly improve the performance of deep learning models and provide a greater degree of interpretability11,12,13,14.

Recent data-driven nonlinear system identification methods based on Koopman operator theory offer a compelling alternative to deep learning approaches as well as a theoretical framework for incorporating neural networks into system identification methods15,16,17,18. However, these approaches still encounter barriers when dealing with certain types of nonlinear dynamics, such as chaos, which lead to a problematic continuous spectrum for the Koopman operator that cannot be modeled by a finite-dimensional linear system, although some progress has been made in addressing these limitations18,19,20.

Instead, sparse symbolic identification approaches21,22,23,24 work directly with the governing equations of motion, which are often sparse and provide a highly interpretable representation of the dynamical system that also generalizes well. By fitting a symbolic model, these methods capture the exact dynamics of the many physical systems in nature governed by symbolic equations. Previous work has shown that, by imposing a sparsity prior on the governing equations, it is possible to obtain interpretable and parsimonious models of nonlinear dynamics21,22,23. This sparsity prior, in combination with an autoencoder architecture, can also aid in extracting interpretable state variables from high-dimensional data24.

In this work, we propose a machine learning framework for solving the common problem of partially observed system identification, where a portion of the system state is observed, but the remaining hidden states, as well as the underlying dynamics, are unknown. Unlike in the generic high-dimensional setting, this is a much more structured problem, and we take full advantage of this additional structure when designing our architecture. To deal with having only partial state information, our method combines an encoder for reconstructing the full system state and a sparse symbolic model, which directly learns the governing equations, providing a flexible framework for both system identification and state reconstruction (Fig. 1). The full architecture is trained by matching the higher order time derivatives of the symbolic model with finite difference estimates from the data. As illustrated in our numerical experiments on both ordinary differential equation (ODE) and partial differential equation (PDE) systems, this approach can be easily adapted for specific applications by incorporating known constraints into the architecture of the encoder and the design of the symbolic model.

Fig. 1: A machine learning framework for simultaneous system identification and state reconstruction.
figure 1

With only a visible portion of the full state available xv = g(x), an encoder is first used to reconstruct the hidden states. The fully reconstructed state \(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}\), including the visible and hidden states, is then passed into a symbolic model of the governing equations. Using automatic differentiation, multiple symbolic time derivatives \({d}^{p}{{{{{{{\bf{g}}}}}}}}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}})/d{t}^{p}\) of the visible states are generated from the symbolic model and compared with finite difference derivatives Δpg(x)/Δtp computed directly from the sequence of visible states. The entire architecture is trained end-to-end using the mean squared error (MSE) loss between the symbolic and finite difference derivatives. See the “Proposed Machine Learning Framework” subsection of the Methods for additional details.


Problem formulation

Consider a nonlinear dynamical system defined by the first order ODE


The visible or observed state is given by a known “projection” function xv = g(x), while the hidden states xh must be reconstructed such that a(xv, xh) = x, where a is a known aggregation function. The goal is to determine the governing equations defined by F(x) while simultaneously reconstructing the hidden state xh.

Without prior knowledge detailing the structure of the dynamical system, we can generically choose the visible state xv = (x1, x2, …, xk) to be a subset of the full state x = (x1, x2, …, xk, xk+1, …, xn), i.e., g is a simple projection of x onto the subset xv. The remaining components would then form the hidden state xh = (xk+1, xk+2, …, xn), and the aggregation function a just concatenates the two states xv, xh. When additional information about the dynamical system is available, g and a can be chosen appropriately to reflect the structure of the dynamics (e.g., see our nonlinear Schrödinger phase reconstruction example).

See the “Proposed Machine Learning Framework” subsection of the Methods for a detailed description our approach for reconstructing the hidden state xh and the governing equations (Eq. (1)) given only the visible state xv.

ODE experiments

To demonstrate our method, we use data from two standard examples of chaotic nonlinear dynamics: the Rössler system (Fig. 2a) and the Lorenz system (Fig. 2b). Both systems have a three-dimensional phase space (u, v, w), and we take the first two dimensions (u, v) to be the visible state with the remaining dimension w as the hidden state. In both cases, we are able to accurately identify the governing equations—via the learned symbolic model—and reconstruct the hidden state w (Fig. 2). We achieve a hidden state reconstruction error of 4.6 × 10−4 (relative to the range of the hidden state) for the Rössler system and 1.7 × 10−3 for the Lorenz system.

Fig. 2: System identification and hidden state reconstruction for the ODE systems.
figure 2

For both the a Rössler and b Lorenz systems, u and v components are visible while the w component is hidden. For each system, the full three-dimensional system dynamics (u, v, w) is plotted alongside the projection onto the visible states (u, v). Using only the visible states (u, v), our method reconstructs the governing equations as well as the hidden state w. The true (blue) and reconstructed (green, dashed) hidden states w are shown as a function of time and also plotted directly against each other (green, points) for comparison. Note that the reconstructed hidden states shown here are directly reconstructed by the encoder from the corresponding visible states at nearby times and are not based on an autonomous prediction of the learned model.

Note that the hidden states discovered by our approach often differ from the ground truth hidden states by an affine transformation (e.g., \(w^{\prime} =aw+b\)). In order to make a direct comparison, we fit the discovered hidden states to the true hidden states using linear regression and show the transformed result as the reconstructed governing equations and hidden states (Fig. 2).

PDE experiments

To test our method in a more challenging setting, we use data from two PDE systems: a 2D diffusion system with an exponentially decaying source term (Fig. 3a) and a 2D diffusive Lokta–Volterra predator–prey system (Fig. 3b)—commonly used for ecological modeling25,26,27. For the diffusion system, we observe a diffusing visible state u(x, y, t) and must reconstruct the hidden dynamic source term v(x, y, t). Similarly, for the diffusive Lokta–Volterra system, one of the two components is visible u(x, y, t) while the other is hidden v(x, y, t). We accurately identify the governing equations and reconstruct the hidden component for both systems (Fig. 3), achieving a relative error of 1.4 × 10−4 for the diffusion system and 1.0 × 10−3 for the diffusive Lokta–Volterra system. The neural network encoder has more difficulty with the more complex and nonlinear diffusive Lokta–Volterra system, resulting in a slightly blurry reconstruction.

Fig. 3: System identification and hidden state reconstruction for the PDE systems.
figure 3

For both the a diffusion system with a decaying source term v and b diffusive Lokta–Volterra system, the u component is visible while the v component is hidden. Using only the visible state u, our method reconstructs the governing equations as well as the hidden state v. For each system, snapshots of the visible state u over time are shown alongside the true and reconstructed hidden states v at time t = 0. The true and reconstructed v are also plotted directly against each other for comparison.

Phase reconstruction

As a final example, we consider the phase reconstruction problem for the 1D nonlinear Schrödinger equation—a model for light propagation through a nonlinear fiber28—to demonstrate the breadth of our approach and its ability to handle a more difficult and structured problem. Using only visible amplitude data ψ(x, t), we aim to identify the underlying dynamics and reconstruct the hidden phase \(\varphi (x,t)=\arg (\psi (x,t))\). For this system, we also assume we have some prior knowledge about the structure of the dynamics: a complex wave equation with a global phase shift symmetry and only odd nonlinearities to model an optical material with inversion symmetry28. This allows us to limit the library of predefined terms used by our symbolic model. Our prior knowledge also informs our choice of projection g(ψ) = ψ and aggregation functions a(ψ, φ) = ψeiφ.

Our method successfully identifies the governing equation for the nonlinear Schrödinger data and roughly captures the correct phase profile (Fig. 4). Although the overall phase reconstruction seems somewhat poor, with a relative error of 0.35, this also includes an accumulated drift of the phase over time. The spatial derivative of the phase ∂φ/∂x has a much more reasonable relative error of 0.057. Furthermore, given the governing equations extracted by our method, other more specialized algorithms for nonlinear phase retrieval can be used as a post-processing step to significantly improve the quality of the phase reconstruction29.

Fig. 4: System identification and phase reconstruction for the nonlinear Schrödinger system.
figure 4

a Our method successfully identifies the correct nonlinear Schrödinger equation. b The magnitude ψ of the wave is visible while c the phase \(\varphi =\arg (\psi )\) is hidden and must be reconstructed. d The spatial derivative of the phase ∂φ/∂x and its reconstruction are also shown.


On a wide variety of dynamical systems, we have demonstrated that our proposed machine learning framework can successfully identify sparse interpretable dynamics and reconstruct hidden states using only partial observations. By fitting symbolic models, we are able to discover the exact form of the symbolic equations governing the underlying physical systems, resulting in highly interpretable models and predictions (see Supplementary Note 1). Our method is also straightforward to implement and use, easily adapting to different levels of prior knowledge about the unknown hidden states and dynamics.

Compared with methods that require explicit integration6,8, our approach can be significantly more computationally efficient since we only need to compute symbolic and finite difference derivatives. Methods that rely on explicit integration may also need to deal with stiffness and other issues that are relevant to choosing an appropriate integration scheme12. However, methods using explicit integration also have the advantage of being much more robust to noise. Because we require higher order finite difference time derivative estimates from data, our approach—like other derivative-based methods—is generally more susceptible to noise. Data smoothing techniques and careful tuning of our sparsity method help mitigate this to some extent (see Supplementary Note 2) in a similar fashion to methods like SINDy21,22, and promising new methods for identifying the noise distribution alongside the dynamics30 could be incorporated into our framework in the future.

Our framework offers a strong foundation for designing interpretable machine learning methods to deal with partial observations and solve the combined system identification and state reconstruction task. We hope to continue developing more robust encoders and more flexible symbolic models that will work within our proposed framework. For example, the encoder (see the “Phase Reconstruction” subsection of the Methods) used in our final experiment on phase reconstruction has similarities with variational approaches used for equation discovery3,23,31, and we believe that these variational methods can be incorporated into our framework to provide a smoother encoding and improve robustness to noise. In future work, we will also study symbolic models that have multiple layers of composable units designed for symbolic regression tasks32,33,34. These alternative symbolic architectures provide more powerful and flexible models with a sparse symbolic prior, potentially addressing some current limitations of our implementation (see Supplementary Note 3) and allowing our framework to handle a wider range of governing equations—such as the Hill equations used in modeling gene expression35—without requiring large libraries of predefined terms.


Proposed machine learning framework

Our proposed framework consists of an encoder, which uses the visible states to reconstruct the corresponding hidden states, and an interpretable symbolic model, which represents the governing equations of the dynamical system. The encoder eη, typically a neural network architecture with learnable parameters η, takes as input the sequence of visible states {xv(t0), xv(t0 + Δt), …, xv(tN)} and reconstructs the hidden states \(\{{\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}}_{h}({t}_{0}),{\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}}_{h}({t}_{0}+{{\Delta }}t),\ldots ,{\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}}_{h}({t}_{N})\}\). This should, in general, be possible for hidden states that are sufficiently coupled to the visible states due to Takens’ embedding theorem36. We can then obtain a reconstruction of the full state by applying the aggregation function \(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}={{{{{{{\bf{a}}}}}}}}({{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}_{{{{{{{{\rm{v}}}}}}}}},{\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}}_{h})\). The fully reconstructed state \(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}\) allows us to compute symbolic time derivatives defined by a symbolic model of the governing equations

$$\frac{d\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}}{dt}={\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{F}}}}}}}}}}_{\theta }(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}):={\theta }_{1}{{{{{{{{\bf{f}}}}}}}}}_{1}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}})+{\theta }_{2}{{{{{{{{\bf{f}}}}}}}}}_{2}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}})+\cdots +{\theta }_{m}{{{{{{{{\bf{f}}}}}}}}}_{m}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}),$$

where θ1, θ2, …, θm are learnable coefficients and f1, f2, …, fm are predefined terms, such as monomial expressions or linear combinations representing spatial derivatives (for PDE systems). If the dimensionality of the system state x is unknown, we can treat it as a hyperparameter, tuned to achieve an optimal trade-off between high accuracy (e.g., low loss) and parsimony (e.g., fewer hidden states and model sparsity), or use recently suggested intrinsic dimensionality estimation methods10.

To jointly train the encoder and symbolic model using only partial observations, we match higher order time derivatives of the visible states with finite difference estimates from the data. These time derivatives are implicitly defined by the symbolic model (Eq. (2)), so we develop and use an algorithmic trick that allows standard automatic differentiation methods37 to compute higher order symbolic time derivatives of the reconstructed visible states \({{{{{{{\bf{g}}}}}}}}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}})\) (see the “Automatic Computation of Symbolic Derivatives” subsection of the Methods). These symbolic derivatives can then be compared with finite difference time derivatives Δpg(x)/Δtp = Δpxvtp computed directly from the visible states xv.

We train the entire architecture in an end-to-end fashion by optimizing the mean squared error (MSE) loss

$${{{{{{{\mathcal{L}}}}}}}}(\eta ,\theta )=\frac{1}{N}\mathop{\sum }\limits_{i=1}^{N}\mathop{\sum }\limits_{p=1}^{M}\frac{{\alpha }_{p}}{{\sigma }_{p}^{2}}{\left(\frac{{d}^{p}{{{{{{{\bf{g}}}}}}}}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}({t}_{i}))}{d{t}^{p}}-\frac{{{{\Delta }}}^{p}{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}_{{{{{{{{\rm{v}}}}}}}}}({t}_{i})}{{{\Delta }}{t}^{p}}\right)}^{2},$$

where \({\sigma }_{p}^{2}\) is the empirical variance of the pth order finite difference derivative Δpxv(ti)/Δtp, and the αp are hyperparameters that determine the importance of each derivative order in the loss function. This loss implicitly depends on the encoder eη through the reconstructed state \(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}\) and the symbolic model \({\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{F}}}}}}}}}}_{\theta }\) through the symbolic time derivatives. To achieve sparsity in the symbolic model, we use a simple thresholding approach—commonly used in sparse linear regression applications21—which sets a coefficient θi to zero if its absolute value falls below a chosen threshold \({\theta }_{{{{{{{{\rm{thres}}}}}}}}}\). We implement this sparsification at regular intervals during training. While developing our approach, we also experimented with L1 regularization but found that it tends to strongly degrade the performance of the learned model when applied with enough strength to achieve sparsity.

The code for implementing our framework and reproducing our results is available at

Dataset, architecture, and training details

The data and architecture requirements for using our approach are dependent on the properties of the dynamical system, the fraction of visible states, and the chosen symbolic model. For example, a more constrained symbolic model with a smaller library of terms will likely be more data efficient due to having a stronger inductive bias on the model. A smaller library also makes it easier for the sparse optimization to discover the correct sparsity pattern and thus accurate governing equations, so it is often better to start with a more constrained library of terms and then slowly expand it if model performance remains poor. In general, the trajectories from the data need to be long and varied enough in order to differentiate among the terms provided by the symbolic model, although we have found that a single trajectory is often sufficient for accurate state reconstruction and system identification. For the encoder architecture, we generally use small and relatively shallow neural networks, which already provide good hidden state reconstruction performance. This also means that our approach trains reasonably quickly, taking ~2.5 min for the ODE systems on a single consumer GPU (GeForce RTX 2080 Ti) and ~2 h for the much larger PDE systems on four GPUs. However, it is certainly possible that more structured encoders may help in certain cases requiring more complex reconstructions. In addition, we are able to obtain accurate results in our tests by matching the first and second order time derivatives, although higher-order derivatives will be necessary for datasets with a larger fraction of hidden states.

ODE Experiments

Each system is sampled for 10,000 time steps of size Δt = 10−2, and the resulting time series data is normalized to unit variance.

The encoder takes a set of nine visible states {xv(t − 4Δt), xv(t − 3Δt), …, xv(t + 4Δt)} as input to reconstruct each hidden state \({\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}}_{h}(t)\) and is implemented as a sequence of three 1D time-wise convolutional layers with kernel sizes 9–1–1 and layer sizes 128–128–1. This architecture enforces locality in time, allowing the neural network to learn a simpler and more interpretable mapping. The predefined terms of the symbolic model consist of constant, linear, and quadratic monomial terms, i.e., 1, u, v, w, u2, v2, w2, uv, uw, and vw, for each governing equation.

We also scale the effective time step of the symbolic model by a factor of 10 to improve training by preconditioning the model coefficients. We then train for 50000 steps using the AdaBelief optimizer38 with a learning rate of 10−3 and with hyperparameters α1 = α2 = 1 to equally weight the first two time derivative terms in the loss function (αp = 0 for p > 2). Every 5000 training steps, we sparsify the symbolic model, setting coefficients to zero if their absolute value is below \({\theta }_{{{{{{{{\rm{thres}}}}}}}}}=1{0}^{-3}\).

PDE experiments

Each system is sampled on a 64 × 64 spatial mesh with grid spacing Δx = Δy = 1 for 1000 time steps of size Δt = 5 × 10−2, and the resulting data is normalized to unit variance.

The encoder is a sequence of three 3D spatiotemporal convolutional layers with kernel sizes 5–1–1 and layer sizes 64–64–1, which enforces locality in both time and space. The predefined terms of the symbolic model consist of constant, linear, and quadratic terms as well as up to second order spatial derivative terms, e.g. ∂xu, ∂yu, ∂xxu, ∂yyu, ∂xyu, and similarly for v.

We scale the effective time step and spatial grid spacing of the symbolic model by a factor of 10 and \(\sqrt{10}\), respectively, to precondition the model coefficients. For the diffusion system, we train for 50,000 steps with a learning rate of 10−4 and hyperparameters α1 = 1 and α2 = 10, and we sparsify the symbolic model every 1000 training steps with \({\theta }_{{{{{{{{\rm{thres}}}}}}}}}=5\times 1{0}^{-3}\). For the diffusive Lokta–Volterra system, we train for 100,000 steps with a learning rate of 10−3 and hyperparameters α1 = α2 = 1, and we sparsify the symbolic model every 1000 training steps with \({\theta }_{{{{{{{{\rm{thres}}}}}}}}}=2\times 1{0}^{-3}\).

Phase reconstruction

The system is sampled on a size 64 mesh with spacing Δx = 2π/64 for 500 time steps of size Δt = 10−3.

Using the available prior knowledge, we allow the symbolic model to use spatial derivative terms \({\partial }_{x}^{p}\psi\) for p {1, 2, 3, 4} and nonlinearity terms ψqψ for q = {2, 4, 6, 8}. We scale the effective time step by a factor of 10 to precondition the model coefficients and train for 100,000 time steps with a learning rate of 10−4 and hyperparameters α1 = α2 = 1 and β = 103. We sparsify the symbolic model every 10,000 training steps with \({\theta }_{{{{{{{{\rm{thres}}}}}}}}}=1{0}^{-3}\).

Unlike the previous examples, reconstructing the phase is a much trickier problem that cannot be done using a local spatiotemporal encoder. Instead of using a neural network mapping, we use a direct embedding of the phase as a function of time, i.e., for each point in the spatiotemporal grid of the original data, we learn a parameter for the phase \((\hat{\varphi x},t)\). This simple approach has the advantage of being incredibly flexible but also more difficult to train, requiring an additional encoder regularization term

$${{{{{{{{\mathcal{R}}}}}}}}}_{{{{{{{{\rm{enc}}}}}}}}}=\beta {\left(\frac{\partial \hat{\psi }}{\partial t}-\frac{{{\Delta }}\hat{\psi }}{{{\Delta }}t}\right)}^{2}$$

that ensures the symbolic time derivatives match the finite difference time derivatives of the reconstructed state \(\hat{\psi }={{{{{{{\bf{a}}}}}}}}(| \psi | ,\hat{\varphi })\). Unlike the compact neural network encoders from the previous experiments, this encoder also must scale with the dataset size and does not provide a useful mapping that can be used for future hidden state reconstruction.

Automatic computation of symbolic derivatives

The time derivatives can be derived by repeated differentiation of the symbolic model (Eq. (2)), substituting back in previously computed derivatives to obtain expressions only in terms of the reconstructed state \(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}\). For example, the first and second-time derivatives can be written in index notation as

$$\frac{d{g}_{i}}{dt}=\mathop{\sum}\limits_{j}\frac{d{g}_{i}}{d{\hat{x}}_{j}}\frac{d{\hat{x}}_{j}}{dt}=\mathop{\sum}\limits_{j}\frac{d{g}_{i}}{d{\hat{x}}_{j}}{\hat{F}}_{\theta j}$$
$$\frac{{d}^{2}{g}_{i}}{d{t}^{2}}=\mathop{\sum}\limits_{j,k}\frac{{d}^{2}{g}_{i}}{d{\hat{x}}_{j}d{\hat{x}}_{k}}{\hat{F}}_{\theta j}{\hat{F}}_{\theta k}+\frac{d{g}_{i}}{d{\hat{x}}_{j}}\frac{d{\hat{F}}_{\theta j}}{d{\hat{x}}_{k}}{\hat{F}}_{\theta k}.$$

The expressions for the symbolic time derivatives (Eqs. (5) and (6)) quickly grow more and more unwieldy for higher order derivatives. Implementing these expressions by hand is likely to be both time-consuming and error-prone, especially for more complex symbolic models such as those used in our PDE experiments. To address this issue, we develop an automated approach that takes advantage of powerful modern automatic differentiation software (in our case, the JAX library39).

Automatic differentiation is the algorithmic backbone of modern deep learning37, and a new generation of source-to-source automatic differentiation libraries are quickly becoming available39,40. Automatic differentiation uses a library of custom derivative rules defined on a set of primitive functions, which can then be arbitrarily composed to form more complex expressions. The algorithm normally requires a forward evaluation of a function that sets up a backward pass which computes the gradient of the function. In our case, the appropriate forward step is integrating the symbolic model (Eq. (2)) using an ODE solver, which makes the time variable and its derivatives explicit rather than being implicitly defined by the governing equations. This, however, would introduce significant overhead and would not produce the exact expressions that we derived earlier. In fact, integration should not be necessary at all for efficiently implementing symbolic differentiation. Instead, we propose a simple algorithmic trick that allows standard automatic differentiation to compute symbolic time derivatives without explicit integration.

Consider a function \({{{{{{{\mathcal{I}}}}}}}}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}},\epsilon )\) that propagates the state \(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}\) forward by a time ϵ according to the governing equations (Eq. (2)), i.e.

$${{{{{{{\mathcal{I}}}}}}}}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}(t),\epsilon )=\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}(t+\epsilon ).$$

As ϵ → 0, \({{{{{{{\mathcal{I}}}}}}}}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}(t),0)=\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}(t)\) reduces to the identity. Taking a derivative with respect to ϵ, we find that

$$\frac{\partial {{{{{{{\mathcal{I}}}}}}}}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}(t),\epsilon )}{\partial \epsilon } =\frac{d\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}(t+\epsilon )}{d\epsilon }\\ ={\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{F}}}}}}}}}}_{\theta }(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}(t+\epsilon ))\\ ={\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{F}}}}}}}}}}_{\theta }({{{{{{{\mathcal{I}}}}}}}}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}(t),\epsilon )),$$

which reduces to \(\partial {{{{{{{\mathcal{I}}}}}}}}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}},\epsilon )/\partial \epsilon {| }_{\epsilon = 0}=d\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}/dt={\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{F}}}}}}}}}}_{\theta }(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}})\) as ϵ → 0. This generalizes to higher order derivatives, allowing us to compute time derivatives of \(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}\) as

$$\frac{{d}^{p}\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}}{d{t}^{p}}={\left.\frac{{\partial }^{p}{{{{{{{\mathcal{I}}}}}}}}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}},\epsilon )}{\partial {\epsilon }^{p}}\right|}_{\epsilon = 0}.$$

Since we only ever evaluate at ϵ = 0, this formulation makes the time variable explicit without having to integrate the governing equations. To implement this trick using an automatic differentiation algorithm, we define a wrapper function \({{{{{{{{\mathcal{I}}}}}}}}}_{0}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}},\epsilon ):=\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}\) that acts as the identity on the state \(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}}\) but has a custom derivative rule

$$\frac{\partial {{{{{{{{\mathcal{I}}}}}}}}}_{0}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}},\epsilon )}{\partial \epsilon }:={\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{F}}}}}}}}}}_{\theta }({{{{{{{{\mathcal{I}}}}}}}}}_{0}(\hat{{{{{{{{\bf{x}}}}}}}}},\epsilon )).$$

This allows standard automatic differentiation to correctly compute exact symbolic time derivatives of our governing equations, including higher order derivatives. Our code for implementing this algorithmic trick and for reproducing the rest of our results is available at

The proposed algorithmic trick for computing higher order time derivatives, which exploits modern automatic differentiation, further simplifies the implementation of our method and allows the user to focus on designing an appropriate encoder and choosing a reasonable library of predefined terms for the sparse symbolic model.