More Efficient Off-Policy Evaluation through Regularized Targeted Learning


Aurelien Bibaut, Ivana Malenica, Nikos Vlassis, Mark Van Der Laan ;
Proceedings of the 36th International Conference on Machine Learning, PMLR 97:654-663, 2019.


We study the problem of off-policy evaluation (OPE) in Reinforcement Learning (RL), where the aim is to estimate the performance of a new policy given historical data that may have been generated by a different policy, or policies. In particular, we introduce a novel doubly-robust estimator for the OPE problem in RL, based on the Targeted Maximum Likelihood Estimation principle from the statistical causal inference literature. We also introduce several variance reduction techniques that lead to impressive performance gains in off-policy evaluation. We show empirically that our estimator uniformly wins over existing off-policy evaluation methods across multiple RL environments and various levels of model misspecification. Finally, we further the existing theoretical analysis of estimators for the RL off-policy estimation problem by showing their $O_P(1/\sqrt{n})$ rate of convergence and characterizing their asymptotic distribution.

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