Confident Off-Policy Evaluation and Selection through Self-Normalized Importance Weighting

Abstract

We consider off-policy evaluation in the contextual bandit setting for the purpose of obtaining a robust off-policy selection strategy, where the selection strategy is evaluated based on the value of the chosen policy in a set of proposal (target) policies. We propose a new method to compute a lower bound on the value of an arbitrary target policy given some logged data in contextual bandits for a desired coverage. The lower bound is built around the so-called Self-normalized Importance Weighting (SN) estimator. It combines the use of a semi-empirical Efron-Stein tail inequality to control the concentration and Harris' inequality to control the bias. The new approach is evaluated on a number of synthetic and real datasets and is found to be superior to its main competitors, both in terms of tightness of the confidence intervals and the quality of the policies chosen.

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