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Safe Optimal Design with Applications in Off-Policy Learning

Ruihao Zhu · Branislav Kveton



Motivated by practical needs in online experimentation and off-policy learning, we study the problem of safe optimal design, where we develop a data logging policy that efficiently explores while achieving competitive rewards with a baseline production policy. We first show, perhaps surprisingly, that a common practice of mixing the production policy with uniform exploration, despite being safe, is sub-optimal in maximizing information gain. Then we propose a safe optimal logging policy for the case when no side information about the actions' expected rewards is available. We improve upon this design by considering side information and also extend both approaches to a large number of actions with a linear reward model. We analyze how our data logging policies impact errors in off-policy learning. Finally, we empirically validate the benefit of our designs by conducting extensive experiments.

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