Variance-Aware Off-Policy Evaluation with Linear Function Approximation

Yifei Min · Tianhao Wang · Dongruo Zhou · Quanquan Gu


Keywords: [ Reinforcement Learning and Planning ] [ Theory ]


We study the off-policy evaluation (OPE) problem in reinforcement learning with linear function approximation, which aims to estimate the value function of a target policy based on the offline data collected by a behavior policy. We propose to incorporate the variance information of the value function to improve the sample efficiency of OPE. More specifically, for time-inhomogeneous episodic linear Markov decision processes (MDPs), we propose an algorithm, \texttt{VA-OPE}, which uses the estimated variance of the value function to reweight the Bellman residual in Fitted Q-Iteration. We show that our algorithm achieves a tighter error bound than the best-known result. We also provide a fine-grained characterization of the distribution shift between the behavior policy and the target policy. Extensive numerical experiments corroborate our theory.

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