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Bi-Level Offline Policy Optimization with Limited Exploration

Wenzhuo Zhou

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #1904


We study offline reinforcement learning (RL) which seeks to learn a good policy based on a fixed, pre-collected dataset. A fundamental challenge behind this task is the distributional shift due to the dataset lacking sufficient exploration, especially under function approximation. To tackle this issue, we propose a bi-level structured policy optimization algorithm that models a hierarchical interaction between the policy (upper-level) and the value function (lower-level). The lower level focuses on constructing a confidence set of value estimates that maintain sufficiently small weighted average Bellman errors, while controlling uncertainty arising from distribution mismatch. Subsequently, at the upper level, the policy aims to maximize a conservative value estimate from the confidence set formed at the lower level. This novel formulation preserves the maximum flexibility of the implicitly induced exploratory data distribution, enabling the power of model extrapolation. In practice, it can be solved through a computationally efficient, penalized adversarial estimation procedure. Our theoretical regret guarantees do not rely on any data-coverage and completeness-type assumptions, only requiring realizability. These guarantees also demonstrate that the learned policy represents the ``best effort'' among all policies, as no other policies can outperform it. We evaluate our model using a blend of synthetic, benchmark, and real-world datasets for offline RL, showing that it performs competitively with state-of-the-art methods.

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