Importance Sampling Techniques for Policy Optimization

Alberto Maria Metelli, Matteo Papini, Nico Montali, and Marcello Restelli

Journal of Machine Learning Research, 2020.

CORE 2020: A*   SJR 2020: Q1  

How can we effectively exploit the collected samples when solving a continuous control task with Reinforcement Learning? Recent results have empirically demonstrated that multiple policy optimization steps can be performed with the same batch by using off-distribution techniques based on importance sampling. However, when dealing with off-distribution optimization, it is essential to take into account the uncertainty introduced by the importance sampling process. In this paper, we propose and analyze a class of model-free, policy search algorithms that extend the recent Policy Optimization via Importance Sampling (Metelli et al., 2018) by incorporating two advanced variance reduction techniques: per-decision and multiple importance sampling. For both of them, we derive a high-probability bound, of independent interest, and then we show how to employ it to define a suitable surrogate objective function that can be used for both action-based and parameter-based settings. The resulting algorithms are finally evaluated on a set of continuous control tasks, using both linear and deep policies, and compared with modern policy optimization methods.

[Link] [BibTeX]

    author = "Metelli, Alberto Maria and Papini, Matteo and Montali, Nico and Restelli, Marcello",
    title = "Importance Sampling Techniques for Policy Optimization",
    journal = "Journal of Machine Learning Research",
    year = "2020",
    volume = "21",
    number = "141",
    pages = "1-75",
    url = ""