Doubly Robust Off-Policy Evaluation for Ranking Policies under the Cascade Behavior Model


In real-world recommender systems and search engines, optimizing ranking decisions to present a ranked list of relevant items is critical. Off-policy evaluation (OPE) for ranking policies is thus gaining a growing interest because it enables performance estimation of new ranking policies using only logged data. Although OPE in contextual bandits has been studied extensively, its naive application to the ranking setting faces a critical variance issue due to the huge item space. To tackle this problem, previous studies introduce some assumptions on user behavior to make the combinatorial item space tractable. However, an unrealistic assumption may, in turn, cause serious bias. Therefore, appropriately controlling the bias-variance tradeoff by imposing a reasonable assumption is the key for success in OPE of ranking policies. To achieve a well-balanced bias-variance tradeoff, we propose the Cascade Doubly Robust estimator building on the cascade assumption, which assumes that a user interacts with items sequentially from the top position in a ranking. We show that the proposed estimator is unbiased in more cases compared to existing estimators that make stronger assumptions on user behavior. Furthermore, compared to a previous estimator based on the same cascade assumption, the proposed estimator reduces the variance by leveraging a control variate. Comprehensive experiments on both synthetic and real-world e-commerce data demonstrate that our estimator leads to more accurate OPE than existing estimators in a variety of settings.

In Proceedings of the 15th International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining (WSDM) (Acceptance rate=20.2%, Best Paper Runner-Up)
Yuta Saito
Yuta Saito
Second-year CS Ph.D. Student