Double Pessimism is Provably Efficient for Distributionally Robust Offline Reinforcement Learning: Generic Algorithm and Robust Partial Coverage

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 36 (NeurIPS 2023) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Jose Blanchet, Miao Lu, Tong Zhang, Han Zhong


We study distributionally robust offline reinforcement learning (RL), which seeks to find an optimal robust policy purely from an offline dataset that can perform well in perturbed environments. We propose a generic algorithm framework Doubly Pessimistic Model-based Policy Optimization ($\texttt{P}^2\texttt{MPO}$) for robust offline RL, which features a novel combination of a flexible model estimation subroutine and a doubly pessimistic policy optimization step. Here the double pessimism principle is crucial to overcome the distribution shift incurred by i) the mismatch between behavior policy and the family of target policies; and ii) the perturbation of the nominal model. Under certain accuracy assumptions on the model estimation subroutine, we show that $\texttt{P}^2\texttt{MPO}$ is provably sample-efficient with robust partial coverage data, which means that the offline dataset has good coverage of the distributions induced by the optimal robust policy and perturbed models around the nominal model. By tailoring specific model estimation subroutines for concrete examples including tabular Robust Markov Decision Process (RMDP), factored RMDP, and RMDP with kernel and neural function approximations, we show that $\texttt{P}^2\texttt{MPO}$ enjoys a $\tilde{\mathcal{O}}(n^{-1/2})$ convergence rate, where $n$ is the number of trajectories in the offline dataset. Notably, these models, except for the tabular case, are first identified and proven tractable by this paper. To the best of our knowledge, we first propose a general learning principle --- double pessimism --- for robust offline RL and show that it is provably efficient in the context of general function approximations.