MOReL: Model-Based Offline Reinforcement Learning

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 33 (NeurIPS 2020)

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Rahul Kidambi, Aravind Rajeswaran, Praneeth Netrapalli, Thorsten Joachims


In offline reinforcement learning (RL), the goal is to learn a highly rewarding policy based solely on a dataset of historical interactions with the environment. This serves as an extreme test for an agent's ability to effectively use historical data which is known to be critical for efficient RL. Prior work in offline RL has been confined almost exclusively to model-free RL approaches. In this work, we present MOReL, an algorithmic framework for model-based offline RL. This framework consists of two steps: (a) learning a pessimistic MDP using the offline dataset; (b) learning a near-optimal policy in this pessimistic MDP. The design of the pessimistic MDP is such that for any policy, the performance in the real environment is approximately lower-bounded by the performance in the pessimistic MDP. This enables the pessimistic MDP to serve as a good surrogate for purposes of policy evaluation and learning. Theoretically, we show that MOReL is minimax optimal (up to log factors) for offline RL. Empirically, MOReL matches or exceeds state-of-the-art results on widely used offline RL benchmarks. Overall, the modular design of MOReL enables translating advances in its components (for e.g., in model learning, planning etc.) to improvements in offline RL.