Predict-then-Calibrate: A New Perspective of Robust Contextual LP

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

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Chunlin Sun, Linyu Liu, Xiaocheng Li


Contextual optimization, also known as predict-then-optimize or prescriptive analytics, considers an optimization problem with the presence of covariates (context or side information). The goal is to learn a prediction model (from the training data) that predicts the objective function from the covariates, and then in the test phase, solve the optimization problem with the covariates but without the observation of the objective function. In this paper, we consider a risk-sensitive version of the problem and propose a generic algorithm design paradigm called predict-then-calibrate. The idea is to first develop a prediction model without concern for the downstream risk profile or robustness guarantee, and then utilize calibration (or recalibration) methods to quantify the uncertainty of the prediction. While the existing methods suffer from either a restricted choice of the prediction model or strong assumptions on the underlying data, we show the disentangling of the prediction model and the calibration/uncertainty quantification has several advantages. First, it imposes no restriction on the prediction model and thus fully unleashes the potential of off-the-shelf machine learning methods. Second, the derivation of the risk and robustness guarantee can be made independent of the choice of the prediction model through a data-splitting idea. Third, our paradigm of predict-then-calibrate applies to both (risk-sensitive) robust and (risk-neutral) distributionally robust optimization (DRO) formulations. Theoretically, it gives new generalization bounds for the contextual LP problem and sheds light on the existing results of DRO for contextual LP. Numerical experiments further reinforce the advantage of the predict-then-calibrate paradigm in that an improvement on either the prediction model or the calibration model will lead to a better final performance.