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Workshop: 3rd Offline Reinforcement Learning Workshop: Offline RL as a "Launchpad"

Keep Calm and Carry Offline: Policy refinement in offline reinforcement learning

Alex Beeson · Giovanni Montana


The ability to discover optimal behaviour from fixed data sets has the potential to transfer the successes of reinforcement learning (RL) to domains where data collection is acutely problematic. In this offline setting a key challenge is overcoming overestimation bias for actions not present in data which, without the ability to correct for via interaction with the environment, can propagate and compound during training, thus leading to highly sub-optimal policies. One simple method to reduce this bias is to introduce a policy constraint via behavioural cloning (BC), which encourages agents to pick actions closer to the source data. By finding the right balance between RL and BC such approaches have been shown to be surprisingly effective while requiring minimal changes to the underlying algorithms they are based on. To date, this balance has been held constant but in this work we explore the idea of tipping this balance towards RL following initial training. Using TD3-BC we demonstrate that by continuing to train a policy offline while reducing the influence of the BC component we can produce refined policies that outperform the original baseline, as well as match or exceed the performance of more complex alternative approaches. Furthermore, we show these refined policies can be fine-tuned online while largely mitigating severe performance drops.

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