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Virtual seminar: ‘Statistical Inference with M-Estimators on Bandit Data’

April 29, 2021 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm


Speaker: Kelly Zhang, Harvard University

Title: ‘Statistical Inference with M-Estimators on Bandit Data’

Abstract: Bandit algorithms are increasingly used in real world sequential decision making problems, from online advertising to mobile health. As a result, there are more datasets collected using bandit algorithms and with that an increased desire to be able to use these datasets to answer scientific questions like: Did one type of ad increase the click-through rate more or lead to more purchases? In which contexts is a mobile health intervention effective? However, it has been shown that classical statistical estimators, like the ordinary least squares estimator, fail to provide reliable confidence intervals when used with bandit data. Recently methods have been developed to conduct statistical inference using simple models fit to data collected with multi-arm bandits. However there is a lack of general methods for conducting statistical inference using more complex models. In this work, we develop theory justifying the use of M-estimation (Van der Vaart, 2000), traditionally used with i.i.d data, to provide inferential methods for a large class of estimators—including least squares and maximum likelihood estimators—but now with data collected with (contextual) bandit algorithms. To do this we generalize the use of adaptive weights pioneered by Hadad et al. (2019) and Deshpande et al. (2018). Specifically, in settings in which the data is collected via a (contextual) bandit algorithm, we prove that adaptively weighted M-estimators are uniformly asymptotically normal and demonstrate empirically that we can use their asymptotic distribution to construct reliable confidence regions for a variety of inferential targets.

This will be a virtual seminar. If you would like to attend, please email: 


April 29, 2021
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Event Categories:


Virtual Seminar via MS Teams


MRC Biostatistics Unit