When people change their mind: Off-policy evaluation in non-stationary recommendation environments by Rolf Jagerman, Ilya Markov, and Maarten de Rijke is online now at this location.

We consider the novel problem of evaluating a recommendation policy offline in environments where the reward signal is non- stationary. Non-stationarity appears in many Information Retrieval (IR) applications such as recommendation and advertising, but its effect on off-policy evaluation has not been studied at all. We are the first to address this issue. First, we analyze standard off-policy estimators in non-stationary environments and show both theoretically and experimentally that their bias grows with time. Then, we propose new off-policy estimators with moving averages and show that their bias is independent of time and can be bounded. Furthermore, we provide a method to trade-off bias and variance in a principled way to get an off-policy estimator that works well in both non-stationary and stationary environments. We experiment on publicly available recommendation datasets and show that our newly proposed moving average estimators accurately capture changes in non-stationary environments, while standard off-policy estimators fail to do so.

The paper will be presented at WSDM 2019.