Off-policy evaluation for learning-to-rank via interpolating the item-position model and the position-based model
A critical need for industrial recommender systems is the ability to evaluate recommendation policies offline, before deploying them to production. Unfortunately, widely used off-policy evaluation methods either make strong assumptions about how users behave that can lead to excessive bias, or they make fewer assumptions and suffer from large variance. We tackle this problem by developing a new estimator that mitigates the problems of the two most popular off-policy estimators for rankings, namely the position-based model and the item-position model. In particular, the new estimator, called INTERPOL, addresses the bias of a potentially misspecified position-based model, while providing an adaptable bias-variance trade-off compared to the item-position model. We provide theoretical arguments as well as empirical results that highlight the performance of our novel estimation approach.