Distributionally Robust Stochastic Programming with Wasserstein Distance

ACO Student Seminar
Friday, March 11, 2016 - 1:05pm for 1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Skiles 256
Rui Gao – Georgia Tech
Yan Wang
Stochastic programming is a powerful approach for decision-making under uncertainty. Unfortunately, the solution may be misleading if the underlying distribution of the involved random parameters is not known exactly. In this talk, we study distributionally robust stochastic programming (DRSP), in which the decision hedges against the worst possible distribution that belongs to an ambiguity set. More specifically, we consider the DRSP with the ambiguity set comprising all distributions that are close to some reference distribution in terms of Wasserstein distance. We derive a tractable reformulation of the DRSP problem by constructing the worst-case distribution explicitly via the first-order optimality condition of the dual problem. Our approach has several theoretical and computational implications. First, using the precise characterization of the worst-case distribution, we show that the DRSP can be approximated by robust programs to arbitrary accuracy, and thus many DRSP problems become tractable with tools from robust optimization. Second, when the objective is concave in the uncertainty, the robust-program approximation is exact and equivalent to a saddle-point problem, which can be solved by a Mirror-Prox algorithm. Third, our framework can also be applied to problems other than stochastic programming, such as a class of distributionally robust transportation problems. Furthermore, we perform sensitivity analysis with respect to the radius of the Wasserstein ball, and apply our results to the newsvendor problem, two-stage linear program with uncertainty-affected recourse, and worst-case Value-at-risk analysis.