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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 31, 2025
  2. We consider the problem of learning fair policies for multi-stage selection problems from observational data. This problem arises in several high-stakes domains such as company hiring, loan approval, or bail decisions where outcomes (e.g., career success, loan repayment, recidivism) are only observed for those selected. We propose a multi-stage framework that can be augmented with various fairness constraints, such as demographic parity or equal opportunity. This problem is a highly intractable infinite chance-constrained program involving the unknown joint distribution of covariates and outcomes. Motivated by the potential impact of selection decisions on people’s lives and livelihoods, we propose to focus on interpretable linear selection rules. Leveraging tools from causal inference and sample average approximation, we obtain an asymptotically consistent solution to this selection problem by solving a mixed binary conic optimization problem, which can be solved using standard off-the-shelf solvers. We conduct extensive computational experiments on a variety of datasets adapted from the UCI repository on which we show that our proposed approaches can achieve an 11.6% improvement in precision and a 38% reduction in the measure of unfairness compared to the existing selection policy.

     
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 25, 2025
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2024
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 25, 2024
  5. This paper studies the distributionally robust fair transit resource allocation model (DrFRAM) under the Wasserstein ambiguity set to optimize the public transit resource allocation during a pandemic. We show that the proposed DrFRAM is highly nonconvex and nonlinear, and it is NP-hard in general. Fortunately, we show that DrFRAM can be reformulated as a mixed integer linear programming (MILP) by leveraging the equivalent representation of distributionally robust optimization and monotonicity properties, binarizing integer variables, and linearizing nonconvex terms. To improve the proposed MILP formulation, we derive stronger ones and develop valid inequalities by exploiting the model structures. Additionally, we develop scenario decomposition methods using different MILP formulations to solve the scenario subproblems and introduce a simple yet effective no one left-based approximation algorithm with a provable approximation guarantee to solve the model to near optimality. Finally, we numerically demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed approaches and apply them to real-world data provided by the Blacksburg Transit.

    History: This paper has been accepted for the Transportation Science Special Issue on Emerging Topics in Transportation Science and Logistics.

    Funding: This work was supported by the Division of Computing and Communication Foundations [Grant 2153607] and the Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation [Grant 2046426].

    Supplemental Material: The online appendix is available at https://doi.org/10.1287/trsc.2022.1159 .

     
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  6. We study the D-optimal Data Fusion (DDF) problem, which aims to select new data points, given an existing Fisher information matrix, so as to maximize the logarithm of the determinant of the overall Fisher information matrix. We show that the DDF problem is NP-hard and has no constant-factor polynomial-time approximation algorithm unless P = NP. Therefore, to solve the DDF problem effectively, we propose two convex integer-programming formulations and investigate their corresponding complementary and Lagrangian-dual problems. Leveraging the concavity of the objective functions in the two proposed convex integer-programming formulations, we design an exact algorithm, aimed at solving the DDF problem to optimality. We further derive a family of submodular valid inequalities and optimality cuts, which can significantly enhance the algorithm performance. We also develop scalable randomized-sampling and local-search algorithms with provable performance guarantees. Finally, we test our algorithms using real-world data on the new phasor-measurement-units placement problem for modern power grids, considering the existing conventional sensors. Our numerical study demonstrates the efficiency of our exact algorithm and the scalability and high-quality outputs of our approximation algorithms. History: Accepted by Andrea Lodi, Area Editor for Design & Analysis of Algorithms—Discrete. Funding: Y. Li and W. Xie were supported in part by Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation [Grant 2046414] and Division of Computing and Communication Foundations [Grant 2246417]. J. Lee was supported in part by Air Force Office of Scientific Research [Grants FA9550-19-1-0175 and FA9550-22-1-0172]. M. Fampa was supported in part by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico [Grants 305444/2019-0 and 434683/2018-3]. Supplemental Material: The e-companion is available at https://doi.org/10.1287/ijoc.2022.0235 . 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 22, 2024
  7. This paper studies a classic maximum entropy sampling problem (MESP), which aims to select the most informative principal submatrix of a prespecified size from a covariance matrix. By investigating its Lagrangian dual and primal characterization, we derive a novel convex integer program for MESP and show that its continuous relaxation yields a near-optimal solution. The results motivate us to develop a sampling algorithm and derive its approximation bound for MESP, which improves the best known bound in literature. We then provide an efficient deterministic implementation of the sampling algorithm with the same approximation bound. Besides, we investigate the widely used local search algorithm and prove its first known approximation bound for MESP. The proof techniques further inspire for us an efficient implementation of the local search algorithm. Our numerical experiments demonstrate that these approximation algorithms can efficiently solve medium-size and large-scale instances to near optimality. Finally, we extend the analyses to the A-optimal MESP, for which the objective is to minimize the trace of the inverse of the selected principal submatrix. Funding: This work was supported by the National Science Foundation Division of Information and Intelligent Systems [Grant 2246417] and Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation [Grant 2246414]. Supplemental Material: The e-companion is available at https://doi.org/10.1287/opre.2023.2488 . 
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  8. In a chance constrained program (CCP), decision makers seek the best decision whose probability of violating the uncertainty constraints is within the prespecified risk level. As a CCP is often nonconvex and is difficult to solve to optimality, much effort has been devoted to developing convex inner approximations for a CCP, among which the conditional value-at-risk (CVaR) has been known to be the best for more than a decade. This paper studies and generalizes the ALSO-X, originally proposed by Ahmed, Luedtke, SOng, and Xie in 2017 , for solving a CCP. We first show that the ALSO-X resembles a bilevel optimization, where the upper-level problem is to find the best objective function value and enforce the feasibility of a CCP for a given decision from the lower-level problem, and the lower-level problem is to minimize the expectation of constraint violations subject to the upper bound of the objective function value provided by the upper-level problem. This interpretation motivates us to prove that when uncertain constraints are convex in the decision variables, ALSO-X always outperforms the CVaR approximation. We further show (i) sufficient conditions under which ALSO-X can recover an optimal solution to a CCP; (ii) an equivalent bilinear programming formulation of a CCP, inspiring us to enhance ALSO-X with a convergent alternating minimization method (ALSO-X+); and (iii) an extension of ALSO-X and ALSO-X+ to distributionally robust chance constrained programs (DRCCPs) under the ∞−Wasserstein ambiguity set. Our numerical study demonstrates the effectiveness of the proposed methods. 
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  9. null (Ed.)
    Experimental design is a classical statistics problem, and its aim is to estimate an unknown vector from linear measurements where a Gaussian noise is introduced in each measurement. For the combinatorial experimental design problem, the goal is to pick a subset of experiments so as to make the most accurate estimate of the unknown parameters. In this paper, we will study one of the most robust measures of error estimation—the D-optimality criterion, which corresponds to minimizing the volume of the confidence ellipsoid for the estimation error. The problem gives rise to two natural variants depending on whether repetitions of experiments are allowed or not. We first propose an approximation algorithm with a 1/e-approximation for the D-optimal design problem with and without repetitions, giving the first constant-factor approximation for the problem. We then analyze another sampling approximation algorithm and prove that it is asymptotically optimal. Finally, for D-optimal design with repetitions, we study a different algorithm proposed by the literature and show that it can improve this asymptotic approximation ratio. All the sampling algorithms studied in this paper are shown to admit polynomial-time deterministic implementations. 
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