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  1. Thanks to the power of representation learning, neural contextual bandit algorithms demonstrate remarkable performance improvement against their classical counterparts. But because their exploration has to be performed in the entire neural network parameter space to obtain nearly optimal regret, the resulting computational cost is prohibitively high. We perturb the rewards when updating the neural network to eliminate the need of explicit exploration and the corresponding computational overhead. We prove that a O(d\sqrt{T}) regret upper bound is still achievable under standard regularity conditions, where $T$ is the number of rounds of interactions and $\tilde{d}$ is the effective dimension of a neural tangent kernel matrix. Extensive comparisons with several benchmark contextual bandit algorithms, including two recent neural contextual bandit models, demonstrate the effectiveness and computational efficiency of our proposed neural bandit algorithm. 
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  3. Policymakers must make management decisions despite incomplete knowledge and conflicting model projections. Little guidance exists for the rapid, representative, and unbiased collection of policy-relevant scientific input from independent modeling teams. Integrating approaches from decision analysis, expert judgment, and model aggregation, we convened multiple modeling teams to evaluate COVID-19 reopening strategies for a mid-sized United States county early in the pandemic. Projections from seventeen distinct models were inconsistent in magnitude but highly consistent in ranking interventions. The 6-mo-ahead aggregate projections were well in line with observed outbreaks in mid-sized US counties. The aggregate results showed that up to half the population could be infected with full workplace reopening, while workplace restrictions reduced median cumulative infections by 82%. Rankings of interventions were consistent across public health objectives, but there was a strong trade-off between public health outcomes and duration of workplace closures, and no win-win intermediate reopening strategies were identified. Between-model variation was high; the aggregate results thus provide valuable risk quantification for decision making. This approach can be applied to the evaluation of management interventions in any setting where models are used to inform decision making. This case study demonstrated the utility of our approach and was one of several multimodel efforts that laid the groundwork for the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, which has provided multiple rounds of real-time scenario projections for situational awareness and decision making to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since December 2020. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 2, 2024
  4. Abstract Disease modelling has had considerable policy impact during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and it is increasingly acknowledged that combining multiple models can improve the reliability of outputs. Here we report insights from ten weeks of collaborative short-term forecasting of COVID-19 in Germany and Poland (12 October–19 December 2020). The study period covers the onset of the second wave in both countries, with tightening non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) and subsequently a decay (Poland) or plateau and renewed increase (Germany) in reported cases. Thirteen independent teams provided probabilistic real-time forecasts of COVID-19 cases and deaths. These were reported for lead times of one to four weeks, with evaluation focused on one- and two-week horizons, which are less affected by changing NPIs. Heterogeneity between forecasts was considerable both in terms of point predictions and forecast spread. Ensemble forecasts showed good relative performance, in particular in terms of coverage, but did not clearly dominate single-model predictions. The study was preregistered and will be followed up in future phases of the pandemic. 
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