From data to decisions through new interfaces between optimization and statistics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Operations Research Center.
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The growing availability of data is creating opportunities for making better decisions, but in many circumstances it is yet unknown how to correctly leverage this data in systematic and optimal ways. In this thesis, we investigate new modes of data-driven decision making, enabled by novel connections we uncover between optimization and statistics. We pursue fundamental theory, specific methodologies, and revealing applications that advance data analytics from a tool of understanding to a decision-making engine. In part I, we focus on the interface between predictive and prescriptive analytics. In the first half, we combine ideas from machine learning and operations research to prescribe optimal decisions given historical data and auxiliary, predictive observations. We develop theory on tractability, asymptotic optimality, and performance metrics and apply our methods to leverage large-scale web data to drive a real-world inventory-management system. In the second half, we study the problem of data-driven pricing and show that a naive but common predictive approach leaves money on the table whereas a theoretically-sound prescriptive approach we propose performs well in practice, demonstrated by a novel statistical test applied to data from a loan provider. In part II, we focus on the interface between statistical hypothesis testing and optimization under uncertainty. In the first half, we propose a novel method for data-driven stochastic optimization that combines finite-sample guarantees with larges ample convergence by leveraging new theory linking distributionally-robust optimization and statistical hypothesis testing. In the second half, we develop data-driven uncertainty sets for robust optimization and demonstrate that, when data is available, our sets outperform conventional sets when used in their place in existing applications of robust optimization. In part III, we focus on the interface between controlled experimentation and modern optimization. In the first half, we propose an optimization-based approach to constructing experimental groups with discrepancies in covariate data that are orders-of-magnitude smaller than any randomization-based approach. In the second half, we develop a unified theory of designs that balance covariate data and their optimality. We show no notion of balance exists without structure on outcomes' functional form, whereas with structure expressed using normed spaces, various existing designs emerge as optimal and new designs arise that prove successful in practice.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, Operations Research Center, 2015.This electronic version was submitted by the student author. The certified thesis is available in the Institute Archives and Special Collections.Cataloged from student-submitted PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 283-293).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Operations Research Center; Sloan School of Management
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Operations Research Center.