Cost-aware learning of relevant contextual variables within Bayesian optimization

Julien Martinelli, Ayush Bharti, S. T. John, Armi Tiihonen, Sabina Sloman, Louis Filstroff, Samuel Kaski

Contextual Bayesian Optimization (CBO) is a powerful framework for optimizing black-box, expensive-to-evaluate functions with respect to design variables, while simultaneously efficiently integrating relevant contextual information regarding the environment, such as experimental conditions. However, in many practical scenarios, the relevance of contextual variables is not necessarily known beforehand. Moreover, the contextual variables can sometimes be optimized themselves, a setting that current CBO algorithms do not take into account. Optimizing contextual variables may be costly, which raises the question of determining a minimal relevant subset. In this paper, we frame this problem as a cost-aware model selection BO task and address it using a novel method, Sensitivity-Analysis-Driven Contextual BO (SADCBO). We learn the relevance of context variables by sensitivity analysis of the posterior surrogate model at specific input points, whilst minimizing the cost of optimization by leveraging recent developments on early stopping for BO. We empirically evaluate our proposed SADCBO against alternatives on synthetic experiments together with extensive ablation studies, and demonstrate a consistent improvement across examples.

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