Multi-stage hyper-heuristics for optimisation problems
Kheiri, Ahmed (2014) Multi-stage hyper-heuristics for optimisation problems. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
There is a growing interest towards self configuring/tuning automated general-purpose reusable heuristic approaches for combinatorial optimisation, such as, hyper-heuristics. Hyper-heuristics are search methodologies which explore the space of heuristics rather than the solutions to solve a broad range of hard computational problems without requiring any expert intervention. There are two common types of hyper-heuristics in the literature: selection and generation methodologies. This work focuses on the former type of hyper-heuristics. Almost all selection hyper-heuristics perform a single point based iterative search over the space of heuristics by selecting and applying a suitable heuristic to the solution in hand at each decision point. Then the newly generated solution is either accepted or rejected using an acceptance method. This improvement process is repeated starting from an initial solution until a set of termination criteria is satisfied. The number of studies on the design of hyper-heuristic methodologies has been rapidly increasing and currently, we already have a variety of approaches, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. It has been observed that different hyper-heuristics perform differently on a given subset of problem instances and more importantly, a hyper-heuristic performs differently as the set of low level heuristics vary. This thesis introduces a general "multi-stage" hyper-heuristic framework enabling the use and exploitation of multiple selection hyper-heuristics at different stages during the search process. The goal is designing an approach utilising multiple hyper-heuristics for a more effective and efficient overall performance when compared to the performance of each constituent selection hyper-heuristic. The level of generality that a hyper-heuristic can achieve has always been of interest to the hyper-heuristic researchers. Hence, a variety of multi-stage hyper-heuristics based on the framework are not only applied to the real-world combinatorial optimisation problems of high school timetabling, multi-mode resource-constrained multi-project scheduling and construction of magic squares, but also tested on the well known hyper-heuristic benchmark of CHeSC 2011. The empirical results show that the multi-stage hyper-heuristics designed based on the proposed framework are still inherently general, easy-to-implement, adaptive and reusable. They can be extremely effective solvers considering their success in the competitions of ITC 2011 and MISTA 2013. Moreover, a particular multi-stage hyper-heuristic outperformed the state-of-the-art selection hyper-heuristic from CHeSC 2011.
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