2021-03485 - Post-Doctoral Research Visit F/M High Performance Reinforcement Learning
Le descriptif de l’offre ci-dessous est en Anglais

Type de contrat : CDD

Niveau de diplôme exigé : Thèse ou équivalent

Fonction : Post-Doctorant

A propos du centre ou de la direction fonctionnelle

Grenoble Rhône-Alpes Research Center groups together a few less than 650 people in 37 research teams and 8 research support departments.

Staff is localized on 5 campuses in Grenoble and Lyon, in close collaboration with labs, research and higher education institutions in Grenoble and Lyon, but also with the economic players in these areas.

Present in the fields of software, high-performance computing, Internet of things, image and data, but also simulation in oceanography and biology, it participates at the best level of international scientific achievements and collaborations in both Europe and the rest of the world.


Contexte et atouts du poste


  • Location: Grenoble or Lille
  • Hosting Teams:
    • SCOLL (INRIA LIlle): https://team.inria.fr/scool/
    • DataMove (INRIA Grenoble): https://team.inria.fr/datamove
  • Contact: Bruno.Raffin@inria.fr and Philippe.Preux@inria.fr
  • Period: to start somewhere by April 2021
  • Duration: 24 months
  • Requirement: PhD in computer Science


Mission confiée

Reinforcement learning goal is to self-learn a task trying to maximise a reward (a game score for instance). The learning process  acts by interacting with a simulation code  to explore the space of possible states.  As an explicit exploration is not possible as too large, the key to success is  in  building an efficient exploration strategy balancing between  exploration (test new states), exploitation (replay actions known to lead to high rewards).  Using deep neural networks to encode the decision process as lead to significant progress. This is often referred as Deep Reinforcement Learning (DRL). A classical benchmark where DRL thrives are  ATARI games.  The most visible success of DLR is probably AlphaGo Zero that  outperformed the best human players (and itself) after being trained without using data from human games but solely through reinforcement learning.  The process requires an advanced infrastructure for the training phase. For instance AlphaGo Zero trained during more than 70 hours using 64 GPU workers and19 CPU parameter servers for playing 4.9 million games of generated self-play, using 1,600 simulations for each Monte Carlo Tree Search.

The general workflow  is the following.  To speed up the learning process and enable a wide but thorough exploration of the parameter space, the learning neural network  interacts  in parallel with several instances of actors, each one consisting of a simulation of the task being learned and  a neural network interacting with this simulation through the best wining strategy it knows. Periodically the actor neural networks are being updated  by the learned neural network.  This workflow has evolved through various research works combining parallelisation, asynchronism, replay buffers  and  learning strategies (GORILA, A3C, IMPALA,...).

Latest developments have shown that massive parallelism is a key enabler to address more complex problems. The Rllib framework is designed to automatically distribute RL environments at scale. Google/Deepmind recent announcement of the Menger framework goes in the same direction.

The goal of  this postdoc is to investigate how to combine massive parallelism and  training strategies to learn more  rapidly and more complex  tasks (multiple heterogeneous tasks  at  once,  non  deterministic  games,  simulations  of  complex industrial  or  living  systems). This postdoc is very flexible  on the directions it can take. We expect that  the candidate bring its  own experience and view  on these topics. Focus can address (not limited):  1) addressing middleware and system issues in deploying and running very large scale DRL 2) developing novel parallelisation algorithms for some of the DRL components (replay buffer, model/data parallel training) 3) application of DRL as an adaptive strategy for smart parametric search space exploration  for ensemble run based scenarios like data assimilation, hyperparameter search, uncertainty quantification  4) developing improved or novel learning rules  specifically designed for large scale where  loosening synchronisation requirements are critical

This work will be performed in close collaboration in between the SCOLL INRIA team specialised in reinforcement learning (https://team.inria.fr/scool/)  and the DataMove team specialised in HPC (https://team.inria.fr/datamove). Datamove and SCOLL  are involved in an INRIA group focused on the convergence between HPC, AI and Big Data  (https://project.inria.fr/hpcbigdata/). The candidate will participate to that group too.

The SCOLL (formerly Sequel) team is leading research group on reinforcement learning, either deep or not, ranging from theoretical aspects to applications. For instance SCOLL  organised the international Summer School on RL in 2019 (https://rlss.inria.fr). Among other projects, SCOLL  has collaborated with Mila (Montréal) to design and develop the Guesswhat?! experiment (https://guesswhat.ai/). As early as 2006, SCOLL  worked on go game and designed the first go program (Crazy Stone) able to challenge a human expert player (https://www.remi-coulom.fr/CrazyStone/).
Datamove has a long experience on high performance computing and data analytics https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01221186. Datamove  is also
developing the Melissa (https://melissa-sa.github.io/) solution to manage  large ensembles of parallel simulations  and aggregate their data on-line in a parallel server. Melissa stands out  by its flexibility, efficiency  an resilience. Melissa  enabled to run tens of thousands of simulations on up to 30 000 cores. Melissa as been used for computing statistics, train deep surrogate models.  We expect it  to be a sound base for a DRL workflow.


Google Menger: https://ai.googleblog.com/2020/10/massively-large-scale-distributed.html
AlphaGoZero: https://deepmind.com/blog/alphago-zero-learning-scratch/
TensorFlow: https://www.tensorflow.org/
Gorila https://arxiv.org/pdf/1507.04296
A3C https://arxiv.org/abs/1602.01783
Rainbow https://arxiv.org/abs/1710.02298
Impala https://arxiv.org/abs/1802.01561
Elf: https://arxiv.org/abs/1707.01067
Rllib: https://ray.readthedocs.io/en/latest/rllib.html
Melissa: "https://hal.inria.fr/hal-01607479v1

Principales activités

 We are looking for a candidate with a PhD either related to  high performance computing, deep learning, reinforcement learning (a combination of these expertise  would be ideal)  for a 24 month contract at INRIA. The candidate will have the possibility to join either the SCOLL team at Lille or the Grenoble Team at Grenoble.

 The postdoc  will have access to large  supercomputers equipped with multiple GPUs  for experiments. We expect this work to lead to  international publications  sustained by advanced  software prototypes.


  • Subsidized meals
  • Partial reimbursement of public transport costs
  • Leave: 7 weeks of annual leave + 10 extra days off due to RTT (statutory reduction in working hours) + possibility of exceptional leave (sick children, moving home, etc.)
  • Possibility of teleworking up to two days per week and flexible organization of working hours
  • Professional equipment available (videoconferencing, loan of computer equipment, etc.)
  • Social, cultural and sports events and activities
  • Access to vocational training
  • Social security coverage


Salary: 2 653 € gross/month.

Monthly salary after taxes : around 2 136,39 € (medical insurance included, income tax excluded).