Paul Barde

Postdoc at UQO / UofA (Amii)
ML for Mechanism Design

Ph.D. from McGill (Mila)
Reinforcement Learning
Data-Driven Multi-Agent Sequential Decision-Making

Scholar GitHub Twitter

I am currently working on leveraging machine learning for agent-based modelling and mechanism design in the context of biodiversity conservation as a postdoc advised by Profs. Clément Chion at UQO and James Wright at UofA and Amii (Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute). I have successfully defended my Ph.D. thesis Coordination in Cooperative Multi-Agent Learning at McGill University and Mila (Quebec AI Institute) co-supervised by Prof. Derek Nowrouzezahrai and Prof. Christopher Pal.

I work on sequential decision-making, focusing on multi-agent problems such as the emergence of communication, brain-computer interfaces, coordination, and cooperation challenges. When available, I am keen to leverage data and simulators through model-based planning and learning; or imitation, inverse, and offline reinforcement learning approaches.

My research goal is to leverage data-driven multi-agent sequential decision-making to model intricate systems and assist us with complex decision processes. I am particularly interested in applying agent-based modeling and mechanism design approaches to challenges across governance, public health, and biodiversity conservation.

I have a multidisciplinary academic background and hold a B.Sc. and an M.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from EPFL (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne) where I specialized in Fluid Dynamics and Computational Fluid Simulation. Jointly, I graduated from the Data and Decision Science program at ISAE-Supaero (National Higher French Institute of Aeronautics and Space) with a minor in Robotics and Autonomous Systems. At EPFL, I received the Excellence Scholarship for Master Studies and the Double Degree Swiss-European Mobility Program Award.

In the recent past, I have worked at Ubisoft La Forge with Dr. Olivier Delalleau, at INRIA (National Institute for Research in Digital Science and Technology) with Prof. Pierre-Yves Oudeyer, and most recently at FAIR (Meta Fundamental AI Research) with Prof. Amy Zhang. During my Ph.D. I have been funded by Mitacs and I am currently supported by a NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship (I have also been awarded a non cumulative FRQNT Postdoctoral Scholarship).


April 2024 I have been awarded a FRQNT Postdoctoral Scholarship! 🎉
February 2024 I have been awarded a NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship! 🎉
January 2024 I am starting a postdoc with Clément Chion and James Wright to work on agent-based modelling in the context of biodiversity conservation! 🎉
January 2024 Our latest paper A Model-Based Solution to the Offline Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning Coordination Problem has been accepted at AAMAS 2024! 🎉
December 2023 I have successfully defended my Ph.D. thesis "Coordination in Cooperative Multi-Agent Learning" and I will be graduating in February! 😁


Selected Projects

For a complete list of my publications see my Scholar.

A Model-Based Solution to the Offline Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning Coordination Problem
Paul Barde, Jakob Foerster, Derek Nowrouzezahrai, Amy Zhang
AAMAS 2024
Website Talk Slides

Current Offline MARL methods fail at what we identify as the offline coordination problem. Specifically, methods struggle with strategy agreement and strategy fine-tuning. To address this setback, we propose a simple model-based approach that generates synthetic interaction data and enables agents to converge on a strategy while fine-tuning their policies accordingly. Our resulting method outperforms the prevalent learning methods even under severe partial observability and with learned world models.

Learning to Guide and to Be Guided in the Architect-Builder Problem
Paul Barde*, Tristan Karch*, Derek Nowrouzezahrai, Clément Moulin-Frier, Christopher Pal, Pierre-Yves Oudeyer
ICLR 2022
Website Code Blog post Talk

We proposed a novel learning setting to investigate the emergence of communication in a setting that can model Brain-Computer Interfaces (e.g., a user controls a prosthetic arm from brain signals). In this learning paradigm, that we dub the Architect-Builder Problem, agents learn to coordinate in the manner of a builder -- who performs actions but ignores the task -- and an architect who guides the builder towards the goal of the task but cannot directly act.

Adversarial Soft Advantage Fitting: Imitation Learning without Policy Optimization
Paul Barde*, Julien Roy*, Wonseok Jeon*, Joelle Pineau, Christopher Pal, Derek Nowrouzezahrai
NeurIPS 2020 Spotlight
Code Talk

Current Adversarial Imitation Learning methods are prohibitively complicated which prevents their use for multi-agent modeling. We proposed to remove the Reinforcement Learning loop of current algorithms, greatly simplifying their algorithmic complexity while improving performance and robustness.

Promoting Coordination through Policy Regularization in Multi-Agent Deep Reinforcement Learning
Julien Roy*, Paul Barde*, Félix G. Harvey, Derek Nowrouzezarhai, and Christopher Pal
NeurIPS 2020
Code Website Talk

Current MARL methods fail in training agents that account for teammates’ behavior, and that is even when agents have access to the observations and policies of the whole team. To palliate this, we proposed to promote inter-agent coordination via inter-agent predictability and synchronous behavior selection. We showed how two inductive biases on the policy search can serve as proxies for such coordination and boost performance in cooperative tasks.

MARL for Many Agent Navigation and Swarm Simulation
Paul Barde - Done at Ubisoft La Forge
Master project
Investigated Multi-Agent Reinforcement Learning methods with parameter sharing to achieve more organic simulations with many agents.

Parallel Monte-Carlo Tree Search for Path Planning under Multiple Weather Forecast Scenarios for Autonomous Sailboat
Paul Barde - Done at SuReLi research group
Master project
Code Documentation Technical Brief Draft Paper
Built a sailboat navigation simulator that automatically downloaded multiple wind weather forecasts from the open-source Global Forecast System (GFS) model on NOAA servers and applied a parallel version of MCTS planning to compute the optimal sailing trajectory across the different weather scenarios.

Optimal flapping and pitching motion of NACA airfoils for thrust generation
Paul Barde - Done at EPFL in the Laboratory of Fluid Mechanics and Instabilities
Master project
Used numerical flow simulation to investigate how the combined flapping and pitching motions of an airfoil profile can result in forward thrust generation (i.e. sea turtles like locomotion).

SPH simulation of a dam break - Verification, Validation and Parameters studies
Paul Barde - Done at EPFL in the Particle Based Simulation Methods class
Master project

Smooth Particle Hydrodynamics (SPH) to investigate the impact of tsunami-like waves loads on dam structures.


Promotional video capsule: Ubisoft La Forge - SWARM
Assisted designers with the Machine Learning vulgarization content.


I'll keep on adding here some resources that might be useful to some.


I am currently updating it, should not be too long. 😁