Comparing apples and oranges: Query trade-off in submodular maximization

Niv Buchbinder, Moran Feldman, Roy Schwartz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fast algorithms for submodular maximization problems have a vast potential use in applicative settings, such as machine learning, social networks, and economics. Though fast algorithms were known for some special cases, only recently such algorithms were considered in the general case of maximizing a monotone submodular function subject to a matroid independence constraint. The known fast algorithm matches the best possible approximation guarantee, while trying to reduce the number of value oracle queries the algorithm performs. Our main result is a new algorithm for this general case that establishes a surprising trade-off between two seemingly unrelated quantities: the number of value oracle queries and the number of matroid independence queries performed by the algorithm. Specifically, one can decrease the former by increasing the latter, and vice versa, while maintaining the best possible approximation guarantee. Such a trade-off is very useful since various applications might incur significantly different costs in querying the value and matroid independence oracles. Furthermore, in case the rank of the matroid is O(nc), where n is the size of the ground set and c is an absolute constant smaller than 1, the total number of oracle queries our algorithm uses can be made to have a smaller magnitude compared to that needed by the current best known algorithm. We also provide even faster algorithms for the well-studied special cases of a cardinality constraint and a partition matroid independence constraint, both of which capture many real-world applications and have been widely studied both theoretically and in practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)308-329
Number of pages22
JournalMathematics of Operations Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 INFORMS.


  • Approximation algorithm
  • Matroid
  • Submodular maximization


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