The risk-averse static stochastic knapsack problem

Yasemin Merzifonluoglu, Joseph Geunes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


This paper considers a single-resource allocation problem for multiple items with random, independent resource consumption values, known as the static stochastic knapsack problem (SSKP). Whereas the existing SSKP literature generally assumes a risk-neutral objective using an expected value approach, such an approach can maximize expected profit while admitting the possibility of very high losses in some unfavorable scenarios. Because of this, we consider two popular risk measures, conditional value-at-risk (CVaR) and a mean-standard deviation trade-off, in order to address risk within this problem class. Optimizing the trade-offs associated with these risk measures presents significant modeling and computational challenges. To address these challenges, we first provide mixed-integer linear programming models using a scenario-based approach, which can be exploited to provide exact solutions for discrete distributions. For general distributions, a sample average approximation method provides approximate solutions. We then propose a general mixed integer nonlinear optimization modeling approach for the special case of normally distributed resource requirements. This modeling approach incorporates a new class of normalized penalty functions that account for both the expected costs and risks associated with uncertainty, and it can be specialized to a broad class of risk measures, including CVaR and mean-standard deviation. Our results characterize key optimality properties for the associated continuous relaxation of the proposed general model and provide insights on valuable rank-ordering mechanisms for items with uncertain resource needs under different risk measures. For this broadly applicable case, we present a class of efficient and high-performing asymptotically optimal heuristic methods based on these optimality conditions. An extensive numerical study evaluates the efficiency and quality of the proposed solution methods, identifies optimal item selection strategies, and examines the sensitivity of the solution to varying levels of risk, excess weight penalty values, and knapsack capacity values.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)931-948
JournalINFORMS Journal on Computing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Stochastic Knapsack Problem
  • conditional value-at-risk
  • normal distribution


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