Are the artificially generated instances uniform in terms of difficulty?
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In the field of evolutionary computation, it is usual to generate artificial benchmarks of instances that are used as a test-bed to determine the performance of the algorithms at hand. In this context, a recent work on permutation problems analyzed the implications of generating instances uniformly at random (u.a.r.) when building those benchmarks. Particularly, the authors analyzed instances as rankings of the solutions of the search space sorted according to their objective function value. Thus, two instances are considered equivalent when their objective functions induce the same ranking over the search space. Based on the analysis, they suggested that, when some restrictions hold, the probability to create easy rankings is higher than creating difficult ones. In this paper, we continue on that research line by adopting the framework of local search algorithms with the best improvement criterion. Particularly, we empirically analyze, in terms of difficulty, the instances (rankings) created u.a.r. of three popular problems: Linear Ordering Problem, Quadratic Assignment Problem and Flowshop Scheduling Problem. As the neighborhood system is critical for the performance of local search algorithms three different neighborhood systems have been considered: swap, interchange and insert. Conducted experiments reveal that (1) by sampling the parameters uniformly at random we obtain instances with a non-uniform distribution in terms of difficulty, (2) the distribution of the difficulty strongly depends on the pair problem-neighborhood considered, and (3) given a problem, the distribution of the difficulty seems to depend on the smoothness of the landscape induced by the neighborhood and on its size.