skip to main content

Title: GNNExplainer: Generating Explanations for Graph Neural Networks
Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) are a powerful tool for machine learning on graphs. GNNs combine node feature information with the graph structure by recursively passing neural messages along edges of the input graph. However, incorporating both graph structure and feature information leads to complex models and explaining predictions made by GNNs remains unsolved. Here we propose GNNEXPLAINER, the first general, model-agnostic approach for providing interpretable explanations for predictions of any GNN-based model on any graph-based machine learning task. Given an instance, GNNEXPLAINER identifies a compact subgraph structure and a small subset of node features that have a crucial role in GNN’s prediction. Further, GNNEXPLAINER can generate consistent and concise explanations for an entire class of instances. We formulate GNNEXPLAINER as an optimization task that maximizes the mutual information between a GNN’s prediction and distribution of possible subgraph structures. Experiments on synthetic and real-world graphs show that our approach can identify important graph structures as well as node features, and outperforms alternative baseline approaches by up to 43.0% in explanation accuracy. GNNEXPLAINER provides a variety of benefits, from the ability to visualize semantically relevant structures to interpretability, to giving insights into errors of faulty GNNs.
; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Advances in neural information processing systems
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Learning representations of sets of nodes in a graph is crucial for applications ranging from node-role discovery to link prediction and molecule classification. Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) have achieved great success in graph representation learning. However, expressive power of GNNs is limited by the 1-Weisfeiler-Lehman (WL) test and thus GNNs generate identical representations for graph substructures that may in fact be very different. More powerful GNNs, proposed recently by mimicking higher-order-WL tests, only focus on representing entire graphs and they are computationally inefficient as they cannot utilize sparsity of the underlying graph. Here we propose and mathematically analyze a generalmore »class of structure related features, termed Distance Encoding (DE). DE assists GNNs in representing any set of nodes, while providing strictly more expressive power than the 1-WL test. DE captures the distance between the node set whose representation is to be learned and each node in the graph. To capture the distance DE can apply various graph-distance measures such as shortest path distance or generalized PageRank scores. We propose two ways for GNNs to use DEs (1) as extra node features, and (2) as controllers of message aggregation in GNNs. Both approaches can utilize the sparse structure of the underlying graph, which leads to computational efficiency and scalability. We also prove that DE can distinguish node sets embedded in almost all regular graphs where traditional GNNs always fail. We evaluate DE on three tasks over six real networks: structural role prediction, link prediction, and triangle prediction. Results show that our models outperform GNNs without DE by up-to 15% in accuracy and AUROC. Furthermore, our models also significantly outperform other state-of-the-art methods especially designed for the above tasks.« less
  2. Deep learning methods for graphs achieve remarkable performance on many node-level and graph-level prediction tasks. However, despite the proliferation of the methods and their success, prevailing Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) neglect subgraphs, rendering subgraph prediction tasks challenging to tackle in many impactful applications. Further, subgraph prediction tasks present several unique challenges: subgraphs can have non-trivial internal topology, but also carry a notion of position and external connectivity information relative to the underlying graph in which they exist. Here, we introduce SubGNN, a subgraph neural network to learn disentangled subgraph representations. We propose a novel subgraph routing mechanism that propagates neuralmore »messages between the subgraph's components and randomly sampled anchor patches from the underlying graph, yielding highly accurate subgraph representations. SubGNN specifies three channels, each designed to capture a distinct aspect of subgraph topology, and we provide empirical evidence that the channels encode their intended properties. We design a series of new synthetic and real-world subgraph datasets. Empirical results for subgraph classification on eight datasets show that SubGNN achieves considerable performance gains, outperforming strong baseline methods, including node-level and graph-level GNNs, by 19.8% over the strongest baseline. SubGNN performs exceptionally well on challenging biomedical datasets where subgraphs have complex topology and even comprise multiple disconnected components.« less
  3. Many applications of machine learning require a model to make accurate predictions on test examples that are distributionally different from training ones, while task-specific labels are scarce during training. An effective approach to this challenge is to pre-train a model on related tasks where data is abundant, and then fine-tune it on a downstream task of interest. While pre-training has been effective in many language and vision domains, it remains an open question how to effectively use pre-training on graph datasets. In this paper, we develop a new strategy and self-supervised methods for pre-training Graph Neural Networks (GNNs). The keymore »to the success of our strategy is to pre-train an expressive GNN at the level of individual nodes as well as entire graphs so that the GNN can learn useful local and global representations simultaneously. We systematically study pre-training on multiple graph classification datasets. We find that naïve strategies, which pre-train GNNs at the level of either entire graphs or individual nodes, give limited improvement and can even lead to negative transfer on many downstream tasks. In contrast, our strategy avoids negative transfer and improves generalization significantly across downstream tasks, leading up to 9.4% absolute improvements in ROC-AUC over non-pre-trained models and achieving state-of-the-art performance for molecular property prediction and protein function prediction.« less
  4. Networks or graphs provide a natural and generic way for modeling rich structured data. Recent research on graph analysis has been focused on representation learning, of which the goal is to encode the network structures into distributed embedding vectors, so as to enable various downstream applications through off-the-shelf machine learning. However, existing methods mostly focus on node-level embedding, which is insufficient for subgraph analysis. Moreover, their leverage of network structures through path sampling or neighborhood preserving is implicit and coarse. Network motifs allow graph analysis in a finer granularity, but existing methods based on motif matching are limited to enumeratedmore »simple motifs and do not leverage node labels and supervision. In this paper, we develop NEST, a novel hierarchical network embedding method combining motif filtering and convolutional neural networks. Motif-based filtering enables NEST to capture exact small structures within networks, and convolution over the filtered embedding allows it to fully explore complex substructures and their combinations. NEST can be trivially applied to any domain and provide insight into particular network functional blocks. Extensive experiments on protein function prediction, drug toxicity prediction and social network community identification have demonstrated its effectiveness and efficiency.« less
  5. Representation learning of graph-structured data is challenging because both graph structure and node features carry important information. Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) provide an expressive way to fuse information from network structure and node features. However, GNNs are prone to adversarial attacks. Here we introduce Graph Information Bottleneck (GIB), an information-theoretic principle that optimally balances expressiveness and robustness of the learned representation of graph-structured data. Inheriting from the general Information Bottleneck (IB), GIB aims to learn the minimal sufficient representation for a given task by maximizing the mutual information between the representation and the target, and simultaneously constraining the mutual informationmore »between the representation and the input data. Different from the general IB, GIB regularizes the structural as well as the feature information. We design two sampling algorithms for structural regularization and instantiate the GIB principle with two new models: GIB-Cat and GIB-Bern, and demonstrate the benefits by evaluating the resilience to adversarial attacks. We show that our proposed models are more robust than state-of-the art graph defense models. GIB-based models empirically achieve up to 31% improvement with adversarial perturbation of the graph structure as well as node features.« less