Learning and Evaluating Graph Neural Network Explanations based on Counterfactual and Factual Reasoning


Juntao Tan, Shijie Geng, Zuohui Fu, Yingqiang Ge, Shuyuan Xu, Yunqi Li, Yongfeng Zhang


Structural data well exists in Web applications, such as social networks in social media, citation networks in academic websites, and threads data in online forums. Due to the complex topology, it is difficult to process and make use of the rich information within such data. Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) have shown great advantages on learning representations for structural data. However, the non-transparency of the deep learning models makes it non-trivial to explain and interpret the predictions made by GNNs. Meanwhile, it is also a big challenge to evaluate the GNN explanations, since in many cases, the ground-truth explanations are unavailable. In this paper, we take insights of Counterfactual and Factual (CF2) reasoning from causal inference theory, to solve both the learning and evaluation problems in explainable GNNs. For generating explanations, we propose a model-agnostic framework by formulating an optimization problem based on both of the two casual perspectives. This distinguishes CF2 from previous explainable GNNs that only consider one of them. Another contribution of the work is the evaluation of GNN explanations. For quantitatively evaluating the generated explanations without the requirement of ground-truth, we design metrics based on Counterfactual and Factual reasoning to evaluate the necessity and sufficiency of the explanations. Experiments show that no matter ground-truth explanations are available or not, CF2 generates better explanations than previous state-of-the-art methods on real-world datasets. Moreover, the statistic analysis justifies the correlation between the performance on ground-truth evaluation and our proposed metrics.

In Proceedings of the ACM Web Conference 2022
Juntao Tan
PhD candidate

My research interests are mainly on Explainable AI, Recommender System, and some other subfields of AI and Machine Learning.