Rethinking Explaining Graph Neural Networks via Non-parametric Subgraph Matching

Fang Wu, Siyuan Li, Xurui Jin, Yinghui Jiang, Dragomir Radev, Zhangming Niu, Stan Z. Li

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The success of graph neural networks (GNNs) provokes the question about explainability: “Which fraction of the input graph is the most determinant of the prediction?” Particularly, parametric explainers prevail in existing approaches because of their more robust capability to decipher the black-box (i.e., target GNNs). In this paper, based on the observation that graphs typically share some common motif patterns, we propose a novel non-parametric subgraph matching framework, dubbed MatchExplainer, to explore explanatory subgraphs. It couples the target graph with other counterpart instances and identifies the most crucial joint substructure by minimizing the node corresponding-based distance. Moreover, we note that present graph sampling or node-dropping methods usually suffer from the false positive sampling problem. To alleviate this issue, we design a new augmentation paradigm named MatchDrop. It takes advantage of MatchExplainer to fix the most informative portion of the graph and merely operates graph augmentations on the rest less informative part. Extensive experiments on synthetic and real-world datasets show the effectiveness of our MatchExplainer by outperforming all state-of-the-art parametric baselines with significant margins. Results also demonstrate that MatchDrop is a general scheme to be equipped with GNNs for enhanced performance. The code is available at

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37511-37523
Number of pages13
JournalProceedings of Machine Learning Research
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes
Event40th International Conference on Machine Learning, ICML 2023 - Honolulu, United States
Duration: 23 Jul 202329 Jul 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Statistics and Probability


Dive into the research topics of 'Rethinking Explaining Graph Neural Networks via Non-parametric Subgraph Matching'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this