Graph Explicit Neural Networks: Explicitly Encoding Graphs for Efficient and Accurate Inference

Yiwei Wang, Bryan Hooi, Yozen Liu, Neil Shah
Event WSDM 2023
Research Areas Graph Machine Learning

As the state-of-the-art graph learning models, the message passing based neural networks (MPNNs) implicitly use the graph topology as the “pathways” to propagate node features. This implicit use of graph topology induces the MPNNs’ over-reliance on (node) features and high inference latency, which hinders their large-scale applications in industrial contexts. To mitigate these weaknesses, we propose the Graph Explicit Neural Network (GENN) framework. GENN can be flexibly applied to various MPNNs and improves them by providing more efficient and accurate inference that is robust in feature-constrained settings. Specifically, we carefully incorporate recent developments in network embedding methods to efficiently prioritize the graph topology for inference. From this vantage, GENN explicitly encodes the topology as an important source of information to mitigate the reliance on node features. Moreover, by adopting knowledge distillation (KD) techniques, GENN takes an MPNN as the teacher to supervise the training for better effectiveness while avoiding the teacher’s high inference latency. Empirical results show that our GENN infers dramatically faster than its MPNN teacher by 40x-78x. In terms of accuracy, GENN yields significant gains (more than 40%) for its MPNN teacher when the node features are limited based on our explicit encoding. Moreover, GENN outperforms the MPNN teacher even in feature-rich settings thanks to our KD design.