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In-Person Oral presentation / top 5% paper

Rethinking the Expressive Power of GNNs via Graph Biconnectivity

Bohang Zhang · Shengjie Luo · Liwei Wang · Di He



Designing expressive Graph Neural Networks (GNNs) is a central topic in learning graph-structured data. While numerous approaches have been proposed to improve GNNs with respect to the Weisfeiler-Lehman (WL) test, for most of them, there is still a lack of deep understanding of what additional power they can systematically and provably gain. In this paper, we take a fundamentally different perspective to study the expressive power of GNNs beyond the WL test. Specifically, we introduce a novel class of expressivity metrics via graph biconnectivity and highlight their importance in both theory and practice. As biconnectivity can be easily calculated using simple algorithms that have linear computational costs, it is natural to expect that popular GNNs can learn it easily as well. However, after a thorough review of prior GNN architectures, we surprisingly find that most of them are not expressive for any of these metrics. The only exception is the ESAN framework (Bevilacqua et al., 2022), for which we give a theoretical justification of its power. We proceed to introduce a principled and more efficient approach, called the Generalized Distance Weisfeiler-Lehman (GD-WL), which is provably expressive for all biconnectivity metrics. Practically, we show GD-WL can be implemented by a Transformer-like architecture that preserves expressiveness and enjoys full parallelizability. A set of experiments on both synthetic and real datasets demonstrates that our approach can consistently outperform prior GNN architectures.

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