On the equivalence between graph isomorphism testing and function approximation with GNNs

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 32 (NeurIPS 2019)

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Zhengdao Chen, Soledad Villar, Lei Chen, Joan Bruna


Graph neural networks (GNNs) have achieved lots of success on graph-structured data. In light of this, there has been increasing interest in studying their representation power. One line of work focuses on the universal approximation of permutation-invariant functions by certain classes of GNNs, and another demonstrates the limitation of GNNs via graph isomorphism tests.

Our work connects these two perspectives and proves their equivalence. We further develop a framework of the representation power of GNNs with the language of sigma-algebra, which incorporates both viewpoints. Using this framework, we compare the expressive power of different classes of GNNs as well as other methods on graphs. In particular, we prove that order-2 Graph G-invariant networks fail to distinguish non-isomorphic regular graphs with the same degree. We then extend them to a new architecture, Ring-GNN, which succeeds in distinguishing these graphs as well as for tasks on real-world datasets.