Theoretical and Computational Chemistry

Model agnostic generation of counterfactual explanations for molecules



An outstanding challenge in deep learning in chemistry is its lack of interpretability. The inability of explaining why a neural network makes a prediction is a major barrier to deployment of AI models. This not only dissuades chemists from using deep learning predictions, but also has led to neural networks learning spurious correlations that are difficult to notice. Counterfactuals are a category of explanations that provide a rationale behind a model prediction with satisfying properties like providing chemical structure insights. Yet, counterfactuals are have been previously limited to specific model architectures or required reinforcement learning as a separate process. In this work, we show a universal model-agnostic approach that can explain any black-box model prediction. We demonstrate this method on random forest models, sequence models, and graph neural networks in both classification and regression.

Version notes

Expanded method to include database similarity searches, added discussion section, copy-editing


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