August 8, 2023


The Meta-Evaluation Problem in Explainable AI: Identifying Reliable Estimators with MetaQuantus

June 1, 2023

Anna Hedström, Philine Lou Bommer, Kristoffer Knutsen Wickstrøm, Wojciech Samek, Sebastian Lapuschkin, Marina MC Höhne

Paper abstract

One of the unsolved challenges in the field of Explainable AI (XAI) is determining how to most reliably estimate the quality of an explanation method in the absence of ground truth explanation labels. Resolving this issue is of utmost importance as the evaluation outcomes generated by competing evaluation methods (or “quality estimators”), which aim at measuring the same property of an explanation method, frequently present conflicting rankings. Such disagreements can be challenging for practitioners to interpret, thereby complicating their ability to select the best-performing explanation method. We address this problem through a meta-evaluation of different quality estimators in XAI, which we define as “the process of evaluating the evaluation method”. Our novel framework, MetaQuantus, analyses two complementary performance characteristics of a quality estimator: its resilience to noise and reactivity to randomness, thus circumventing the need for ground truth labels. We demonstrate the effectiveness of our framework through a series of experiments, targetingvarious open questions in XAI such as the selection and hyperparameter optimisation of quality estimators. Our work is released under an open-source license1 to serve as a development tool for XAI- and Machine Learning (ML) practitioners to verify and benchmark newly constructed quality estimators in a given explainability context. With this work, we provide the community with clear and theoretically-grounded guidance for identifying reliable evaluation methods, thus facilitating reproducibility in the field.