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

Published: 03 Jul 2023, Last Modified: 03 Jul 2023Accepted by TMLREveryoneRevisionsBibTeX
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, targeting various open questions in XAI such as the selection and hyperparameter optimisation of quality estimators. Our work is released under an open-source license ( 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.
Submission Length: Regular submission (no more than 12 pages of main content)
Changes Since Last Submission: As suggested revisions by AE — the camera-ready version now includes i) relocation of experiments (from the Appendix to the Results section) and ii) alterations regarding the positioning of the paper.
Supplementary Material: zip
Assigned Action Editor: ~Bo_Dai1
License: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Submission Number: 804