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SGFormer: Simplifying and Empowering Transformers for Large-Graph Representations

Qitian Wu · Wentao Zhao · Chenxiao Yang · Hengrui Zhang · Fan Nie · Haitian Jiang · Yatao Bian · Junchi Yan

Great Hall & Hall B1+B2 (level 1) #628


Learning representations on large-sized graphs is a long-standing challenge due to the inter-dependence nature involved in massive data points. Transformers, as an emerging class of foundation encoders for graph-structured data, have shown promising performance on small graphs due to its global attention capable of capturing all-pair influence beyond neighboring nodes. Even so, existing approaches tend to inherit the spirit of Transformers in language and vision tasks, and embrace complicated models by stacking deep multi-head attentions. In this paper, we critically demonstrate that even using a one-layer attention can bring up surprisingly competitive performance across node property prediction benchmarks where node numbers range from thousand-level to billion-level. This encourages us to rethink the design philosophy for Transformers on large graphs, where the global attention is a computation overhead hindering the scalability. We frame the proposed scheme as Simplified Graph Transformers (SGFormer), which is empowered by a simple attention model that can efficiently propagate information among arbitrary nodes in one layer. SGFormer requires none of positional encodings, feature/graph pre-processing or augmented loss. Empirically, SGFormer successfully scales to the web-scale graph ogbn-papers100M and yields up to 141x inference acceleration over SOTA Transformers on medium-sized graphs. Beyond current results, we believe the proposed methodology alone enlightens a new technical path of independent interest for building Transformers on large graphs.

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