DANTE - 2012



Section: Scientific Foundations

Statistical Characterization of Complex Interaction Networks

Participants : Christophe Crespelle, Éric Fleury, Adrien Friggeri, Paulo Gonçalves, Qinna Wang, Lucie Martinet, Benjamin Girault.

Evolving networks can be regarded as "out of equilibrium" systems.

Indeed, their dynamics is typically characterized by non standard and intricate statistical properties, such as non-stationarity, long range memory effects, intricate space and time correlations.

The dynamics of complex networks often exhibit no preferred time scale or equivalently involve a whole range of scales and are characterized by a scaling or scale invariance property. Another important aspect of network dynamics resides in the fact that the sensors measure information of different nature. For instance, in the MOSAR project, inter-individual contacts are registered, together with the health status of each individual, and the time evolution of the resistance to antibiotics of the various strains analyzed. Moreover, such information is collected with different and unsynchronized resolutions in both time and space. This property, referred to as multi-modality, is generic and central in most dynamical networks. With these main challenges in mind, we define the following objectives.

From "primitive" to "analyzable" data: Observables.

The various and numerous modalities of information collected on the network generate a huge "primitive" data set. It has first to be processed to extract "analyzable data", which can be envisioned with different time and space resolutions: it can concern either local quantities, such as the number of contacts of each individual, pair-wise contact times and durations, or global measures, e.g., the fluctuations of the average connectivity. The first research direction consists therefore in identifying, from the "primitive data", a set of "analyzable data " whose relevance and meaningfulness for the analysis of network dynamic and network diffusion phenomena will need to be assessed. Such " analyzable data " needs also to be extracted from large " primitive data " set with " reasonable " complexity, memory and computational loads.

Granularity and resolution.

The corresponding data will take the form of time-series, "condensing" network dynamics description at various granularity levels, both in time and space. For instance, the existence of a contact between two individuals can be seen as a link in a network of contacts. Contact networks corresponding to contact sequences aggregated at different analysis scales (potentially ranging from hours to days or weeks) can be built. However, it is so far unclear to which extent the choice of the analysis scale impacts the relevance of network dynamics description and analysis. An interesting and open issue lies in the understanding of the evolution of the network from a set of isolated contacts (when analyzed with low resolution) to a globally interconnected ensemble of individuals (at large analysis scale). In general, this raises the question of selecting the adequate level of granularity at which the dynamics should be analyzed. This difficult problem is further complicated by the multi-modality of the data, with potentially different time resolutions.


Stationarity of the data is another crucial issue. Usually, stationarity is understood as a time invariance of statistical properties. This very strong definition is difficult to assess in practice. Recent efforts have put forward a more operational concept of relative stationarity in which an observation scale is explicitly included. The present research project will take advantage of such methodologies and extend them to the network dynamics context.

The rationale is to compare local and global statistical properties at a given observation scale in time, a strategy that can be adapted to the various time series that can be extracted from the data graphs so as to capture their dynamics. This approach can be given a statistical significance via a test based on a data-driven characterization of the null hypothesis of stationarity.

Dependencies, correlations and causality.

To analyze and understand network dynamics, it is essential that (statistical) dependencies, correlations and causalities can be assessed among the different components of the " analyzable data ". For instance, in the MOSAR framework, it is crucial to assess the form and nature of the dependencies and causalities between the time series reflecting e.g., the evolution along time of the strain resistance to antibiotics and the fluctuations at the inter-contact level. However, the multimodal nature of the collected information together with its complex statistical properties turns this issue into a challenging task. Therefore, Task1 will also address the design of statistical tools that specifically aim at measuring dependency strengths and causality directions amongst mutivariate signals presenting these difficulties. The objective is to provide elements of answers to natural yet key questions such as : Does a given property observed on different components of the data result from a same and single network mechanism controlling the ensemble or rather stem from different and independent causes? Do correlations observed on one instance of information (e.g., topological) command correlations for other modalities? Can directionality in correlations (causality) be inferred amongst the different components of multivariate data? These should also shed complementary lights on the difficulties and issues associated to the identification of " important " nodes or links...