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Network structure from rich but noisy data


Driven by growing interest across the sciences, a large number of empirical studies have been conducted in recent years of the structure of networks ranging from the Internet and the World Wide Web to biological networks and social networks. The data produced by these experiments are often rich and multimodal, yet at the same time they may contain substantial measurement error1,2,3,4,5,6,7. Accurate analysis and understanding of networked systems requires a way of estimating the true structure of networks from such rich but noisy data8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15. Here we describe a technique that allows us to make optimal estimates of network structure from complex data in arbitrary formats, including cases where there may be measurements of many different types, repeated observations, contradictory observations, annotations or metadata, or missing data. We give example applications to two different social networks, one derived from face-to-face interactions and one from self-reported friendships.

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Fig. 1: Application of the methods described here to two example networks.


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The author thanks E. Bruch, G. Cantwell, T. Martin, G. Reinert and M. Riolofor useful comments. This work was funded in part by the US National Science Foundation under grants DMS–1407207 and DMS–1710848. This work uses data from Add Health, a programme project designed by J. R. Udry, P. S. Bearman and K. Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01–HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. A special acknowledgment is due to R. R. Rindfuss and B. Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Anyone interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.

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M.E.J.N. designed and conducted the research and wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to M. E. J. Newman.

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Newman, M.E.J. Network structure from rich but noisy data. Nature Phys 14, 542–545 (2018).

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