Measuring topological descriptors of complex networks under uncertainty.


Revealing the structural features of a complex system from the observed collective dynamics is a fundamental problem in network science. To compute the various topological descriptors commonly used to characterize the structure of a complex system (e.g., the degree, the clustering coefficient, etc.), it is usually necessary to completely reconstruct the network of relations between the subsystems. Several methods are available to detect the existence of interactions between the nodes of a network. By observing some physical quantities through time, the structural relationships are inferred using various discriminating statistics (e.g., correlations, mutual information, etc.). In this setting, the uncertainty about the existence of the edges is reflected in the uncertainty about the topological descriptors. In this study, we propose a methodological framework to evaluate this uncertainty, replacing the topological descriptors, even at the level of a single node, with appropriate probability distributions, eluding the reconstruction phase. Our theoretical framework agrees with the numerical experiments performed on a large set of synthetic and real-world networks. Our results provide a grounded framework for the analysis and the interpretation of widely used topological descriptors, such as degree centrality, clustering, and clusters, in scenarios in which the existence of network connectivity is statistically inferred or when the probabilities of existence π_{ij} of the edges are known. To this purpose, we also provide a simple and mathematically grounded process to transform the discriminating statistics into the probabilities π_{ij}.

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