Statistical Inference of Diffusion Networks

Hao Huang, Qian Yan, Lu Chen, Yunjun Gao, Christian S. Jensen

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To infer structures in diffusion networks, existing approaches mostly need to know not only the final infection statuses of network nodes, but also the exact times when infections occur. In contrast, in many real-world settings, such as disease propagation, monitoring exact infection times is often infeasible due to a high cost. We investigate the problem of how to learn diffusion network structures based on only the final infection statuses of nodes. Instead of utilizing sequences of timestamps to determine potential parent-child influence relationships between nodes, we propose to find influence relationships with high statistical significance. To this end, we design a probabilistic generative model of the final infection statuses to quantitatively measure the likelihood of potential structures of the objective diffusion network, taking into account network complexity. Based on this model, we can infer an appropriate number of most probable parent nodes for each node in the network. Furthermore, to reduce redundant inference computations, we are able to preclude insignificant candidate parent nodes from being considered during inferencing, if their infections have little correlation with the infections of the corresponding child nodes. Extensive experiments on both synthetic and real-world networks offer evidence that the proposed approach is effective and efficient.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8769880
JournalI E E E Transactions on Knowledge & Data Engineering
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)742-753
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Volume 33, issue 2 is dated February 2021.


  • Diffusion network
  • infection timestamp
  • influence relationship
  • probabilistic generative model

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