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  1. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of developing reliable forecasts that would allow decision makers to devise appropriate response strategies. Despite much recent research on the topic, epidemic forecasting remains poorly understood. Researchers have attributed the difficulty of forecasting contagion dynamics to a multitude of factors, including complex behavioral responses, uncertainty in data, the stochastic nature of the underlying process, and the high sensitivity of the disease parameters to changes in the environment. We offer a rigorous explanation of the difficulty of short-term forecasting on networked populations using ideas from computational complexity. Specifically, we show that several forecasting problems (e.g., the probability that at least a given number of people will get infected at a given time and the probability that the number of infections will reach a peak at a given time) are computationally intractable. For instance, efficient solvability of such problems would imply that the number of satisfying assignments of an arbitrary Boolean formula in conjunctive normal form can be computed efficiently, violating a widely believed hypothesis in computational complexity. This intractability result holds even under the ideal situation, where all the disease parameters are known and are assumed to be insensitive to changes in the environment.more »From a computational complexity viewpoint, our results, which show that contagion dynamics become unpredictable for both macroscopic and individual properties, bring out some fundamental difficulties of predicting disease parameters. On the positive side, we develop efficient algorithms or approximation algorithms for restricted versions of forecasting problems.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 25, 2023
  2. We study evacuation dynamics in a major urban region (Miami, FL) using a combination of a realistic population and social contact network, and an agent-based model of evacuation behavior that takes into account peer influence and concerns of looting. These factors have been shown to be important in prior work, and have been modeled as a threshold-based network dynamical systems model (2mode-threshold), which involves two threshold parameters|for a family's decision to evacuate and to remain in place for looting and crime concerns|based on the fraction of neighbors who have evacuated. The dynamics of such models are not well understood, and we observe that the threshold parameters have a significant impact on the evacuation dynamics. We also observe counter-intuitive effects of increasing the evacuation threshold on the evacuated fraction in some regimes of the model parameter space, which suggests that the details of realistic networks matter in designing policies.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  3. Data from surveys administered after Hurricane Sandy provide a wealth of information that can be used to develop models of evacuation decision-making. We use a model based on survey data for predicting whether or not a family will evacuate. The model uses 26 features for each household including its neighborhood characteristics. We augment a 1.7 million node household-level synthetic social network of Miami, Florida with public data for the requisite model features so that our population is consistent with the survey-based model. Results show that household features that drive hurricane evacuations dominate the effects of specifying large numbers of families as \early evacuators" in a contagion process, and also dominate effects of peer influence to evacuate. There is a strong network-based evacuation suppression effect from the fear of looting. We also study spatial factors affecting evacuation rates as well as policy interventions to encourage evacuation.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  4. Web-based interactions enable agents to coordinate and generate collective action. Coordination can facilitate the spread of contagion to large groups within networked populations. In game theoretic contexts, coordination requires that agents share common knowledge about each other. Common knowledge emerges within a group when each member knows the states and the thresholds (preferences) of the other members, and critically, each member knows that everyone else has this information. Hence, these models of common knowledge and coordination on communication networks are fundamentally different from influence-based unilateral contagion models, such as those devised by Granovetter and Centola. Moreover, these models utilize different mechanisms for driving contagion. We evaluate three mechanisms of a common knowledge model that can represent web-based communication among groups of people on Facebook, using nine social (media) networks. We provide theoretical results indicating the intractability in identifying all node-maximal bicliques in a network, which is the characterizing network structure that produces common knowledge. Bicliques are required for model execution. We also show that one of the mechanisms (named PD2) dominates another mechanism (named ND2). Using simulations, we compute the spread of contagion on these networks in the Facebook model and demonstrate that different mechanisms can produce widely varying behaviorsmore »in terms of the extent of the spread and the speed of contagion transmission. We also quantify, through the fraction of nodes acquiring contagion, differences in the effects of the ND2 and PD2 mechanisms, which depend on network structure and other simulation inputs.« less
  5. Networks are pervasive in society: infrastructures (e.g., telephone), commercial sectors (e.g., banking), and biological and genomic systems can be represented as networks. Consequently, there are software libraries that analyze networks. Containers (e.g., Docker, Singularity), which hold both runnable codes and their execution environments, are increasingly utilized by analysts to run codes in a platform-independent fashion. Portability is further enhanced by not only providing software library methods, but also the driver code (i.e., main() method) for each library method. In this way, a user only has to know the invocation for the main() method that is in the container. In this work, we describe an automated approach for generating a main() method for each software library method. A single intermediate representation (IR) format is used for all library methods, and one IR instance is populated for one library method by parsing its comments and method signature. An IR for the main() method is generated from that for the library method. A source code generator uses the main() method IR and a set of small, hand-generated source code templates|with variables in the templates that are automatically customized for a particular library method|to produce the source code main() method. We apply our approachmore »to two widely used software libraries, SNAP and NetworkX, as exemplars, which combined have over 400 library methods.« less
  6. Networks are readily identifiable in many aspects of society: cellular telephone networks and social networks are two common examples. Networks are studied within many academic disciplines. Consequently, a large body of (open-source) software is being produced to perform computations on networks. A cyberinfrastructure for network science, called, is being built to provide a computational platform and resource for both producers and consumers of networks and software tools. This tutorial is a hands-on demonstration of some of’s features.
  7. Many contagion processes evolving on populations do so simultaneously, interacting over time. Examples are co-evolution of human social processes and diseases, such as the uptake of mask wearing and disease spreading. Commensurately, multi-contagion agent-based simulations (ABSs) that represent populations as networks in order to capture interactions between pairs of nodes are becoming more popular. In this work, we present a new ABS system that simulates any number of contagions co-evolving on any number of networked populations. Individual (interacting) contagion models and individual networks are specified, and the system computes multi-contagion dynamics over time. This is a significant improvement over simulation frameworks that require union graphs to handle multiple networks, and/or additional code to orchestrate the computations of multiple contagions. We provide a formal model for the simulation system, an overview of the software, and case studies that illustrate applications of interacting contagions.
  8. Protest is a collective action problem and can be modeled as a coordination game in which people take an action with the potential to achieve shared mutual benefits. In game-theoretic contexts, successful coordination requires that people know each others' willingness to participate, and that this information is common knowledge among a sufficient number of people. We develop an agent-based model of collective action that was the first to combine social structure and individual incentives. Another novel aspect of the model is that a social network increases in density (i.e., new graph edges are formed) over time. The model studies the formation of common knowledge through local interactions and the characterizing social network structures. We use four real-world, data-mined social networks (Facebook, Wikipedia, email, and peer-to-peer networks) and one scale-free network, and conduct computational experiments to study contagion dynamics under different conditions.
  9. Network representations of socio-physical systems are ubiquitous, examples being social (media) networks and infrastructure networks like power transmission andwater systems. The many software tools that analyze and visualize networks, and carry out simulations on them, require different graph formats. Consequently, it is important to develop software for converting graphs that are represented in a given source format into a required representation in a destination format. For network-based computations, graph conversion is a key capability that facilitates interoperability among software tools. This paper describes such a system called GraphTrans to convert graphs among different formats. This system is part of a new cyberinfrastructure for network science called We present the GraphTrans system design and implementation, results from a performance evaluation, and a case study to demonstrate its utility.
  10. We describe a software system called ExecutionManager (abbreviated EM) that controls the execution of third-party software (TPS) for analyzing networks. Based on a configuration file that contains a specification for the execution of each TPS, the system launches any number of stand-alone TPS codes, if the projected execution time and the graph size are within user-imposed limits. A system capability is to estimate the running time of a TPS code on a given network through regression analysis, to support execution decision-making by EM. We demonstrate the usefulness of EM in generating network structure parameters and distributions, and in extracting meta-data information from these results. We evaluate its performance on directed and undirected, simple and multi-edge graphs that range in size over seven orders of magnitude in numbers of edges, up to 1.5 billion edges. The software system is part of a cyberinfrastructure called for network science.