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  1. null (Ed.)
    Airlines have introduced a back-to-front boarding process in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is motivated by the desire to reduce passengers' likelihood of passing close to seated passengers when they take their seats. However, our prior work on the risk of Ebola spread in aeroplanes suggested that the driving force for increased exposure to infection transmission risk is the clustering of passengers while waiting for others to stow their luggage and take their seats. In this work, we examine whether the new boarding processes lead to increased or decreased risk of infection spread. We also study the reasons behindmore »the risk differences associated with different boarding processes. We accomplish this by simulating the new boarding processes using pedestrian dynamics and compare them against alternatives. Our results show that back-to-front boarding roughly doubles the infection exposure compared with random boarding. It also increases exposure by around 50% compared to a typical boarding process prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. While keeping middle seats empty yields a substantial reduction in exposure, our results show that the different boarding processes have similar relative strengths in this case as with middle seats occupied. We show that the increased exposure arises from the proximity between passengers moving in the aisle and while seated. Such exposure can be reduced significantly by prohibiting the use of overhead bins to stow luggage. Our results suggest that the new boarding procedures increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19 compared with prior ones and are substantially worse than a random boarding process.« less
  2. Metric clustering is fundamental in areas ranging from Combinatorial Optimization and Data Mining, to Machine Learning and Operations Research. However, in a variety of situations we may have additional requirements or knowledge,distinct from the underlying metric, regarding which pairs of points should be clustered together. To capture and analyze such scenarios, we introduce a novel family of stochastic pairwise constraints, which we incorporate into several essential clustering objectives (radius/median/means). Moreover, we demonstrate that these constraints can succinctly model an intriguing collection of applications, including among others, Individual Fairness in clustering and Must-link constraints in semi-supervised learning. Our main result consistsmore »of a general framework that yields approximation algorithms with provable guarantees for important clustering objectives, while at the same time producing solutions that respect the stochastic pairwise constraints. Furthermore, for certain objectives we devise improved results in the case of Must-link constraints, which are also the best possible from a theoretical perspective. Finally, we present experimental evidence that validates the effectiveness of our algorithms.« less
  3. We study allocation of COVID-19 vaccines to individuals based on the structural properties of their underlying social contact network. Even optimistic estimates suggest that most countries will likely take 6 to 24 months to vaccinate their citizens. These time estimates and the emergence of new viral strains urge us to find quick and effective ways to allocate the vaccines and contain the pandemic. While current approaches use combinations of age-based and occupation-based prioritizations, our strategy marks a departure from such largely aggregate vaccine allocation strategies. We propose a novel agent-based modeling approach motivated by recent advances in (i) science ofmore »real-world networks that point to efficacy of certain vaccination strategies and (ii) digital technologies that improve our ability to estimate some of these structural properties. Using a realistic representation of a social contact network for the Commonwealth of Virginia, combined with accurate surveillance data on spatio-temporal cases and currently accepted models of within- and between-host disease dynamics, we study how a limited number of vaccine doses can be strategically distributed to individuals to reduce the overall burden of the pandemic. We show that allocation of vaccines based on individuals' degree (number of social contacts) and total social proximity time is signi ficantly more effective than the currently used age-based allocation strategy in terms of number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Our results suggest that in just two months, by March 31, 2021, compared to age-based allocation, the proposed degree-based strategy can result in reducing an additional 56{110k infections, 3.2{5.4k hospitalizations, and 700{900 deaths just in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Extrapolating these results for the entire US, this strategy can lead to 3{6 million fewer infections, 181{306k fewer hospitalizations, and 51{62k fewer deaths compared to age-based allocation. The overall strategy is robust even: (i) if the social contacts are not estimated correctly; (ii) if the vaccine efficacy is lower than expected or only a single dose is given; (iii) if there is a delay in vaccine production and deployment; and (iv) whether or not non-pharmaceutical interventions continue as vaccines are deployed. For reasons of implementability, we have used degree, which is a simple structural measure and can be easily estimated using several methods, including the digital technology available today. These results are signi ficant, especially for resource-poor countries, where vaccines are less available, have lower efficacy, and are more slowly distributed.« less
  4. Clustering is a foundational problem in machine learning with numerous applications. As machine learning increases in ubiquity as a back-end for automated systems, concerns about fairness arise. Much of the current literature on fairness deals with discrimination against protected classes in supervised learning (group fairness). We define a different notion of fair clustering wherein the probability that two points (or a community of points) become separated is bounded by an increasing function of their pairwise distance (or community diameter). We capture the situation where data points represent people who gain some benefit from being clustered together. Unfairness arises when certainmore »points are deterministically separated, either arbitrarily or by someone who intends to harm them as in the case of gerrymandering election districts. In response, we formally define two new types of fairness in the clustering setting, pairwise fairness and community preservation. To explore the practicality of our fairness goals, we devise an approach for extending existing k-center algorithms to satisfy these fairness constraints. Analysis of this approach proves that reasonable approximations can be achieved while maintaining fairness. In experiments, we compare the effectiveness of our approach to classical k-center algorithms/heuristics and explore the tradeoff between optimal clustering and fairness.« less