Detecting network backbones against time variations in node properties

Matthieu Nadini, Christian Bongiorno, Alessandro Rizzo, Maurizio Porfiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many real systems can be described through time-varying networks of interactions that encapsulate information sharing between individual units over time. These interactions can be classified as being either reducible or irreducible: reducible interactions pertain to node-specific properties, while irreducible interactions reflect dyadic relationships between nodes that form the network backbone. The process of filtering reducible links to detect the backbone network could allow for identifying family members and friends in social networks or social structures from contact patterns of individuals. A pervasive hypothesis in existing methods of backbone discovery is that the specific properties of the nodes are constant in time, such that reducible links have the same statistical features at any time during the observation. In this work, we release this assumption toward a new methodology for detecting network backbones against time variations in node properties. Through analytical insight and numerical evidence on synthetic and real datasets, we demonstrate the viability of the proposed approach to aid in the discovery of network backbones from time series. By critically comparing our approach with existing methods in the technical literature, we show that neglecting time variations in node-specific properties may beget false positives in the inference of the network backbone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)855-878
Number of pages24
JournalNonlinear Dynamics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Activity-driven
  • Backbone network
  • Statistical filtering
  • Time-varying network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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