Network Infusion to Infer Information Sources in Networks

Soheil Feizi, Muriel Medard, Gerald Quon, Manolis Kellis, Ken Duffy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Several significant models have been developed that enable the study of diffusion of signals across biological, social and engineered networks. Within these established frameworks, the inverse problem of identifying the source of the propagated signal is challenging, owing to the numerous alternative possibilities for signal progression through the network. In real world networks, the challenge of determining sources is compounded as the true propagation dynamics are typically unknown, and when they have been directly measured, they rarely conform to the assumptions of any of the well-studied models. In this paper we introduce a method called Network Infusion (NI) that has been designed to circumvent these issues, making source inference practical for large, complex real world networks. The key idea is that to infer the source node in the network, full characterization of diffusion dynamics, in many cases, may not be necessary. This objective is achieved by creating a diffusion kernel that well-approximates standard diffusion models such as the susceptible-infected diffusion model, but lends itself to inversion, by design, via likelihood maximization or error minimization. We apply NI for both single-source and multi-source diffusion, for both single-snapshot and multi-snapshot observations, and for both homogeneous and heterogeneous diffusion setups. We prove the mean-field optimality of NI for different scenarios, and demonstrate its effectiveness over several synthetic networks. Moreover, we apply NI to a real-data application, identifying news sources in the Digg social network, and demonstrate the effectiveness of NI compared to existing methods. Finally, we propose an integrative source inference framework that combines NI with a distance centrality-based method, which leads to a robust performance in cases where the underlying dynamics are unknown.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalIEEE Transactions on Network Science and Engineering
StateAccepted/In press - Jul 6 2018


  • Computational modeling
  • Inference algorithms
  • Information Diffusion
  • Inverse problems
  • Kernel
  • Mathematical model
  • Social network services
  • Social Networks
  • Source Inference
  • Standards

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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