SCOUT: simultaneous time segmentation and community detection in dynamic networks

Authors: 
Yuriy Hulovatyy and Tijana Milenkovic
Citation: 
Nature Scientific Reports, 6, Article number: 37557, DOI:10.1038/srep37557.
Publication Date: 
November, 2016

Many evolving complex real-world systems can be modeled via dynamic networks. An important problem in dynamic network research is community detection, which finds groups of topologically related nodes. Typically, this problem is approached by assuming either that each time point has a distinct community organization or that all time points share a single community organization. The reality likely lies between these two extremes. To find the compromise, we consider community detection in the context of the problem of segment detection, which identifies contiguous time periods with consistent network structure. Consequently, we formulate a combined problem of segment community detection (SCD), which simultaneously partitions the network into contiguous time segments with consistent community organization and finds this community organization for each segment. To solve SCD, we introduce SCOUT, an optimization framework that explicitly considers both segmentation quality and partition quality. SCOUT addresses limitations of existing methods that can be adapted to solve SCD, which consider only one of segmentation quality or partition quality. In a thorough evaluation, SCOUT outperforms the existing methods in terms of both accuracy and computational complexity. We apply SCOUT to biological network data to study human aging.