Diffusion Source Identification on Networks with Statistical Confidence

Quinlan Dawkins, Tianxi Li, Haifeng Xu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

7 Scopus citations


Diffusion source identification on networks is a problem of fundamental importance in a broad class of applications, including rumor controlling and virus identification. Though this problem has received significant recent attention, most studies have focused only on very restrictive settings and lack theoretical guarantees for more realistic networks. We introduce a statistical framework for the study of diffusion source identification and develop a confidence set inference approach inspired by hypothesis testing. Our method efficiently produces a small subset of nodes, which provably covers the source node with any prespecified confidence level without restrictive assumptions on network structures. Moreover, we propose multiple Monte Carlo strategies for the inference procedure based on network topology and the probabilistic properties that significantly improve the scalability. To our knowledge, this is the first diffusion source identification method with a practically useful theoretical guarantee on general networks. We demonstrate our approach via extensive synthetic experiments on well-known random network models, a large data set of hundreds of real-world networks, as well as a mobility network between cities concerning the COVID-19 spreading.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 38th International Conference on Machine Learning, ICML 2021
PublisherML Research Press
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781713845065
StatePublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes
Event38th International Conference on Machine Learning, ICML 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 18 2021Jul 24 2021

Publication series

NameProceedings of Machine Learning Research
ISSN (Electronic)2640-3498


Conference38th International Conference on Machine Learning, ICML 2021
CityVirtual, Online

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The work is supported by the Quantitative Collaborative Award from the University of Virginia. T. Li is supported by the NSF grant DMS-2015298. H. Xu is supported by a GIDI award from the UVA Global Infectious Diseases Institute. We thank the anonymous reviewers for helpful feedback.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 by the author(s)


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