Thong Pham, Paul Sheridan, Hidetoshi Shimodaira
Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 32558 (2016). doi:10.1038/srep32558
Publication year: 2016

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Complex network growth across diverse fields of science is hypothesized to be driven in the main by a combination of preferential attachment and node fitness processes. For measuring the respective influences of these processes, previous approaches make strong and untested assumptions on the functional forms of either the preferential attachment function or fitness function or both. We introduce a Bayesian statistical method called PAFit to estimate preferential attachment and node fitness without imposing such functional constraints that works by maximizing a log-likelihood function with suitably added regularization terms. We use PAFit to investigate the interplay between preferential attachment and node fitness processes in a Facebook wall-post network. While we uncover evidence for both preferential attachment and node fitness, thus validating the hypothesis that these processes together drive complex network evolution, we also find that node fitness plays the bigger role in determining the degree of a node. This is the first validation of its kind on real-world network data. But surprisingly the rate of preferential attachment is found to deviate from the conventional log-linear form when node fitness is taken into account. The proposed method is implemented in the R package PAFit.