Paper & Results

                  Our ICDM 2014 paper is invited to Knowledge and Information Systems (KAIS) journal !

                                                      If you use our software, please cite the following paper [Bibtex]


Diffusion through graphs can be used to model many real-world process, such as the spread of diseases, social network memes, computer viruses, or water contaminants. Often, a real-world diffusion cannot be directly observed while it is occurring --- perhaps it is not noticed until some time has passed, continuous monitoring is too costly, or privacy concerns limit data access. This leads to the need to reconstruct how the present state of the diffusion came to be from partial diffusion data. Here, we tackle the problem of reconstructing a diffusion history from one or more snapshots of the diffusion state. This ability can be invaluable to learn when certain computer nodes are infected or which people are the initial disease spreaders to control future diffusions. We formulate this problem over discrete-time SEIRS-type diffusion models in terms of maximum likelihood. We design methods that are based on submodularity and a novel prize-collecting dominating-set vertex cover (PCDSVC) relaxation that can identify likely diffusion steps with some provable performance guarantees. Our methods are the first to be able to reconstruct complete diffusion histories accurately in real and simulated situations. As a special case, they can also identify the initial spreaders better than existing methods for that problem. Our results for both meme and contaminant diffusion show that the partial diffusion data problem can be overcome with proper modeling and methods, and that hidden temporal characteristics of diffusion can be predicted from limited data.