Assessing low-intensity relationships in complex networks

Andreas Spitz, Anna Gimmler, Thorsten Stoeck, Katharina Anna Zweig, Emoke Ágnes Horvát

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Many large network data sets are noisy and contain links representing low-intensity relationships that are difficult to differentiate from random interactions. This is especially relevant for high-throughput data from systems biology, large-scale ecological data, but also for Web 2.0 data on human interactions. In these networks with missing and spurious links, it is possible to refine the data based on the principle of structural similarity, which assesses the shared neighborhood of two nodes. By using similarity measures to globally rank all possible links and choosing the top-ranked pairs, true links can be validated, missing links inferred, and spurious observations removed. While many similarity measures have been proposed to this end, there is no general consensus on which one to use. In this article, we first contribute a set of benchmarks for complex networks from three different settings (ecommerce, systems biology, and social networks) and thus enable a quantitative performance analysis of classic node similarity measures. Based on this, we then propose a new methodology for link assessment called z∗ that assesses the statistical significance of the number of their common neighbors by comparison with the expected value in a suitably chosen random graph model and which is a consistently top-performing algorithm for all benchmarks. In addition to a global ranking of links, we also use this method to identify the most similar neighbors of each single node in a local ranking, thereby showing the versatility of the method in two distinct scenarios and augmenting its applicability. Finally, we perform an exploratory analysis on an oceanographic plankton data set and find that the distribution of microbes follows similar biogeographic rules as those of macroorganisms, a result that rejects the global dispersal hypothesis for microbes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0152536
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing low-intensity relationships in complex networks'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this