Generative models for two-ground-truth partitions in networks

This article by Lena Mangold and Camille Roth has been published in Physical Review E in November 2023. Here is the abstract:

A myriad of approaches have been proposed to characterize the mesoscale structure of networks most often as a partition based on patterns variously called communities, blocks, or clusters. Clearly, distinct methods designed to detect different types of patterns may provide a variety of answers’ to the networks mesoscale structure. Yet even multiple runs of a given method can sometimes yield diverse and conflicting results, producing entire landscapes of partitions which potentially include multiple (locally optimal) mesoscale explanations of the network. Such ambiguity motivates a closer look at the ability of these methods to find multiple qualitatively different “ground truth” partitions in a network. Here we propose the stochastic cross-block model (SCBM), a generative model which allows for two distinct partitions to be built into the mesoscale structure of a single benchmark network. We demonstrate a use case of the benchmark model by appraising the power of stochastic block models (SBMs) to detect implicitly planted coexisting bicommunity and core-periphery structures of different strengths. Given our model design and experimental setup, we find that the ability to detect the two partitions individually varies by SBM variant and that coexistence of both partitions is recovered only in a very limited number of cases. Our findings suggest that in most instances only one—in some way dominating—structure can be detected, even in the presence of other partitions. They underline the need for considering entire landscapes of partitions when different competing explanations exist and motivate future research to advance partition coexistence detection methods. Our model also contributes to the field of benchmark networks more generally by enabling further exploration of the ability of new and existing methods to detect ambiguity in the mesoscale structure of networks.

The (open access) publisher version of the paper is available here.