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The fundamental advantages of temporal networks

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Science  24 Nov 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6366, pp. 1042-1046
DOI: 10.1126/science.aai7488

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In network science, change is good

Historically, network science focused on static networks, in which nodes are connected by permanent links. However, in networked systems ranging from protein-protein interactions to social networks, links change. Although it might seem that permanent links would make it easier to control a system, Li et al. demonstrate that temporality has advantages in real and simulated networks. Temporal networks can be controlled more efficiently and require less energy than their static counterparts.

Science, this issue p. 1042

Abstract

Most networked systems of scientific interest are characterized by temporal links, meaning the network’s structure changes over time. Link temporality has been shown to hinder many dynamical processes, from information spreading to accessibility, by disrupting network paths. Considering the ubiquity of temporal networks in nature, we ask: Are there any advantages of the networks’ temporality? We use an analytical framework to show that temporal networks can, compared to their static counterparts, reach controllability faster, demand orders of magnitude less control energy, and have control trajectories, that are considerably more compact than those characterizing static networks. Thus, temporality ensures a degree of flexibility that would be unattainable in static networks, enhancing our ability to control them.

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