Professor Vito Latora from the School of Mathematical Sciences, along with Stefan Thurner from Medical University Wien, have been awarded more than €2m* of European Commission funding to develop a new theory of multi-layer networks embedded in space and time.
The team, which will involve researchers from Universitat de Barcelona, Universitat de les Illes Balears, University of Cambridge, University of Birmingham and CNRS Paris, will look at large data sets of social, biological, and man-made systems, and will analyse and model the way they interact.
The three-year project, known as LASAGNE (multi-LAyer SpAtiotemporal Generalized Networks), will attempt to develop a common framework to describe networks whose units (nodes) are embedded in space, and whose connections (links) change over time and describe multiple types of relations; the existing network theory provides not much more than a static description of single, independent networks.
Professor Latora, who will be the scientific coordinator of the project, said: “To do this, we will treat time, space and the nature of interactions not as additional dimensions of the problem, but as natural, inherent components of the very same generalized network (GNE) description.
"The first goal of the project is to devise novel metrics and models, able to capture the interactions between different layers and across different spatio-temporal scales.
"The second goal is to understand the combined role of spatial distance, time and inter-layer interactions on the dynamics of processes running on GNEs, and on the emergence of collective behaviours, such as synchronisation in biological systems. The third goal is to investigate cases where GNEs are co-evolving with the processes they facilitate."
The theory will be validated on real-world applications involving large and heterogeneous data sets of brain networks, on- and off-line social systems, healthcare systems, and transportation flows in cities.
"Hopefully, our project will provide new quantitative opportunities in different fields, ranging from the prediction of pathologies to the diffusion of ideas and trends in societies, and for the management of socio-technological systems," Professor Latora added.
*Note: The Queen Mary share of the award is €344,528 which will cover the cost of recruiting one post-doctoral assistant and one PhD student in the School of Mathematical Sciences and also contribute to the cost of scientific coordination of the project.