Flexible Model Selection for Mechanistic Network Models via Super Learner

by   Sixing Chen, et al.

Application of network models can be found in many domains due to the variety of data that can be represented as a network. Two prominent paradigms for modeling networks are statistical models (probabilistic models for the final observed network) and mechanistic models (models for network growth and evolution over time). Mechanistic models are easier to incorporate domain knowledge with, to study effects of interventions and to forward simulate, but typically have intractable likelihoods. As such, and in a stark contrast to statistical models, there is a dearth of work on model selection for such models, despite the otherwise large body of extant work. In this paper, we propose a procedure for mechanistic network model selection that makes use of the Super Learner framework and borrows aspects from Approximate Bayesian Computation, along with a means to quantify the uncertainty in the selected model. Our approach takes advantage of the ease to forward simulate from these models, while circumventing their intractable likelihoods at the same time. The overall process is very flexible and widely applicable. Our simulation results demonstrate the approach's ability to accurately discriminate between competing mechanistic models.


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