Inference on the History of a Randomly Growing Tree

05/18/2020
by   Harry Crane, et al.
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The spread of infectious disease in a human community or the proliferation of fake news on social media can be modeled as a randomly growing tree-shaped graph. The history of the random growth process is often unobserved but contains important information such as the source of the infection. We consider the problem of statistical inference on aspects of the latent history using only a single snapshot of the final tree. Our approach is to apply random labels to the observed unlabeled tree and analyze the resulting distribution of the growth process, conditional on the final outcome. We show that this conditional distribution is tractable under a shape-exchangeability condition, which we introduce here, and that this condition is satisfied for many popular models for randomly growing trees such as uniform attachment, linear preferential attachment and uniform attachment on a D-regular tree. For inference of the root under shape-exchangeability, we propose computationally scalable algorithms for constructing confidence sets with valid frequentist coverage as well as bounds on the expected size of the confidence sets. We also provide efficient sampling algorithms that extend our methods to a wide class of inference problems.

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