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Network science is a new and emerging scientific discipline that examines the interconnections among diverse physical, informational, biological, cognitive, and social networks. This field of science seeks to discover common principles, algorithms and tools that govern network behavior. The National Research Council defines Network Science as "the study of network representations of physical, biological, and social phenomena leading to predictive models of these phenomena."
Background and History:
The study of networks has emerged in diverse disciplines as a means of analyzing complex relational data. The earliest known paper in this field is the famous Seven Bridges of Königsberg written by Leonhard Euler in 1736. Euler's mathematical description of vertices and edges was the foundation of graph theory, a branch of mathematics that studies the properties of pairwise relations in a network structure. The field of graph theory continued to develop and found applications in chemistry (Sylvester, 1878).
In the 1930s Jacob Moreno, a psychologist in the Gestalt tradition, arrived in the United States. He developed the sociogram and presented it to the public in April 1933 at a convention of medical scholars. Moreno claimed that "before the advent of sociometry no one knew what the interpersonal structure of a group 'precisely' looked like (Moreno, 1953). The sociogram was a representation of the social structure of a group of elementary school students. The boys were friends of boys and the girls were friends of girls with the exception of one boy who said he liked a single girl. The feeling was not reciprocated. This network representation of social structure was found so intriguing that it was printed in the The New York Times(April 3, 1933, page 17). The sociogram has found many applications and has grown into the field of social network analysis.
Probabilistic theory in network science developed as an off-shoot of graph theory with Paul Erdos and Alfréd Rényi's eight famous papers on random graphs. For social networks the exponential random graph model or p* graph is a notational framework used to represent the probability space of a tie occurring in a social network. An alternate approach to network probability structures is the network probability matrix, which models the probability of edges occurring in a network, based on the historic presence or absence of the edge in a sample of networks.
In the 1998, David Krackhardt and Kathleen Carley introduced the idea of a meta-network with the PCANS Model. They suggest that "all organizations are structured along these three domains, Individuals, Tasks, and Resources. Their paper introduced the concept that networks occur across multiple domains and that they are interrelated. This field has grown into another sub-discipline of network science called dynamic network analysis.
More recently other network science efforts have focused on mathematically describing different network topologies. Duncan Watts reconciled empirical data on networks with mathematical representation, describing the small-world network. Albert-László Barabási and Reka Albert developed the scale-free network which is a loosely defined network topology that contains hub vertices with many connections, that grow in a way to maintain a constant ratio in the number of the connections versus all other nodes. Although many networks, such as the internet, appear to maintain this aspect, other networks have long tailed distributions of nodes that only approximate scale free ratios.
Today, network science is an exciting and growing field. Scientists from many diverse fields are working together. Network science holds the promise of increasing collaboration across disciplines, by sharing data, algorithms, and software tools.
Department of Defense Initiatives:
The U.S. military first became interested in network-centric warfare as an operational concept based on network science in 1996. John A. Parmentola, the U.S. Army Director for Research and Laboratory Management, proposed to the Army’s Board on Science and Technology (BAST) on December 1st, 2003 that Network Science become a new Army research area. The BAST, the Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences for the National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies, serves as a convening authority for the discussion of science and technology issues of importance to the Army and oversees independent Army-related studies conducted by the National Academies. The BAST conducted a study to find out whether identifying and funding a new field of investigation in basic research, Network Science, could help close the gap between what is needed to realize Network-Centric Operations and the current primitive state of fundamental knowledge of networks.
As a result, the BAST issued the NRC study in 2005 titled Network Science (referenced above) that defined a new field of basic research in Network Science for the Army. Based on the findings and recommendations of that study and the subsequent 2007 NRC report titled Strategy for an Army Center for Network Science, Technology, and Experimentation, Army basic research resources were redirected to initiate a new basic research program in Network Science. To build a new theoretical foundation for complex networks, some of the key Network Science research efforts now ongoing in Army laboratories address:
• Mathematical models of network behavior to predict performance with network size, complexity, and environment
• Optimized human performance required for network-enabled warfare
• Networking within ecosystems and at the molecular level in cells.
As initiated in 2004 by Frederick I. Moxley with support provided by David S. Alberts, the Department of Defense helped to establish the first Network Science Center in conjunction with the U.S. Army at the United States Military Academy. Subsequently, the U.S. Department of Defense has funded numerous research projects in the area of Network Science.
Whats more in 2006, the U.S. Army and the United Kingdom (UK) formed the Network and Information Science International Technology Alliance, a collaborative partnership among the Army Research Laboratory, UK Ministry of Defense and a consortium of industries and universities in the U.S. and UK. The goal of the alliance is to perform basic research in support of Network- Centric Operations across the needs of both nations.
In addition, the Army is in the process of establishing a Network Science and Technology Research Center (NSTRC). The NSTRC will conduct research across the technical areas of information networks, social/cognitive networks, communication networks, and integration research and experiments which will bring the three other technical areas together as a single entity. The NSTRC will conduct these activities in partnership with other Department of Defense and government agencies, industry and academia to find solutions to the hard problems associated with developing adaptable and scalable mobile ad-hoc networks for the Army.
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