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Concept# Scale-free network

Summary

A scale-free network is a network whose degree distribution follows a power law, at least asymptotically. That is, the fraction P(k) of nodes in the network having k connections to other nodes goes for large values of k as
where is a parameter whose value is typically in the range (wherein the second moment (scale parameter) of is infinite but the first moment is finite), although occasionally it may lie outside these bounds. The name "scale-free" means that some moments of the degree distribution are not defined, so that the network does not have a characteristic scale or "size".
Many networks have been reported to be scale-free, although statistical analysis has refuted many of these claims and seriously questioned others. Additionally, some have argued that simply knowing that a degree-distribution is fat-tailed is more important than knowing whether a network is scale-free according to statistically rigorous definitions.
Preferential attachment and the fitness model have been proposed as mechanisms to explain conjectured power law degree distributions in real networks. Alternative models such as super-linear preferential attachment and second-neighbour preferential attachment may appear to generate transient scale-free networks, but the degree distribution deviates from a power law as networks become very large.
In studies of the networks of citations between scientific papers, Derek de Solla Price showed in 1965 that the number of links to papers—i.e., the number of citations they receive—had a heavy-tailed distribution following a Pareto distribution or power law, and thus that the citation network is scale-free. He did not however use the term "scale-free network", which was not coined until some decades later. In a later paper in 1976, Price also proposed a mechanism to explain the occurrence of power laws in citation networks, which he called "cumulative advantage" but which is today more commonly known under the name preferential attachment.

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