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Research Fellows Directory

Patrick Wolfe

Professor Patrick Wolfe

Research Fellow


University College London

Research summary

The principal subject of my research is the study of networks as statistical data

objects--a key part of recent UK government initiatives in sense-making and

understanding "Big Data". Networks are fundamental to our modern world: they

appear throughout science and society, and are continually growing in size,

complexity and importance. Whenever we observe entities and relationships

between then, we effectively have a network of some sort. As structural objects

composed of hubs and links, networks are very well understood. As statistical

objects made up of collections of measurements, however, network datasets

require significant advances to be made in mathematical knowledge if we are to

achieve fundamental understanding.

The crux of the problem, and the essence of the approach I take in my work, lies

in finding the right balance between complexity and parsimony. Currently, the

network models that we understand fully from a mathematical viewpoint are too

simple to accurately describe modern data. Models that are sufficiently rich to do

so, however, are presently beyond our mathematical comprehension, meaning

that we cannot use them to draw sound and repeatable conclusions from data.

This fundamental lack of understanding slows scientific progress and affects every

single economic, social or other policy decision that relies on the analysis of

network data.

My research benefits society through the social, economic, political, physical, and

life sciences. Key emerging industries focused on large-scale data analysis

benefit directly from algorithms and inference procedures for analysing large,

complex networks. My research also impacts decision-making in important policy

areas such as security, economics, and global development, by yielding tools to

understand collective societal behaviour through the analysis of network datasets,

and the mathematical underpinnings to ensure that evidence-based policy decisions

can be based on these analyses.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Statistical Foundations for Network Modelling and Inference

Scheme: Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Dates: Aug 2012 - Jul 2017

Value: £60,000