by Samuel F. Rosenblatt, Jeffrey A. Smith, G. Robin Gauthier, Laurent Hébert-Dufresne
Network-based intervention strategies can be effective and cost-efficient approaches to curtailing harmful contagions in myriad settings. As studied, these strategies are often impractical to implement, as they typically assume complete knowledge of the network structure, which is unusual in practice. In this paper, we investigate how different immunization strategies perform under realistic conditions—where the strategies are informed by partially-observed network data. Our results suggest that global immunization strategies, like degree immunization, are optimal in most cases; the exception is at very high levels of missing data, where stochastic strategies, like acquaintance immunization, begin to outstrip them in minimizing outbreaks. Stochastic strategies are more robust in some cases due to the different ways in which they can be affected by missing data. In fact, one of our proposed variants of acquaintance immunization leverages a logistically-realistic ongoing survey-intervention process as a form of targeted data-recovery to improve with increasing levels of missing data. These results support the effectiveness of targeted immunization as a general practice. They also highlight the risks of considering networks as idealized mathematical objects: overestimating the accuracy of network data and foregoing the rewards of additional inquiry.