Kirk Dombrowski, Richard Curtis, Samuel Friedman, and Bilal Khan
Recent interest by physicists in social networks and disease transmission factors has prompted debate over the topology of degree distributions in sexual networks. Social network researchers have been critical of “scale-free” Barabasi-Albert approaches, and largely rejected the preferential attachment, “rich-get-richer” assumptions that underlie that model. Instead, research on sexual networks has pointed to the importance of homophily and local sexual norms in dictating degree distributions, and thus disease transmission thresholds. Injecting Drug User (IDU) network topologies may differ from the emerging models of sexual networks, however. Degree distribution analysis of a Brooklyn, NY, IDU network indicates a different topology than the spanning tree configurations discussed for sexual networks, instead featuring comparatively short cycles and high concurrency. Our findings suggest that IDU networks do in some ways conform to a “scale-free” topology, and thus may represent “reservoirs” of potential infection despite seemingly low transmission thresholds.
Keywords: Social Network Analysis; Injecting Drug Users; Scale-Free Networks