Mean Field at Distance One

  • Ka Yin LeungEmail author
  • Mirjam Kretzschmar
  • Odo Diekmann
Part of the Theoretical Biology book series (THBIO)


To be able to understand how infectious diseases spread on networks, it is important to understand the network structure itself in the absence of infection. In this text we consider dynamic network models that are inspired by the (static) configuration network. The networks are described by population-level averages such as the fraction of the population with k partners, k = 0, 1, 2,  This means that the bookkeeping contains information about individuals and their partners, but no information about partners of partners. Can we average over the population to obtain information about partners of partners? The answer is ‘it depends’, and this is where the mean field at distance one assumption comes into play. In this text we explain that, yes, we may average over the population (in the right way) in the static network. Moreover, we provide evidence in support of a positive answer for the network model that is dynamic due to partnership changes. If, however, we additionally allow for demographic changes, dependencies between partners arise. In earlier work we used the slogan ‘mean field at distance one’ as a justification of simply ignoring the dependencies. Here we discuss the subtleties that come with the mean field at distance one assumption, especially when demography is involved. Particular attention is given to the accuracy of the approximation in the setting with demography. Next, the mean field at distance one assumption is discussed in the context of an infection superimposed on the network. We end with the conjecture that an extension of the bookkeeping leads to an exact description of the network structure.



We would like to thank Pieter Trapman for opening our eyes during the Infectious Disease Dynamics meeting at the Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge in 2013 as well as the members of the infectious disease dynamics journal clubs in Utrecht and Stockholm, and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.

K.Y. Leung is supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) [grant Mozaïek 017.009.082] and the Swedish Research Council [grant number 2015-05015_3].


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ka Yin Leung
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Mirjam Kretzschmar
    • 2
    • 4
  • Odo Diekmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Mathematical InstituteUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Julius Center for Primary Care and Health SciencesUniversity Medical Center UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of MathematicsStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden
  4. 4.National Institute for Public Health and the EnvironmentUtrechtThe Netherlands

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