From a single network to a network of networks

Jianxi Gao, Daqing Li, Shlomo Havlin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


Network science has attracted much attention in recent years due to its interdisciplinary applications. We witnessed the revolution of network science in 1998 and 1999 started with small-world and scale-free networks having now thousands of high-profile publications, and it seems that since 2010 studies of 'network of networks' (NON), sometimes called multilayer networks or multiplex, have attracted more and more attention. The analytic framework for NON yields a novel percolation law for n interdependent networks that shows that percolation theory of single networks studied extensively in physics and mathematics in the last 50 years is a specific limit of the rich and very different general case of n coupled networks. Since then, properties and dynamics of interdependent and interconnected networks have been studied extensively, and scientists are finding many interesting results and discovering many surprising phenomena. Because most natural and engineered systems are composed of multiple subsystems and layers of connectivity, it is important to consider these features in order to improve our understanding of such complex systems. Now the study of NON has become one of the important directions in network science. In this paper, we review recent studies on the new emerging area-NON. Due to the fast growth of this field, there are many definitions of different types of NON, such as interdependent networks, interconnected networks, multilayered networks, multiplex networks and many others. There exist many datasets that can be represented as NON, such as network of different transportation networks including flight networks, railway networks and road networks, network of ecological networks including species interacting networks and food webs, network of biological networks including gene regulation network, metabolic network and protein-protein interacting network, network of social networks and so on. Among them, many interdependent networks including critical infrastructures are embedded in space, introducing spatial constraints. Thus, we also review the progress on study of spatially embedded networks. As a result of spatial constraints, such interdependent networks exhibit extreme vulnerabilities compared with their non-embedded counterparts. Such studies help us to understand, realize and hopefully mitigate the increasing risk in NON.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)346-356
Number of pages11
JournalNational Science Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of China Science Publishing & Media Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Cascading failures
  • Interdependency
  • Network of networks
  • Phase transition
  • Spacial networks


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