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Contact Patterns in a High School: A Comparison between Data Collected Using Wearable Sensors, Contact Diaries and Friendship Surveys

Abstract : Given their importance in shaping social networks and determining how information or diseases propagate in a population, human interactions are the subject of many data collection efforts. To this aim, different methods are commonly used, from diaries and surveys to wearable sensors. These methods show advantages and limitations but are rarely compared in a given setting. As surveys targeting friendship relations might suffer less from memory biases than contact diaries, it is also interesting to explore how daily contact patterns compare with friendship relations and with online social links. Here we make progresses in these directions by leveraging data from a French high school: face-to-face contacts measured by two concurrent methods, sensors and diaries; self-reported friendship surveys; Facebook links. We compare the data sets and find that most short contacts are not reported in diaries while long contacts have larger reporting probability, with a general tendency to overestimate durations. Measured contacts corresponding to reported friendship can have durations of any length but all long contacts correspond to reported friendships. Online links not associated to reported friendships correspond to short face-to-face contacts, highlighting the different nature of reported friendships and online links. Diaries and surveys suffer from a low sampling rate, showing the higher acceptability of sensor-based platform. Despite the biases, we found that the overall structure of the contact network, i.e., the mixing patterns between classes, is correctly captured by both self-reported contacts and friendships networks. Overall, diaries and surveys tend to yield a correct picture of the structural organization of the contact network, albeit with much less links, and give access to a sort of backbone of the contact network corresponding to the strongest links in terms of cumulative durations.
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Rossana Mastrandrea, Julie Fournet, Alain Barrat. Contact Patterns in a High School: A Comparison between Data Collected Using Wearable Sensors, Contact Diaries and Friendship Surveys. PLoS ONE, Public Library of Science, 2015, 10 (9), pp.e0136497. ⟨10.1371/journal.pone.0136497⟩. ⟨hal-01238308⟩

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