Mixed Membership Relational Clustering

Most clustering approaches in the literature focus on "flat" data in which each data object is represented as a fixed-length attribute vector. However, many real-world data sets are much richer in structure, involving objects of multiple types that are related to each other, such as documents and words in a text corpus, Web pages, search queries and Web users in a Web search system, and shops, customers, suppliers, shareholders and advertisement media in a marketing system. In general, relational data contain three types of information, attributes for individual objects, homogeneous relations between objects of the same type, heterogeneous relations between objects of different types. For example, for a scientific publication relational data set of papers and authors, the personal information such as affiliation for authors are attributes; the citation relations among papers are homogeneous relations; the authorship relations between papers and authors are heterogeneous relations. Such data violate the classic IID assumption in machine learning and statistics and present huge challenges to traditional clustering approaches. An intuitive solution is that we transform relational data into flat data and then cluster each type of objects independently. However, this may not work well due to the following reasons. First. the transformation causes the loss of relation and structure information. Second, traditional clustering approaches are unable to tackle influence propagation in clustering relational data, i.e., the hidden patterns of different types of objects could affect each other both directly and indirectly (pass along relation chains). Third, in some data mining applications, users are not only interested in the hidden structure for each type of objects, but also interaction patterns involving multi-types of objects. For example, in document clustering, in addition to document clusters and word clusters, the relationship between document clusters and word clusters is also useful information. It is difficult to discover such interaction patterns by clustering each type of objects individually. Moreover, a number of important clustering problems, which have been of intensive interest in the literature, can be viewed as special cases of relational clustering. For example, graph clustering (partitioning) can be viewed as clustering on singly-type relational data consisting of only homogeneous relations (represented as a graph affinity matrix); co-clustering which arises in important applications such as document clustering and micro-array data clustering, can be formulated as clustering on bi-type relational data consisting of only heterogeneous relations. Recently, semi-supervised clustering has attracted significant attention, which is a special type of clustering using both labeled and unlabeled data. It can be formulated as clustering on single-type relational data consisting of attributes and homogeneous relations. This invention is based on a novel probabilistic model for relational clustering, which also provides a principal framework to unify various important clustering tasks including traditional attributes-based clustering, semi-supervised clustering, co-clustering and graph clustering. The proposed model seeks to identify cluster structures for each type of data objects and interaction patterns between different types of objects. It is applicable to relational data of various structures. Under this model, we propose parametric hard and soft relational clustering algorithms under a large number of exponential family distributions.


There are three main advantages to our invention:

  • The invention is applicable to various relational data from various applications.
  • It is capable of adapting different distribution assumptions for different relational data with different statistical properties.
  • The resulting parameter matrices provides a intuitive summary for the hidden structure for the relational data.

Intellectual Property:

U.S. 8,285,719; 8,676,805; 8,996,528; 9,372,915


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