The field of network science is a highly interdisciplinary area; for the empirical analysis of network data, it draws algorithmic methodologies from several research fields. Hence, research procedures and descriptions of the technical results often differ, sometimes widely. In this paper we focus on methodologies
for the experimental part of algorithm engineering for network analysis—an important ingredient for a research area with empirical focus. More precisely, we unify and adapt existing recommendations from different fields and propose universal guidelines—including statistical analyses—for the systematic evaluation of network analysis algorithms. This way, the behavior of newly proposed algorithms can be properly assessed and comparisons to existing solutions become meaningful. Moreover, as the main technical contribution, we provide SimexPal, a highly automated tool to perform and analyze experiments following our guidelines. To illustrate the merits of SimexPal and our guidelines, we apply them in a case study: we design, perform, visualize and evaluate experiments of a recent algorithm for approximating betweenness centrality, an important problem in network analysis. In summary, both our guidelines and SimexPal shall modernize and complement previous efforts in experimental algorithmics; they are not only useful for network analysis, but also in related contexts.
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