Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 October 2017
Understanding how person-to-person contagious processes spread through a population requires accurate information on connections between population members. However, such connectivity data, when collected via interview, is often incomplete due to partial recall, respondent fatigue, or study design, e.g. fixed choice designs (FCD) truncate out-degree by limiting the number of contacts each respondent can report. Research has shown how FCD affects network properties, but its implications for predicted speed and size of spreading processes remain largely unexplored. To study the impact of degree truncation on predictions of spreading process outcomes, we generated collections of synthetic networks containing specific properties (degree distribution, degree-assortativity, clustering), and used empirical social network data from 75 villages in Karnataka, India. We simulated FCD using various truncation thresholds and ran a susceptible-infectious-recovered (SIR) process on each network. We found that spreading processes on truncated networks resulted in slower and smaller epidemics, with a sudden decrease in prediction accuracy at a level of truncation that varied by network type. Our results have implications beyond FCD to truncation due to any limited sampling from a larger network. We conclude that knowledge of network structure is important for understanding the accuracy of predictions of process spread on degree truncated networks.