Ce sont peut être les documents et les projets militaires aux Etats-Unis qui donnent la définition la plus opératoire de « network science » (et qui, d’un certain point de vue, en ont même suscité l’avènement). On trouvera sur Wikipedia la version la plus synthétique de la définition de cette « science du XXIe siècle » :

« Network science is a new and emerging scientific discipline that examines the interconnections among diverse physical or engineered networks, information networks, biological networks, cognitive and semantic networks, and social networks. This field of science seeks to discover common principles, algorithms and tools that govern network behavior. The National Research Council defines Network Science as « the study of network representations of physical, biological, and social phenomena leading to predictive models of these phenomena. »

Dans le champ strictement militaire, l’intérêt pour la science des réseaux a donné naissance au concept ou à la doctrine de « Network-centric warfare » ou de « network-centric operations ». De ce point de vue, on trouvera ça et là quelques documents représentatifs comme le « Joint vision-2010 » de l’US Army, l’interview du « Dr. Moxley » ou le site du Network Science Center à West Point.

Au delà des aspects militaires (ou les englobant), c’est en 2006 qu’ont été fixés la nature et les méthodes des network sciences par une série d’objectifs scientifiques stratégiques le COMMITTEE ON NETWORK SCIENCE FOR FUTURE ARMY APPLICATIONS durant l’été 2006. Sept chantiers scientifiques y sont précisés :

* Dynamics, spatial location, and information propagation in networks. Better understanding of the relationship between the architecture of a network and its function is needed.
* Modeling and analysis of very large networks. Tools, abstractions, and approximations are needed that allow reasoning about large-scale networks, as well as techniques for modeling networks characterized by noisy and incomplete data.
* Design and synthesis of networks. Techniques are needed to design or modify a network to obtain desired properties.
* Increasing the level of rigor and mathematical structure. Many of the respondents to the questionnaire felt that the current state of the art in network science did not have an appropriately rigorous mathematical basis.
* Abstracting common concepts across fields. The disparate disciplines need common concepts defined across network science.
* Better experiments and measurements of network structure. Current data sets on large-scale networks tend to be sparse, and tools for investigating their structure and function are limited.
* Robustness and security of networks. Finally, there is a clear need to better understand and design networked systems that are both robust to variations in the components (including localized failures) and secure against hostile intent.

Et un seul objectif final qui ressemble à un vrai/grand/ambitieux programme de recherche interdisciplinaire :

The ultimate value derived from these engineered networks depends on the effectiveness with which humans use them. These uses can be beneficial (e.g., better combat effectiveness) or detrimental (e.g., their exploitation by criminal and terrorist groups). Therefore research into the interaction of social and engineered networks is also a national priority.”

Cela fait maintenant plus de dix ans que la NSF finance des projets innovants en network sciences, à travers notamment le programme NetSE.