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Volume 2 (2006) Article 13 pp. 249-266
Correlation Clustering with a Fixed Number of Clusters
Received: October 18, 2005
Published: October 22, 2006
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Keywords: clustering, approximation algorithm, random sampling, polynomial-time approximation scheme
ACM Classification: F.2.2, G.1.2, G.1.6
AMS Classification: 68W25, 05C85

Abstract: [Plain Text Version]

We continue the investigation of problems concerning correlation clustering or clustering with qualitative information, which is a clustering formulation that has been studied recently (Bansal, Blum, Chawla (2004), Charikar, Guruswami, Wirth (FOCS'03), Charikar, Wirth (FOCS'04), Alon et al. (STOC'05)). In this problem, we are given a complete graph on $n$ nodes (which correspond to nodes to be clustered) whose edges are labeled $+$ (for similar pairs of items) and $-$ (for dissimilar pairs of items). Thus our input consists of only qualitative information on similarity and no quantitative distance measure between items. The quality of a clustering is measured in terms of its number of agreements, which is simply the number of edges it correctly classifies, that is the sum of number of $-$ edges whose endpoints it places in different clusters plus the number of $+$ edges both of whose endpoints it places within the same cluster.

In this paper, we study the problem of finding clusterings that maximize the number of agreements, and the complementary minimization version where we seek clusterings that minimize the number of disagreements. We focus on the situation when the number of clusters is stipulated to be a small constant $k$. Our main result is that for every $k$, there is a polynomial time approximation scheme for both maximizing agreements and minimizing disagreements. (The problems are NP-hard for every $k \geq 2$.) The main technical work is for the minimization version, as the PTAS for maximizing agreements follows along the lines of the property tester for Max $k$-CUT by Goldreich, Goldwasser, Ron (1998).

In contrast, when the number of clusters is not specified, the problem of minimizing disagreements was shown to be APX-hard (Chawla, Guruswami, Wirth (FOCS'03)), even though the maximization version admits a PTAS.