18. – 23. Juli 2021, Dagstuhl-Seminar 21293

Parameterized Complexity in Graph Drawing


Robert Ganian (TU Wien, AT)
Fabrizio Montecchiani (University of Perugia, IT)
Martin Nöllenburg (TU Wien, AT)
Meirav Zehavi (Ben Gurion University – Beer Sheva, IL)

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Graph Drawing. Graph-based models are pervasive in many fields of science and technology. Very often scientists and users analyze these models and communicate their findings by means of graphical representations. This motivated the birth and evolution of graph drawing, a self-standing discipline that has evolved tremendously over the past 50 years. Today graph drawing is a mature area of computer science [5, 13, 17, 18] with its own annual conference, the international Symposium on Graph Drawing and Network Visualization (GD). The focus of the research area today is on combinatorial and algorithmic aspects of drawing graphs as well as on the design of network visualization systems and interfaces. Graph drawing is motivated by applications where it is crucial to visually analyze and interact with relational datasets. Examples of such application areas include data science, social sciences, web computing, information systems, biology, geography, business intelligence, information security and software engineering.

Roughly speaking, graph drawing deals with the construction and analysis of geometric representations of graphs and networks subject to specific layout conventions, such as different notions of planarity or more general crossing constraints, grid layouts, orthogonal drawings etc. Many classic graph drawing problems are NP-hard and thus a variety of theoretical and practical algorithmic techniques for dealing with hard problems are required in graph drawing.

Parameterized Complexity. Numerous computational problems of wide interest are known to be NP-hard in general. Yet, it is often possible to utilize the structure implicitly underlying many real-world instances to find exact solutions efficiently. There is long-standing systematic research of tractability results for various problems on specific classes of instances, and research in this direction constitutes one of the fundamental areas of computer science. However, in many real-world situations it is not possible to define a clear-cut class of instances that we wish to solve; instead of being black and white (belonging to a specific class or not), instances often come in various shades of grey (having certain degrees of internal structure).

The relatively young parameterized complexity paradigm [6, 4, 8, 16] offers the perfect tools to deal with this situation. In the parameterized setting, we associate each instance with a numerical parameter, which captures how “structured” the instance is. This then allows the development of algorithms whose performance strongly depends on the parameter – instead of the classical setting, where we often associate tractability with polynomial running times and intractability with superpolynomial ones, parameterized algorithms naturally “scale” with the amount of structure contained in the instance. The central notion of tractability in the parameterized setting is fixed-parameter tractable (FPT in short), which means that the given problem can be solved by an algorithm with runtime of the form f(k) · nO(1) (where f is an arbitrary computable function, k is the value of the parameter, and n is the input size). Aside from fixed-parameter tractability, the parameterized complexity landscape consists of a variety of companion notions such as XP-tractability, kernelization and W-hardness.

Parameterized Complexity in Graph Drawing. Research at the intersection of graph drawing and parameterized complexity (and parameterized algorithms in particular) is in its infancy. Most of the early efforts have been directed at variants of the classic Crossing Minimization problem, introduced by Turán in 1940 [19], parameterized by the number of crossings. Here, the objective is to draw a given graph in the plane so as to induce minimum number of crossings. Already in 2001, it was shown to be FPT [9]. A few subsequent works followed [14, 11], including the best paper of GD 2019 [12], but also concerning restricted layouts such as two-layered embeddings [7] and two-sided circular graph layouts [15]. On a related note, given a graph drawn in the plane, some preliminary works considered the detection of a subgraph having a particular structure with minimum number of crossings [1, 10]. Recently, parameterized analysis of specific embeddings such as book embeddings [3, 2], was also brought into life. Overall, the intersection of graph drawing and parameterized complexity still remains mostly unexplored, yet we see many interesting challenges and opportunities for taking a parameterized perspective on graph drawing problems and investigating the applicability of advanced parameterized techniques.

Seminar Goals

The main goal of the seminar was to chart new paths towards research combining the latest findings and techniques in parameterized complexity and graph drawing. In particular, the seminar focused on several prominent topics in graph drawing as well as state-of-the-art tools in parameterized complexity. The discussions addressed both concrete open problems as well as general directions for future research. An integral part of these discussions was the identification and formulation of major challenges as well as novel parameterizations of graph drawing problems relevant to parameterized analysis. The discussions also addressed the applicability of classic as well as cutting-edge tools in parameterized complexity to graph drawing.

In view of the above, it is safe to say that the selection of suitable problems to target was of great importance for the success of the seminar. Our main aim was to offer the participants the opportunity to propose problems to work on, and so the final selection of problems targeted by working groups was carried out during the seminar itself. That being said, we have also prepared a list of candidate problems that we believe would be prime candidates for further investigation through the lens of parameterized complexity.

Seminar Program

  1. On the first day of the seminar we enjoyed short introductions of all participants, and four invited overview lectures on different research domains within Graph Drawing. The topics and speakers were chosen as to create a joint understanding of the state of the art of problems in Graph Drawing suitable for parameterized anaylsis. Thekla Hamm presented the topic of graph drawing extension problems, Petr Hliněný presented the topic of planar insertion problems, Michael Kaufmann presented the topic of graph drawing beyond planarity and parametrized complexity, and Ignaz Rutter presented the topic of constrained embedding problems. More information on each lecture can be found in Section 3. Overall, this day prepared the ground for the open problem session on the second day.
  2. The open problem session took place in the morning of the second day of the seminar. In this session, we collected a list of open research problems that were contributed by the seminar participants. In a preference voting we determined the five topics that raised the most interest among the participants and formed small working groups around them. Each group contained experts in both Graph Drawing and Parameterized Complexity. During the following days the groups worked by themselves, except for a few plenary reporting sessions, formalizing and solving their respective challenges. Below is a list of the working group topics; more detailed group reports are found in Section 5.
    • Upward/level planarity: This group studied two previously established restrictions of drawing planar graphs: vertices are either assigned a “horizontal level” that they must be placed on, or there are directed arcs and the drawing must have all edges facing upwards. The group aimed at the development of new parameterized algorithms for both of these NP-hard problems.
    • Two-page embeddings of upward planar graphs: The group studied the complexity of recognizing whether st-planar graphs admit an upward two-page book embedding.
    • Orthogonal drawings: The group focused on the Compaction problem (computing a minimum-area drawing for an orthogonal graph), parameterized primarily by the number of kitty corners, that is, pairs of reflex vertices that point to each other.
    • Almost Separated Fixed Order Stack Layouts: In a fixed order stack layout the vertices of a graph are given with a fixed order and one has to assign the edges to pages so that no two edges on any page cross. This group studied a variant of this well-known NP-complete problem, where the graph is bipartite and the vertices form k consecutive blocks from either part.
    • Graph product structure theorem: The group considered strong products of graphs that yield supergraphs of k-planar graphs, i.e. of graphs that admit a drawing in the plane in which each edge is crossed at most k times. The objective is to exploit these products to derive new upper bounds on the queue number of k-planar graphs.
    • Decision trees: Decision Trees are well known tools used to describe, classify, and generalize data. Besides their simplicity, decision trees are particularly attractive for providing interpretable models of the underlying data. The group studied the complexity of learning decision trees of minimum size under several different parameterizations.
  3. After the open problem session, Robert Ganian gave a tutorial in the second day of the seminar that showcased how some of the tools in Parameterized Complexity can be applied to difficult problems, with a special focus on problems that are relevant to graph drawing. The tutorial was prepared in a way so as to make it accessible to the graph drawing community, acting as catalysis for progress on the five selected topics.
  4. In the rest of the second day and the other days of the seminar, we had a flexible working schedule with a short plenary session every morning to accommodate group reports and impromptu presentations by participants.

Future Plans

The seminar was designed to foster new research collaborations between researchers in the graph drawing and parameterized complexity communities, whose paths rarely cross in the traditional conferences. These collaborations are very likely to result in new breakthroughs and results, and we expect that the seminar will lead to tangible progress in our understanding of problems of interest. In this sense, the primary outcome from the seminar will be research papers published at the core conferences and journals for the graph drawing and parameterized complexity communities, such as:

  • The International Symposium on Computational Geometry (SoCG),
  • The International Symposium on Graph Drawing and Network Visualization (GD),
  • The ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms (SODA), and
  • The International Symposium on Theoretical Aspects of Computer Science (STACS).

In the mid- and long-term horizon, the seminar will also help build a bridge between the two communities and identify other interesting graph drawing problems which would benefit from a rigorous investigation using tools from parameterized complexity. It can also lead to the development of new parameterized tools and techniques that are designed to deal with the specific obstacles that arise when trying to apply parameterized approaches in the graph drawing setting. Last but not least, the seminar will raise the awareness for the typical research problems and the latest techniques in each others community and thus enrich the knowledge and toolbox of individual participants.

Dagstuhl seminar in 2022/2023 on Graph Drawing in Parameterized Complexity. This Dagstuhl seminar has revealed, for the first time in a systematic way, the astounding wealth of problems in Graph Drawing that are naturally multivariate and hence suitable for parameterized analysis; thus a follow-up Dagstuhl seminar will be proposed to further discuss and deepen our understanding of this topic whose full potential is yet to be unlocked, once again bringing together researchers in Graph Drawing and Parameterized Complexity.


According to the Dagstuhl survey conducted after the seminar, as well as informal feedback to the organizers, the seminar was highly appreciated. Particularly the small group size, group composition, and the seminar structure focusing on hands-on working groups was very well received. The seminar’s goals to identify new research directions and initiate collaborations at the intersection of the two different fields of Graph Drawing and Parameterized Complexity was very successful (also in comparison to other Dagstuhl seminars). Indeed, the participants rated the seminar highly for the mixture of these two fields and its productive interdisciplinary atmosphere, yielding new research perspectives, which have also resulted in new collaborations, joint projects and publications. We are looking forward to seeing the first scientific outcomes of the seminar in the near future and to continuing the efforts to support the growth of interest in parameterized analysis of problems in Graph Drawing. The seminar had more participants from the Graph Drawing community than from the Parameterized Complexity community due to critical uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope that the current trend of improvement in the situation will help in composing a more balanced list of participants in future seminars on this topic.


Schloss Dagstuhl was the perfect place for hosting a seminar like this. The unique scientific atmosphere and the historic building provided not only all the room we needed for our program and the working groups, but also plenty of opportunities for continued discussions and socializing outside the official program, especially in these difficult times during the COVID-19 pandemic with all participants being eager to meet and do research together in real life. On behalf of all participants, the organizers want to express their deep gratitude to the entire Dagstuhl staff for their outstanding support and service accompanying this seminar. We further thank Jules Wulms for helping us collect the contributions and prepare this report.


  1. Akanksha Agrawal, Grzegorz Guspiel, Jayakrishnan Madathil, Saket Saurabh, and Meirav Zehavi. Connecting the Dots (with Minimum Crossings). In Gill Barequet and Yusu Wang, editors, Symposium on Computational Geometry (SoCG 2019), volume 129 of Leibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs), pages 7:1–7:17, Dagstuhl, Germany, 2019. Schloss Dagstuhl–Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik.
  2. Michael J. Bannister, David Eppstein, and Joseph A. Simons. Fixed parameter tractability of crossing minimization of almost-trees. In Graph Drawing (GD 2013), volume 8242 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science, pages 340–351. Springer, 2013.
  3. Sujoy Bhore, Robert Ganian, Fabrizio Montecchiani, and Martin Nöllenburg. Parameterized algorithms for book embedding problems. In Graph Drawing and Network Visualization (GD 2019), Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer, 2019. To appear.
  4. Marek Cygan, Fedor V. Fomin, Lukasz Kowalik, Daniel Lokshtanov, Dániel Marx, Marcin Pilipczuk, Michal Pilipczuk, and Saket Saurabh. Parameterized Algorithms. Springer, 2015.
  5. Giuseppe Di Battista, Peter Eades, Roberto Tamassia, and Ioannis G. Tollis. Graph Drawing: Algorithms for the Visualization of Graphs. Prentice-Hall, 1999.
  6. Rodney G. Downey and Michael R. Fellows. Fundamentals of Parameterized Complexity. Texts in Computer Science. Springer Verlag, 2013.
  7. Vida Dujmovic, Michael R. Fellows, Matthew Kitching, Giuseppe Liotta, Catherine Mc-Cartin, Naomi Nishimura, Prabhakar Ragde, Frances A. Rosamond, Sue Whitesides, and David R. Wood. On the parameterized complexity of layered graph drawing. Algorithmica, 52(2):267–292, 2008.
  8. F.V. Fomin, D. Lokshtanov, S. Saurabh, and M. Zehavi. Kernelization: Theory of Parameterized Preprocessing. Cambridge University Press, 2018.
  9. Martin Grohe. Computing crossing numbers in quadratic time. J. Comput. Syst. Sci., 68(2):285–302, 2004.
  10. Magnús M. Halldórsson, Christian Knauer, Andreas Spillner, and Takeshi Tokuyama. Fixedparameter tractability for non-crossing spanning trees. In Algorithms and Data Structures (WADS 2007), volume 4619 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science, pages 410–421. Springer, 2007.
  11. Petr Hlinený and Marek Dernár. Crossing number is hard for kernelization. In Symposium on Computational Geometry (SoCG 2016), volume 51 of LIPIcs, pages 42:1–42:10. Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik, 2016.
  12. Petr Hlinený and Abhisekh Sankaran. Exact crossing number parameterized by vertex cover. In Graph Drawing and Network Visualization (GD 2019), Lecture Notes in Computer Science. Springer, 2019. To appear.
  13. Michael Jünger and Petra Mutzel, editors. Graph Drawing Software. Springer, 2004.
  14. Ken-ichi Kawarabayashi and Bruce A. Reed. Computing crossing number in linear time. In Symposium on Theory of Computing (STOC 2007), pages 382–390. ACM, 2007.
  15. Fabian Klute and Martin Nöllenburg. Minimizing crossings in constrained two-sided circular graph layouts. In Symposium on Computational Geometry (SoCG 2018), volume 99 of LIPIcs, pages 53:1–53:14. Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik, 2018.
  16. Rolf Niedermeier. Invitation to Fixed-Parameter Algorithms. Oxford Lecture Series in Mathematics and Its Applications. OUP Oxford, 2006.
  17. Takao Nishizeki and Md. Saidur Rahman. Planar Graph Drawing, volume 12 of Lecture Notes Series on Computing. World Scientific, 2004.
  18. Roberto Tamassia, editor. Handbook on Graph Drawing and Visualization. Chapman and Hall/CRC, 2013.
  19. Paul Turán. A note of welcome. Journal of Graph Theory, 1(1):7–9, 1977.
Summary text license
  Creative Commons BY 4.0
  Robert Ganian, Fabrizio Montecchiani, Martin Nöllenburg, and Meirav Zehavi

Related Dagstuhl-Seminar


  • Computational Geometry
  • Data Structures And Algorithms


  • Graph Drawing
  • Parameterized Complexity
  • Graph Algorithms
  • Exact Computation


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