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The celebrated Erdős-Pósa theorem states that every undirected graph that does not admit a family of $k$ vertex-disjoint cycles contains a feedback vertex set (a set of vertices hitting all cycles in the graph) of size $O(k\log k).$ After being known for as long as Younger’s conjecture, a similar statement for directed graphs has been proven in 1996 by Reed, Robertson, Seymour, and Thomas. However, in their proof, the dependency of the size of the feedback vertex set on the size of vertex-disjoint cycle packing is not elementary.

We show that if we compare the size of a minimum feedback vertex set in a directed graph with the quarter-integral cycle packing number, we obtain a polynomial bound. More precisely, we show that if in a directed graph $G$ there is no family of $k$ cycles such that every vertex of $G$ is in at most four of the cycles, then there exists a feedback vertex set in $G$ of size $O(k^4).$ On the way there we prove a more general result about quarter-integral packing of subgraphs of high directed treewidth: for every pair of positive integers $a$ and $b$, if a directed graph $G$ has directed treewidth $\Omega(a^6b^8\log^2(ab))$, then one can find in $G$ a family of $a$ subgraphs, each of directed treewidth at least $b$, such that every vertex of $G$ is in at most four subgraphs.

Joint work with Tomáš Masařík, Irene Muzi, Paweł Rzążewski, and Manuel Sorge.

About: Marcin Pilipczuk is a professor at the University of Warsaw. He graduated from the University of Warsaw in 2012, after which he had postdoc positions at the University of Warwick and at the University of Bergen. Before returning to Warsaw, he was a research fellow at Simons Institute for Theory of Computing.