Dynamic networks are widely used in the social, physical, and biological sciences as a concise mathematical representation of the evolving interactions in dynamic complex systems. Measuring distances between network snapshots is important for analyzing and understanding evolution processes of dynamic systems. To the best of our knowledge, however, existing network distance measures are designed for static networks. Therefore, when measuring the distance between any two snapshots in dynamic networks, valuable context structure information existing in other snapshots is ignored. To guide the construction of context-aware distance measures, we propose a context-aware distance paradigm, which introduces context information to enrich the connotation of the general definition of network distance measures. A Context-aware Spectral Distance (CSD) is then given as an instance of the paradigm by constructing a context-aware spectral representation to replace the core component of traditional Spectral Distance (SD). In a node-aligned dynamic network, the context effectively helps CSD gain mainly advantages over SD as follows: (1) CSD is not affected by isospectral problems; (2) CSD satisfies all the requirements of a metric, while SD cannot; and (3) CSD is computationally efficient. In order to process large-scale networks, we develop a kCSD that computes top-
k
eigenvalues to further reduce the computational complexity of CSD. Although kCSD is a pseudo-metric, it retains most of the advantages of CSD. Experimental results in two practical applications, i.e., event detection and network clustering in dynamic networks, show that our context-aware spectral distance performs better than traditional spectral distance in terms of accuracy, stability, and computational efficiency. In addition, context-aware spectral distance outperforms other baseline methods.