Calculating semantic relatedness for biomedical use in a knowledge-poor environment

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Background: Computing semantic relatedness between textual labels representing biological and medical concepts is a crucial task in many automated knowledge extraction and processing applications relevant to the biomedical domain, specifically due to the huge amount of new findings being published each year. Most methods benefit from making use of highly specific resources, thus reducing their usability in many real world scenarios that differ from the original assumptions. In this paper we present a simple resource-efficient method for calculating semantic relatedness in a knowledge-poor environment. The method obtains results comparable to state-of-the-art methods, while being more generic and flexible. The solution being presented here was designed to use only a relatively generic and small document corpus and its statistics, without referring to a previously defined knowledge base, thus it does not assume a 'closed' problem. Results: We propose a method in which computation for two input texts is based on the idea of comparing the vocabulary associated with the best-fit documents related to those texts. As keyterm extraction is a costly process, it is done in a preprocessing step on a 'per-document' basis in order to limit the on-line processing. The actual computations are executed in a compact vector space, limited by the most informative extraction results. The method has been evaluated on five direct benchmarks by calculating correlation coefficients w.r.t. average human answers. It also has been used on Gene - Disease and Disease- Disease data pairs to highlight its potential use as a data analysis tool. Apart from comparisons with reported results, some interesting features of the method have been studied, i.e. the relationship between result quality, efficiency and applicable trimming threshold for size reduction. Experimental evaluation shows that the presented method obtains results that are comparable with current state of the art methods, even surpassing them on a majority of the benchmarks. Additionally, a possible usage scenario for the method is showcased with a real-world data experiment. Conclusions: Our method improves flexibility of the existing methods without a notable loss of quality. It is a legitimate alternative to the costly construction of specialized knowledge-rich resources.




Rybinski, M., & Aldana-Montes, J. F. (2014). Calculating semantic relatedness for biomedical use in a knowledge-poor environment. BMC Bioinformatics, 15(14).

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