Natural Language and the Medical World

In Chapter 3 I described the increasing crisis in science where, over the last decade, there has been a major explosion in data, software and research publications. The explosion of the latter being particularly serious; researchers just don’t have the time to scan all the research results associated with their specialism.

A technology known as natural language processing has come to the rescue of cancer researchers.  Natural language research has a long pedigree: it involves developing computer programs that access free text, for example the text of a newspaper article or research paper, and then tries to understand what the text means. One application of natural language processing is to reduce long texts to a much smaller text which still contain the essential message of the former. Another application is that of trying to understand the text in some way.

Researchers at Cambridge University have developed a system that ‘reads’ medical papers and tries to understand them. Already there seems to have been a major breakthrough. Here’s the link to a Daily Telegraph story.

If you are interested in reading further this web site is a good start.


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