Tropical cyclone or ISU Cyclone? Semantic science search engine knows that there is a difference

Feb 04, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Almost everyone who has used a major internet search engine has had the same experience: Search for "Dodge convertible" and 0.16 seconds later you have 4.3 million links to web pages on dodge ball, Dodge City and convertible debt instruments.

Noesis, a new semantic web search engine developed at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, won't help you find the perfect Charger ragtop, but it is helping scientists who study the environment retrieve the research data they need. It has the potential to help scientists and researchers in many other fields perform more focused and productive searches.

"This is the first semantic scientific search tool, the first time something like this has been used for science," said Dr. Rahul Ramachandran, a research scientist in UAHuntsville's Information Technology and Systems Center.

Noesis replaces the simple word-or-phrase matching search used by most search engines with a discipline-specific semantic "ontology," or knowledge base.

Using Noesis, for instance, an aquatic botantist searching for Mobile Bay sea grass might get a list of additional terms narrowing the search based on taxonomy, location or water type, while filtering out websites offering sea grass mats, oils and lotions that leave your skin silky smooth.

Both the terminology and the structure of relationships between terms in the ontology help Noesis narrow a search to items related to the specific field of study. The algorithm might not understand the difference between tropical cyclone and Iowa State Cyclone, but it will recognize that there is a difference.

"Building an ontology is not an insignificant task," Ramachandran said. "Usually you get the experts together, then they argue and decide what concepts and information to include, and how it is organized. Then we encode it so our system can take it and use it."

While it narrows the search terms, Noesis also broadens the search by adding datasets and scientific publications not routinely included in web searches.

"There are some things you have to configure for a particular domain, such as the specific journals and major data catalogues," said Ramachandran. "It gets complicated fast."

Even in scientific circles, the semantic search has advantages: "In some datasets they might refer to one set of readings as temperature while another site might use sea surface temperature or SST. With a normal search engine you would never see one if you search for the other. What we have is the ontology that does all of that matching for you."

While the first three projects using the Noesis system are all related to meteorology or environmental science, Ramachandran says the system can be adapted to any branch of science or research.

"Everything is the same except the ontology," he said. "It can be configured to different domains for different projects. The hope for the future is there will be a growth of these small ontologies."

Provided by University of Alabama in Huntsville

Explore further: Berkeley team explores sound for indoor localization

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sapphire talk enlivens guesswork over iPhone 6

3 hours ago

Sapphire screens for the next iPhone? Sapphire is second only to diamond in hardness scratch-proof properties, used in making LEDs, missiles sensors, and on screens for luxury-tier phones. Last year, the ...

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

6 hours ago

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

Recommended for you

How to secure the cloud

13 hours ago

For many of us, the primary reason we use "the cloud" is for storage—whether it's storing email through services like Gmail and Yahoo!, photos on Flickr, or personal documents on Dropbox. Many organizations ...

Berkeley team explores sound for indoor localization

18 hours ago

The global positioning system, or GPS, has its limitations—namely, it cannot work indoors. Potential solutions for indoor positioning continue to fire up the imaginations of scientists. The latest news ...

Taking great ideas from the lab to the fab

Jul 31, 2014

A "valley of death" is well-known to entrepreneurs—the lull between government funding for research and industry support for prototypes and products. To confront this problem, in 2013 the National Science ...

User comments : 0