 Research article
 Open Access
Synonym set extraction from the biomedical literature by lexical pattern discovery
 John McCrae^{1}Email author and
 Nigel Collier^{1}
https://doi.org/10.1186/147121059159
© McCrae and Collier; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2008
Received: 09 August 2007
Accepted: 24 March 2008
Published: 24 March 2008
Abstract
Background
Although there are a large number of thesauri for the biomedical domain many of them lack coverage in terms and their variant forms. Automatic thesaurus construction based on patterns was first suggested by Hearst [1], but it is still not clear how to automatically construct such patterns for different semantic relations and domains. In particular it is not certain which patterns are useful for capturing synonymy. The assumption of extant resources such as parsers is also a limiting factor for many languages, so it is desirable to find patterns that do not use syntactical analysis. Finally to give a more consistent and applicable result it is desirable to use these patterns to form synonym sets in a sound way.
Results
We present a method that automatically generates regular expression patterns by expanding seed patterns in a heuristic search and then develops a feature vector based on the occurrence of term pairs in each developed pattern. This allows for a binary classifications of term pairs as synonymous or nonsynonymous. We then model this result as a probability graph to find synonym sets, which is equivalent to the wellstudied problem of finding an optimal set cover. We achieved 73.2% precision and 29.7% recall by our method, outperforming handmade resources such as MeSH and Wikipedia.
Conclusion
We conclude that automatic methods can play a practical role in developing new thesauri or expanding on existing ones, and this can be done with only a small amount of training data and no need for resources such as parsers. We also concluded that the accuracy can be improved by grouping into synonym sets.
Keywords
Background
Synonymy is one of the most important relations found between different terminology and is of critical importance for building high quality text mining systems for biomedical literature. Thesauri which list synonymous terms have been found to be useful for improving the results of information retrieval systems [2] and synonymy relations are encoded in many ontologies, for example Gene Ontology [3], and biological databases such as SWISSPROT [4]. General thesauri, such as WordNet, give relatively poor coverage of specialised domains and thesauri often do not exist for many languages and domains. Domain specific thesauri and ontologies are expensive to construct, due to the scarcity of human expert resources, and often do not give sufficient variants of terminology. Against this background, automatic discovery of synonymy relations between terms has been shown to be useful for both maintaining and expanding existing ontologies [5] and for constructing ontologies [6], however the accuracy of such methods remains a major issue.
There has been a large amount of interest in constructing thesauri and ontologies automatically, not only for synonymy relations, which we study here, but also for hypernymy (general/specific) relations. Several methods have been suggested, for example, in Morin & Jacquemin [7] they explore using term variation (for example "mouth cancer" vs. "cancer of the mouth"), to detect synonyms, but many synonymous terms are not simple variants, so this method is limited. Distributional similarity, that is identifying terms by other terms which occur in close proximity, has also been shown to be effective for identifying synonymy, most notably the Latent Semantic Analysis method of Cederberg & Widdows [8]. As shown in Dumais et al [9], this can be used to improve the recall of a synonym classifier although at the cost of its precision. This method however lacks the ability to differentiate between specific semantic relations (for example synonymy, hypernymy, agent/disease).
Hearst [1] used patterns including "X such as Y" to detect a hypernymy relation between terms, however she chose these patterns by hand. Due to issues of accuracy and scalability to other relations, some work has gone into constructing these patterns automatically, notably in Snow et al [10]. Their pattern extractor was based on using a dependency grammar and so requires a grammar and a parser, which will limit applicability to those few languages where large coverage parsers have been developed. They then generated a large number of patterns and classified them by a logistic regressionbased method. Finally they attempted to improve their results by using distributional similarity [11]. They also used a number of handchosen synonymy patterns to detect potential synonyms and used this to improve their detection rate. An attempt to find gene and protein name synonyms was explored in Yu et al [12], again they manually chose their patterns.
One of the disadvantages of most of these approaches is that they give only binary classification rather than outputting synonym sets. For practical applications of this problem a simple list of synonymous terms is much more desirable for several reasons, firstly the results are much simpler and easier to store and work with, as you need only list the groups instead of the synonymy relation between each pair. Also the result is selfconsistent, so we will not get a result that X is synonymous to Y, which is synonymous to Z, but not that X is synonymous to Z. This may cause problems in applications where only a single term is use to represent the synset, for example a method based on usage of an ontology may require one main term for the synset. An attempt at improving the result of a term similarity classifier by graph clustering was explored in IbekweSanjuan & Sanjuan [13], however their method was not based on probabilities and the clustering method suggested would lead to questionable behaviours such as grouping a synset when the vast majority of links are not indicative of synonymy, hence the classifier must have a very high precision. Our work is most closely related to the work in Snow et al [10] for automatically discovering hypernyms. In order to find these patterns we chose to develop a system based on Soderland's WHISK system [14] as it is uses regular expression matching and so requires no prior knowledge of the syntax of the language. There they started with a base pattern consisting only of "*"s and slots and grew the pattern by replacing each of these "*"s with a word from their corpus. They then attempt to find a set of patterns which maximises the overall performance. We also wish to investigate this method in specific domains, and see if it is still feasible with a smaller seed set as the seed set in Snow et al [10] was the entirety of WordNet. For our experiment we chose to focus on the disease control domain, but our method could easily be applied to many domains in biomedicine or other areas. We used the number of matches of each pattern for each term pair, to create a feature vector which could be used to statistically classify each term pair as synonymous or not. Finally we used probabilistic analysis to find the most likely set of synsets, based on modelling the output of the classifier as a probability graph.
Data Collection
For our experiment we decided to use an existing ontology to provide a training set from which our system could develop patterns and then train a classifier. Our training set was drawn from the English section of the BioCaster ontology [15]. This ontology was put together by life scientists and its terms relate to some of the most important infectious diseases currently being tracked by epidemiologists. BioCaster was developed for the search and analysis of Internet news and research literature to enable the timely detection of possible disease outbreaks. As such it contains a range of lay terms and technical terms, and we choose 4 categories of terminology from the ontology: infectious diseases, symptoms (of infectious diseases), agents (e.g. viruses, bacteria) and hosts (e.g. mammals, birds). This was useful as it gave us an accurate basis of terminology relating to a specific biomedical domain.
 1.
Modifiers: Terms often appear with modifiers, such as "acute headache," and although many ontologies would list this as a property of the disease or symptom we decided to list terms separately. It is important to be careful not to confuse this with modifiers which do not change the meaning of the term, for example "mental retardation." More information on the effect of modifiers can be found in Bodenreider et al [17].
 2.
Granularity: Many terms may turn out to be used interchangeably as the difference in meaning is rarely important. An example of this is "HIV1," which as the most common strain of HIV is often simply referred to as "HIV," however as these subtle differences in meaning may prove to be important we decided to separate such terms
 3.
Domainspecific:
 (a)
Method of Transmission: We decided to list terms differing in method of transmission separately, for example "hospitalacquired MRSA."
 (b)
Point of Infection: Terms that differ in only the point of infection were decided not to be synonymous, for example "syphilis" and "neurosyphilis."
 (c)
Progression of Disease: It was decided that terms used to describe a disease at a more advanced stage were not synonymous with the disease, for example "dengue fever" may develop into the more serious "dengue shock syndrome."
In total the BioCaster database consisted of 450 terms, grouped into 244 synsets, and containing 477 synonym pairs, similarly the test set consisted of 301 terms, 221 synsets and 101 synonym pairs, of which it shared 35 terms and 16 synonym pairs with the BioCaster database. We also had a second annotator group our 301 test terms into synonym groups and this list showed κ = 68.6% Cohen's agreement with our list, which illustrates that this problem is complicated by very subtle differences in meaning between our terms. We then extracted a large corpus from which we can build patterns and statistics. We simply did this by querying every term in both our training and test sets in the PubMed database. We chose the top 250 abstracts for each term ranked according to Entrez search's ranking, discarding any duplicate documents. This gave us a corpus consisting of 83,492 documents, and 1,506,042 sentences of which term pairs in our training set were found in 46,216 sentences.
Method
We decided the best solution would be to first generate a large number of patterns using the training set. For each possible term pair we generate a feature vector which represents the frequency of matching that term pair using each of the patterns generated. This feature vector is then classified, and the posterior probability used in our synset formation algorithm described below.
It should be noted that we used the number of term pairs to calculate these scores, which gives a lower value than might be expected. For example if 4 terms were correctly identified out of a synset of 8 terms, then only 6 out of 28 synonym pairs have been identified, so the score is only 21.4% even though 50% of the terminology was recognised.
Pattern Generation
Pattern Generation Algorithm
Input: A set of base patterns P, a set of training term pairs $S=\{({t}_{1},{t}_{2}),\mathrm{...}({t}_{n},{{t}^{\prime}}_{n})\}$, a corpus C.
 1.
Add all the base patterns with a heuristic score to a heap H.
 2.
For a fixed number of iterations
 (a)
Select a pattern, p, with maximal score in H.
 (b)
Find all matches of this pattern using all term pairs in S in the corpus C
 (c)
For each * or (space) in p, find all matching strings in the corpus
 (d)
For each match to each * or (space), add a new pattern to H
 3.
Output patterns H sorted by score
We let the algorithm run for a fixed number of iterations, we chose this number to find approximately 10 times the number of patterns we plan to use in our classification.
Synonymy Classification
To generate the feature vectors we found that many of the patterns were inflexible and matched very rarely, to combat this we simply allowed * and (space) to match ε, the empty string, by which we mean that allow a match with any of the *s or (space) s omitted. This allowed patterns such as # (* #) to match not only "term (or abbrev)," but also "term (abbrev)." We found this greatly improved the recall and the precision of the result.
We would expect some of the patterns generated to produce reasonably good precision and some relatively good recall, however by combining these all together we should be able to get a much better overall result. For this reason we view the problem as a statistical classification problem.
Once we have generated a number of patterns we simple use these to generate a feature vector for each synonym pair, this is simply given by the number of matches of pattern with the #s matching the terms in the candidate synonym pair. Although this in theory would require $\frac{n}{2}$(n  1) feature vectors for n terms, in fact most pairs of terms do not occur close to each other at all in the corpus so they can be dropped (and their probabilities gained by classifying the zero vector). For our experiment we used the top 6000 patterns from the pattern generation algorithm. This then becomes a standard statistical classification problem, to which any statistical classification algorithm can be applied. We experimented with naïve Bayes, logistic regression, C4.5 and support vector machines with a number of kernel choices. We found that only logistic regression gave a useful spread of probabilities that could be used for synset formation so we built the synsets first with these probabilities and then we used logistic regression on the output of the strongest classifier (SVM).
Synset formation
where P_{ ij }is the probability of the terms corresponding to i and j being synonymous as given by some statistical classification method (and P_{ ii }= 1). Note this logarithmic form is used as it is easier for further calculations and many of the output probabilities from our classifier were near 0 or 1. We also define the internode cost, c_{ ij }asc_{ ij }= log(P_{ ij }) + log(P_{ ji })  log(1  P_{ ij })  log(1  P_{ ji })
As the number of potential synsets is 2^{ N }, we can greatly reduce this problem by finding a small set of potential synsets I such that I* ⊂ I ⊂ P({1..N}). Fortunately the majority of the output probabilities P_{ ij }are very small, so we can hope to have significant success by generating the set I by a branch and bound algorithm. We find a condition when a set and all of its supersets are not optimal by observing that J ∉ I* if c(J ∪ {k}) <c(J) + c({k}) for some k ∈ I.
 1.
∑_{i∈J}c_{ ik }< 0
 2.
∑_{i∈J}c_{ ik }> max_{V'⊂V}∑_{i∈V'}c_{ ik }
Proof: Follows directly from the inequality c(K) <c(K\{k}) + c({k})
This is very useful as the set V' is simply the set for which c_{ ik }is positive.
We also notice that it is possible to divide the problem by using the following lemma
Lemma 2: If J {1..N} and K ⊂ {1..N} (J ∩ K = ∅) are such that ∀_{j∈J}∀_{k∈K}c_{ jk }< 0, then there does not exist ∅ ⊂ J' ⊆ J and ∅ ⊂ K' ⊆ K such that J' ∪ K' ∈ I*.
Proof: Follows from c(J' ∪ K') <c(J') + c(K')
Number of synsets generated by different heuristics
No Heuristics  4.0 × 10^{90} 

Branch & Bound  5,102,802 
Connected Components  1,909,264 
CC then B&B  16,629 
Final Algorithm  1,689 
Matrix Generation Algorithm
 1.
J = ∅
 2.
For each connected component V in {1... N}
 (a)
Sort V by ∑_{k = 1...N}c_{ ik }
 (b)
generate_matrix(J, V)
 1.
While length(V) > 0
 (a)
k = shift(V)
 (b)
if(J = 0 or ∑_{i∈J}c_{ ik }> 0 or ∑_{i∈J}c_{ ik }<max_{V'⊂V}∑_{i∈V'}, c_{ ik })
 i.
add J ∪ {k} to I
 ii.
generate_matrix(J ∪ {k}, V)
 (c)
if(J ∪ V has more than one connected component)
 i.
for each connected component, C, with C ∩ J > 0 and C ∩ V > 0: generate_matrix(J, C ∩ V)
 ii.
end
Solving the synset problem
We also form a vector c where c_{ k }= c(I_{ k }) and now finding an exact cover is equivalent to finding the integer vector, x, which maximises c^{ T }x subject toAx = 1
This is a well studied problem, and finding this vector x can be viewed as a branch and bound problem and attacked through the Dancing Links algorithm [18]. This algorithm uses a sparse matrix formation to efficiently remove infeasible row choices, and combined with a branch and bound algorithm can very effectively find optimal solutions. The branch and bound simply discards any partial solution when the most it costs is guaranteed to be less than the best solution found so far. This maximum cost can be found by simply tabulating the best clique available for each unsatisfied column in the matrix. More advanced algorithm use either linear relaxation (that is allowing x to take noninteger values and solving with the simplex algorithm), or Lagrangian relaxation with subgradient optimisation [19] to estimate this upper bound, however we did not find this necessary for our data sets.
Therefore it now follows that the complexity of this problem is primarily dependent on the size of the largest connected component. In a standard ErdősRényi random graph this grows logarithmically if the probability of an edge existing between a pair of nodes is less than n^{1} as in our problem. Although our problem is not truly equivalent to an ErdősRényi random graph, the false positive links between different synsets can be reasonably modelled by an ErdősRényi graph. Still the complexity of the largest connected component B_{c log(n)}is not polynomial so it is still possible that we may not be able to find the optimal solution for larger test sets, however this would only affect the largest connected components, which as the test set grows larger would represent fewer of the terms and so fewer of the links. In this case we can solve most of the problem exactly, and some of it approximately to give a good overall solution.
Results
Comparison to Encyclopedia/Thesaurus
 1.
Wikipedia (redirect): Wikipedia uses a redirect table for terms which should direct to the same article, if this is used the text "(Redirected from ...)" appears beneath the title. Hence we classified two terms as synonyms if they redirected to the same page. For example (example works as of 7 November 2007) the Wikipedia page for "WNV" is the same as the page for "West Nile virus"
 2.
Wikipedia (search): An alternative way to use Wikipedia is to take the top search term using Wikipedia's search engine. Again we classified two terms as the same if they had the same top search result.
 3.
Medline Encyclopedia: Many articles in the Medline Encyclopedia, had an "Alternative Names" section, which combined with the title of the article gave us synsets. This gave us a good set of medical terminology however it did not cover animals and animal diseases.
Encyclopedia Results (with standard error at 90%)
Precision  Recall  FMeasure  Coverage  

Wikipedia (redirect)  46.4 ± 10.9%  18.8 ± 5.7%  26.8 ± 7.1%  54.1 ± 4.7% 
Wikipedia (search)  40.1 ± 8.5%  24.6 ± 6.3%  30.9 ± 6.8%  56.1 ± 4.7% 
WordNet  100 ± 0.0%  6.9 ± 3.7%  13.0 ± 6.4%  38.0 ± 4.6% 
Medline Encyc.  66.7 ± 30.4%  4.0 ± 2.9%  7.5 ± 5.2%  28.1 ± 4.3% 
MeSH  61.6 ± 13.8%  15.8 ± 5.3%  25.2 ± 7.4%  55.1 ± 4.7% 
UMLS  94.0 ± 4.8%  46.5 ± 7.3%  62.3 ± 6.8%  79.7 ± 3.8% 
 1.
Failing to find a term
 2.
Producing an entry for the disease caused by the virus, bacteria etc. or vica versa
 3.
Producing a match that was totally irrelevant e.g. FPV, an abbreviation of "feline parvovirus" in biomedicine, but Wikipedia instead produces a page on "Ford Performance Vehicles" (as of 24 July 2007, after our data was obtained, a disambiguation page is shown).
 4.
Matching a term that was broader or narrower than the one requested e.g. vCJD was matched as CJD
 5.
Some disagreement about synonymy of terms, see the guidelines at the beginning of the data collection section.
Experiment Results
First for our evaluation we used a naïve classifier we will call the occurrence classifier, which simply decided that two terms were synonymous if they cooccurred in any of our patterns. This unsurprisingly gives a very low precision but also the recall is only 63.4%, which will limit the recall of any method we try to use on this data. We found that 78.3% of these nonoccurring term pairs, involved one or more term which matched less than 100 articles on PubMed. This suggests that this value may be very close to a limit of the recall of the method.
Individual pattern results and example matches (†: suggested in Yu et al [12]; *erroneous term pair; terms identified)
Pattern  Precision  Recall  FMeasure 

* of # (* * * #) * *  63.6 ± 10.5%  17.3 ± 4.4%  27.2 ± 6.0% 
overview of avian influenza (a.k.a. bird flu) and phases  
# (#)†  79.4 ± 11.4%  13.4 ± 3.9%  22.9 ± 6.0% 
communityacquired MRSA (CAMRSA)  
of * # (* #) * *  65.1 ± 11.8%  13.9 ± 4.0%  22.9 ± 6.0% 
of nonsevere acute respiratory syndrome (NonSARS)related human  
and # * (# *  75.0 ± 11.8%  13.4 ± 4.0%  22.7 ± 6.0% 
and hepatitis C virus infection (HCV) and  
*, * # * (# * *  60.0 ± 11.9%  13.4 ± 4.0%  21.9 ± 5.8% 
septicemia, anthrax, swine fever (hog cholera), and  
against # (* #  64.0 ± 15.9%  7.9 ± 3.1%  14.1 ± 5.2% 
against enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (or ETEC  
prevalence of # * #  26.9 ± 8.8%  8.9 ± 3.3%  13.4 ± 4.7% 
*prevalence of FeLV and FIV prevalence of paratuberculosis (ie, Johne's Disease)  
patients with # * * * * # * *  12.8 ± 5.0%  7.4 ± 3.0%  9.4 ± 3.7% 
patients with HTLVassociated myelopathy (HAM)/tropical spastic paraparesis (TSP)  
* * # * known as #†  20.0 ± 33.8%  0.5 ± 0.8%  1.0 ± 1.6% 
*an atypical pneumonia, also known as severe acute respiratory syndrome  
#/#†  25.0 ± 21.4%  1.5 ± 1.4%  2.8 ± 2.6% 
*HIV/AIDS HTLVassociated myelopathy/tropical spastic paraparesis  
#, #†  1.7 ± 0.2%  63.4 ± 5.6%  3.3 ± 0.3% 
*measles,mumps, rubella vaccine due to efforts to eradicate poliomyelitis, polio cases have fallen 
We then tried several statistical pattern recognition algorithms (we used the WEKA implementations [25] in all cases), finally grouping the results into synsets based on the outputted probability of the logistic regression and SVM regression classifier by the method described above. The pattern generation took 51 hours on an Dual Core 1.66 GHz processor with 512 MB of memory, then a further 33 hours to generate feature vectors, but we feel that this could be vastly improved by the use of some kind of indexing of the corpus. The classification took 85 seconds and the synset formation about 5 seconds when based on the SVM Regression data and about 127 seconds when based on the logistic regression probabilities, this was due to more positive links in this data set, hence a larger maximum connected component.
In Figure 4 we calculated the experimental results that would be outputted if we stopped the synonym set solver before we had found the optimal solution. This illustrates that the theoretical cost c(...) is correlated to the experimental FMeasure, so better theoretical solutions produce better actual results. Looking at the main results (Table 4) we see the grouping the results in synsets improves the results in terms of totally synonymous results, and although the standard error is large we find the difference is significant at a 99% level using the ptest as described in Yeh [26]. Also the results after synset grouping appeared to be closer, so we analysed the results according to the degree of relation

Modified: Terms differed by inclusion of a modifier

Variant: We defined this precisely as any organism term referring to organisms of the same species, for example "feline infectious peritonitis virus" which is a mutation of "feline enteric coronavirus". Also we defined this as diseases caused by the same agent but at different stages of progression, for example "dengue fever", which may develop into "dengue hemorrhagic fever"

Method of Transmission/Point of Infection (MoT/PoI): These are diseases (and agents causing them) which differ only in method of transmission, for example "hospitalacquired", or point of infection.

Agent/Disease: One term refers to a disease and the second to an agent causing that disease

Hypernym: The terms showed a clear hypernym/hyponym relation that was not covered by the above groups.
Results by classifiers (with standard error at 90%)
Precision  Recall  FMeasure  

Occurrence  1.7 ± 0.2%  63.4 ± 7.0%  3.3 ± 3.7% 
Naïve Bayes  30.6 ± 5.3%  37.5 ± 7.1%  33.8 ± 5.7% 
Logistic Regression  40.8 ± 7.6%  29.7 ± 6.6%  34.2 ± 6.6% 
C4.5  74.1 ± 11.7%  21.3 ± 6.0%  33.1 ± 7.8% 
SVM  82.2 ± 10.5%  22.8 ± 6.1%  35.7 ± 7.9% 
Logistic Regression & Synset Formation  39.6 ± 6.7%  35.6 ± 6.9%  37.5 ± 6.3% 
SVM & Synset Formation  73.2 ± 9.8%  29.7 ± 6.7%  42.3 ± 7.7% 
Analysis of Errors
Correct  Modified  Variant  

Binary  40.8%  1.4%  7.5% 
Synset  39.6%  0%  12.1% 
MoT/PoI  Agent/Disease  Hypernym  Error 
7.5%  12.9%  2.0%  29.3% 
9.9%  17.6%  3.3%  17.6% 
Examples of automatically generated synsets
["CAMRSA", "communityacquired MRSA", "methicillinresistant Staphylococcus aureus", "MRSA", "methicillinresistant Staphylococcus" ] – MoT/PoI errors 

["Litopenaeus vannamei", "shrimp" ] – Hypernym relations 
["Yersinia pestis", "Plague" ] – Disease/Agent errors 
["dengue shock syndrome", "DHF", "dengue hemorrhagic fever", "dengue", "dengue fever" ] – Variant terms 
["rubella", "mumps", "measles" ] – Other relation (there is a widelyused triple vaccine for these diseases) 
Discussion
In this work we decided to use terms that we found from actual texts as opposed to using a taxonomic thesaurus such as WordNet. This meant that it was difficult to create a test set and as we only found 101 synonymous term pairs we ended up with very large standard errors. It should be noted that for results with low recall the number of results found was so small that we would require a very large test set to accurately estimate the precision. However we found that our results are in line with previous work on both manual and automatic pattern discovery and this indicates that a good result is still obtainable without the use of syntactic knowledge or very large test sets.
Our pattern generation method developed a number of interesting patterns and identified parentheses as the strongest indicator of synonymy (which by itself scored 22.9% FMeasure, see Table 2). It also found several domain specific patterns suggesting the effectiveness of generating separate patterns for specific domains. Syntaxfree patterns were also generated allowing application to resourcepoor languages, however this does rely on the terms which we wish to find having already been identified. In our experimental setup we inputted terminology that had been manually extracted from PubMed abstracts. There exist many named entity extractors which would allow us to completely automate the whole process and develop a large set of noun phrases for our method to classify, hence we could automatically develop a large thesaurus which would be easy to manually check for errors. One of the more surprising results we saw was that most of the patterns we generated seemed to be of quite high precision, which was unexpected as the scoring metric we chose to use in our search was biased towards patterns with a high recall. The question of how we could generate patterns with higher recall is an interesting one and deserves further study.
Conclusion
We conclude that for domains with a large amount of specific vocabulary most of the resources we studied perform worse than the automatic method we have developed here. Also given the amount of effort required to manually construct a resource, automatic thesaurus construction may prove more useful in many situations, either to aid construction or in replacement of manual construction. More importantly we have shown that we can easily automatically find patterns and we do not require any prior knowledge of the language's grammar in order to do this. Even though the patterns we generated were weak by themselves we showed that by statistically combining them we can get a much stronger result. We have also shown that we do not need to know a large number of synsets to develop an accurate classifier; this implies most importantly that this method can be used quickly on a different language. We tested our method on only a limited domain but we feel it would likely generalize well to other domains. Our novel synset grouping method not only converted the result to something more applicable, but also improved on the results for both a strict definition of synonymy, and a more relaxed definition.
We think given the logical/probabilistic framework for synset formation that the model we described should be applicable to other relations (for example hypernymy) and even combinations of relations. However solving this model efficiently and whether this will improve the result for actual data is an issue for future work.
Declarations
Acknowledgements
This work was supported by the MEXT scholarship. We would like to thank all in the BioCaster project, including Lihua Jin for her useful discussions on the BioCaster ontology and her role as secondary annotator for our test set.
Authors’ Affiliations
References
 Hearst M: Automatic Acquisition of Hyponyms from Large Text Corpora. In Proc of the Fourteenth International Conference on Computational Linguistics. Nantes, France; 1992:539–545.Google Scholar
 Gonzalo J, Verdejo F, Chugur I, Cigarran J: Indexing with WordNet synsets can improve Text Retrieval. In Proceedings of the COLING/ACL '98 Workshop on Usage of WordNet for NLP. Montreal, Canada; 1998:38–44.Google Scholar
 Ashburner M, Ball C, Blake J, Botstein D, Butler H, Cherry J, Davis A, Dolinski K, Dwight S, Eppig J, Harris M, Hill D, IsselTarver L, Kasarskis A, Lewis S, Matese J, Richardson J, Ringwald M, Rubin G, Sherlock G: Gene ontology: tool for the unification of biology. The Gene Ontology Consortium. Nature Genetics 2000, 25: 25–9.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
 Bairoch A, Apweiler R: The SWISSPROT protein sequence database and its supplement TrEMBL in 2000. Nucl Acids Res 2000, 28: 45–48.PubMed CentralView ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar
 Valarakos A, Paliouras G, Karkaletsis V, Vouros G: Enhancing Ontological Knowledge through ontology population and enrichment. Engineering knowledge in the age of the Semantic Web 2004, 1: 144–156.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
 Kietz JU, Maedche A, Volz R: A Method for semiautomatic ontology acquisition from a corporate intranet. In Proc of Workshop Ontologies and Text, colocated with EKAW'2000. JuanLesPins, France; 2000:37–50.Google Scholar
 Morin E, Jacquemin C: Automatic Acquisition and Expansion of Hypernym Links. Computers and the Humanities 2004, 38: 363–396.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
 Dumais S, Furnais G, Landauer T: Indexing by Latent Semantic Analysis. American Society for Information Science 1990, 41(6):391–407.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
 Cederberg S, Widdows D: Using LSA and Noun Coordination Information to Improve the Precision and Recall of Automatic Hyponymy Extraction. In Proc of Seventh International Conference of Computational Natural Language Learning. Edmonton, Canada; 2003:111–118.Google Scholar
 Snow R, Jurafsky D, Ng A: Learning syntactic patterns for automatic hypernym discovery. In Proc of Neural Information Processing Systems. Vancouver, Canada; 2004:1297–1304.Google Scholar
 Pereira F, Tishby N, Lee L: Distributional Clustering of English Words. In Proc of ACL1993. Columbus, Ohio, USA; 1993:183–190.Google Scholar
 Yu H, Hatzivassiloglou V, Friedman C, Rzhetsky A, Wilbur WJ: Automatic extraction of gene and protein synonyms from MEDLINE and journal articles. Proc AMIA Symp 2002, 919–923.Google Scholar
 IbekweSanjuan F, Sanjuan E: Mining Textual Data through Term Variant Clustering: the TermWatch System. In Proc of Recherche d'Information Assistée par Ordinateur. Avignon, France; 2004:487–503.Google Scholar
 Soderland S: Learning Information Extraction Rules for Semistructured and free texts. Machine Learning 2004, 34(1–3):233–272.Google Scholar
 Collier N, Kawazoe A, Jin L, Shigematsu M, Dien D, Barrero R, Takeuchi K, Kawtrakul A: A multilingual ontology for infectious disease outbreak surveillance: rationale, design and challenges. Journal of Language Resources and Evaluation 2007, 40(3):405–413.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
 Burgun A, Bodenreider O: Comparing terms, concepts and semantic classes in WordNet and the Unified Medical Language System. In Proc of NAACL'2001 Workshop, "WordNet and Other Lexical Resources: Applications, Extensions and Customizations". Pittsburgh, PA, USA; 2001:77–82.Google Scholar
 Bodenreider O, Burgun A, Rindflesch TC: Lexicallysuggested hyponymic relations among medical terms and their representation in the UMLS. In Proc of TIA'2001 "Terminology and Artificial Intelligence". Nancy, France; 2001:11–21.Google Scholar
 Knuth DE: Dancing Links. Millenial Perspectives in Computer Science 2000, 1: 187–214.Google Scholar
 Caprara A, Fischetti M, Toth P: A Heuristic Method for the Set Covering Problem. Operations Research 1999, 47(5):730–743.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
 Milne D, Medelyan O, Witten IH: Mining Domain Specific Thesauri from Wikipedia: A case study. Proc of the InternationalConference on Web Intelligence 2006, 442–448.Google Scholar
 WordNet[http://wordnet.princeton.edu/]
 Medline Encyclopedia[http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/encyclopedia.html]
 MeSH[http://www.nlm.nih.gov/mesh/]
 UMLS[http://umlsinfo.nlm.nih.gov]
 WEKA[http://www.cs.waikato.ac.nz/ml/weka/]
 Yeh A: More accurate tests for the statistical significance of result differences. In Proceedings of the 18th conference on Computational linguistics. Morristown, NJ, USA; 2000:947–953.View ArticleGoogle Scholar
Copyright
This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.