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Ranker enhancement for proximity-based ranking of biomedical texts



Biomedical decision making often requires relevant evidence from the biomedical literature. Retrieval of the evidence calls for a system that receives a natural language query for a biomedical information need and, among the huge amount of texts retrieved for the query, ranks relevant texts higher for further processing. However, state-of-the-art text rankers have weaknesses in dealing with biomedical queries, which often consist of several correlating concepts and prefer those texts that completely talk about the concepts. In this article, we present a technique, Proximity-Based Ranker Enhancer (PRE), to enhance text rankers by term-proximity information. PRE assesses the term frequency (TF) of each term in the text by integrating three types of term proximity to measure the contextual completeness of query terms appearing in nearby areas in the text being ranked. Therefore, PRE may serve as a preprocessor for (or supplement to) those rankers that consider TF in ranking, without the need to change the algorithms and development processes of the rankers. Empirical evaluation shows that PRE significantly improves various kinds of text rankers, and when compared with several state-of-the-art techniques that enhance rankers by term-proximity information, PRE may more stably and significantly enhance the rankers.