Maximizing transformation between people and information using ontology: Discovering anaerobic microbiology through ontological relationships



The poster will present our new and promising work which seeks to improve access to scientific information by transforming the information seeking behaviors of scientists into an information retrieval system that organizes scientific information based on ontological relationships. Ontologically driven information retrieval (ONTOIR) systems are based on semantic relationships among the information resources indexed therein and have been shown to improve information searching when compared to traditional thesaurus based systems (Yi 2006). By gathering input from domain experts in a specialized field of biology, anaerobic microbiology, that has roots in agriculture yet has wide ranging applications in medicine, ecology, and, biotechnology, about the terms and concepts used to search the research literature, a map of the relationships among articles citing the body of research of a pioneer in the field of anaerobic microbiology will be generated. Maximizing knowledge of how microbiologists look for information will allows us to structure and organize the journal articles within the ONTOIR system in a manner that reflects the ways working scientists currently conceptualize their literature. Scientists' ability to locate a specific journal publication and to stay abreast with current developments in their field is complicated by the seemingly endless, and ever growing, volume of scientific information. Development of information retrieval systems first based on user needs prior to designing strategies to represent and retrieve information was originally called for over 25 years ago by Belkin (1980), but has yet to be fully realized. Organizing the literature within an ONTOIR system that capitalizes on user information behavior is predicted to facilitate the location of wanted information plus the discovery of new and innovative areas of research and development that may not have been possible using traditional thesaurus based systems. Upon development of the anaerobic microbiology ONTOIR system, the influence of the incorporation of ontology on the success of a search for research articles from the system will be tested. Indices of success will include: the number of articles retrieved; the relevancy of the articles retrieved; the time spent searching, and the anaerobic microbiologists' satisfaction of the search results.



Microbiology professors whose primary field of study is anaerobic microbiology serve as domain experts by providing the terms and concepts which reflect the ways they conceptualize their field. The professors participated in a 30-minute audio-recorded interview about their information seeking patterns and preferences. The professors were asked to sketch a concept map of their specific area within the field of anaerobic microbiology. This information is used to inform the manner in which the content within the ONTOIR system is organized. As the ONTOIR system is being built, the professors' input will again be solicited to assist in the validation of the structure of the ONTOIR system.

Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows whose field of research involves anaerobic microbiology will evaluate the final ONTOIR system. Forty graduate students and postdoctoral fellows will participate in one 60-minute usability study. Following a 5 to 10 minute introduction to the ONTOIR system participants will be asked to search for anaerobic microbiology research articles and the searches will be recorded using screen capture software. Upon finishing the searches participants will complete a printed survey about their opinions of the anaerobic microbiology ONTOIR system.

Development of the ONTOIR:

Development of the anaerobic microbiology ONTOIR system is illustrated below (Figure 1). The ontology for anaerobic microbiology was created through analysis of domains, and extractions of key concepts from keywords, subject headings, and abstracts from the 10 most cited articles of a pioneer in the of anaerobic microbiology, Marvin P. Bryant, and the articles citing them during the past 5 years. The terms are organized into: top, broad, narrow, related, preferred, and non-preferred terms. Three relationships: (1) equivalence, (2) hierarchical, and (3) associative, are used to collocate the resources (ANSI 2005). Associative relationships are implemented by adding both associative relationships between terms belonging to the same hierarchy and associative relationships between terms belonging to different hierarchies. XML Topic Maps are employed to implement the ontology. Omnigator, an openly accessible topic map browser, will be used to navigate the anaerobic microbiology ONTOIR (2005).

Figure 1.

Development of the Anaerobic Microbiology ONTOIR System

Significance of the Project

This project transforms scientists' conceptualization of the relationships among topics in their field of research into the structure of an online information retrieval system. Development of such as system is significant as scientists' quest for relevant and timely information is becoming increasingly complicated by the ever-growing amount and intricacy of scientific research. Building meaningful and rich semantic relationships among scientific resources holds the promise of allowing researchers to find scientific information effectively and efficiently.


This research is supported by the University of Oklahoma's College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Enrichment Grant Program.