How can we stand on the shoulders of giants?

The Watson computer, being used to analyses research papers in the medical field. Credit: IBM

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants" said Newton to explain how he came to his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. 

The problem we are facing today is that there are too many shoulders and many of them are as useful, important, as the few of the giants that we still have nowadays.

A researcher in the field of medicine today has a tremendous number of shoulders that can make her start more effective and from a higher altitude. Every 30" a new research paper is published (and the frequency keeps increasing) but it takes at least a hour to read (and understand) a paper. This means that by the time she has finished to read the paper 120 more papers are available. Finding the right shoulders to stand on is getting more and more difficult.

Baylor College of medicine and IBM researchers have been working to make easier to find the right "shoulders": they have created a Knowledge Integration Toolkit, KnITbased on Watson (the IBM computer that won Jeopardy), that provide an integrated access to the over 50 million papers in medical research literature integrating the facts reported into a more manageable knowledge base. The toolkit is capable of automated reasoning and hypotheses generation. This is very important for researchers where usually being able to formulate the right question (hypotheses) is crucial.

KnIT is based on a more general tool developed by IBM, the Advisory Support, able to crunch and extract/generate information from the millions of scientific papers published every year.

My bet is that we are going to see more and more of this information extraction tools/services becoming available in the coming years and these will move the web landscape to the next level, from data to semantics. Notice that the need for information will remain unchanged, information is what I need to know here and now, the difference is that the information will be derived from a semantic web rather than from today's web.

This is an area where clearly the big guns, like Google, Yahoo, Badoo have the upper hand but it is also an area where innovation and yet unknown start ups have the opportunity of changing next decade landscape.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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