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BMC Bioinformatics. 2006 Aug 7;7:370.

Automatic document classification of biological literature.

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  • 1Division of Biology and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA. davidc@caltech.edu



Document classification is a wide-spread problem with many applications, from organizing search engine snippets to spam filtering. We previously described Textpresso, a text-mining system for biological literature, which marks up full text according to a shallow ontology that includes terms of biological interest. This project investigates document classification in the context of biological literature, making use of the Textpresso markup of a corpus of Caenorhabditis elegans literature.


We present a two-step text categorization algorithm to classify a corpus of C. elegans papers. Our classification method first uses a support vector machine-trained classifier, followed by a novel, phrase-based clustering algorithm. This clustering step autonomously creates cluster labels that are descriptive and understandable by humans. This clustering engine performed better on a standard test-set (Reuters 21578) compared to previously published results (F-value of 0.55 vs. 0.49), while producing cluster descriptions that appear more useful. A web interface allows researchers to quickly navigate through the hierarchy and look for documents that belong to a specific concept.


We have demonstrated a simple method to classify biological documents that embodies an improvement over current methods. While the classification results are currently optimized for Caenorhabditis elegans papers by human-created rules, the classification engine can be adapted to different types of documents. We have demonstrated this by presenting a web interface that allows researchers to quickly navigate through the hierarchy and look for documents that belong to a specific concept.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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