Towards new information resources for public health: From WordNet to MedicalWordNet

Journal of Biomedical Informatics 39 (3):321-332 (2006)
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In the last two decades, WORDNET has evolved as the most comprehensive computational lexicon of general English. In this article, we discuss its potential for supporting the creation of an entirely new kind of information resource for public health, viz. MEDICAL WORDNET. This resource is not to be conceived merely as a lexical extension of the original WORDNET to medical terminology; indeed, there is already a considerable degree of overlap between WORDNET and the vocabulary of medicine. Instead, we propose a new type of repository, consisting of three large collections of (1) medically relevant word forms, structured along the lines of the existing Princeton WORDNET; (2) medically validated propositions, referred to here as medical facts, which will constitute what we shall call MEDICAL FACTNET; and (3) propositions reflecting laypersons’ medical beliefs, which will constitute what we shall call the MEDICAL BELIEFNET. We introduce a methodology for setting up the MEDICAL WORDNET. We then turn to the discussion of research challenges that have to be met in order to build this new type of information resource.
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