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Creative Re-Use Demonstrates Power of Semantic Enhancement

A Review article published today in PLoS Computational Biology describes the process of semantically enhancing a research article to enrich content, providing a striking example of how open-access content can be re-used and how scientific articles might take much greater advantage of the online medium in future.

Dr. David Shotton and his team from Oxford University spent about ten weeks enriching the content of an article published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, the results of which can be seen online here.

The enhanced version includes features like highlighted tagging which you can turn on or off (tagged terms include disease names, organisms, places, people, taxa), citations which include a pop-up containing the relevant quotation from the cited article, document and study summaries, tag clouds and citation analysis.

With a single click you can re-arrange the reference list by number of times each paper is cited, or add in the authors’ analysis of how the reference is used in the paper (obtains background from, confirms, extends, shares authors with, uses method in). The group has also provided interactive versions of some of the figures: compare the original, static Figure 3 to the moveable, overlaying, enhanced version.

David Shotton’s group hopes that this largely manual effort will demonstrate what practical enhancements can be made to scientific papers through the application of existing technology. These developments significantly enrich the content of a paper, and also demonstrate some of the potential that open-access provides by removing any barriers on the re-use of content. Once the methods employed by Dr Shotton and his colleagues become more routine, all open-access literature could be semantically enhanced and redistributed without restriction. Whether the next steps towards semantic markup are implemented by authors, publishers or post-publication text miners remains to be seen, but we welcome your feedback on this idea, either as a comment to this post, or on the article itself.

By Evie Browne, Publication Manager, PLoS Computational Biology

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