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Gerbrand Ceder & Amalie Trewartha: COVIDScholar: Applying NLP to Accelerate COVID-19 Research



There is a critical need for tools that can help the COVID-19 researchers stay on top of the emerging literature and identify critical connections between ideas and observations that could lead to effective vaccines and therapies for COVID-19. To this end, our team at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is building covidscholar.org, a knowledge portal tailored specifically for COVID-19 research that leverages natural language processing (NLP) techniques to synthesize the information spread across more than 140,000 emergent research articles, patents, and clinical trials into actionable insights and new knowledge. Having its origins in our text-processing work in Materials Science, COVIDScholar is powered by an automated system that scrapes research documents from dozens of sources across the internet, cleans/repairs metadata as necessary, and analyzes the text with a number of NLP models for classification, information extraction, and scientific language modeling. We then integrate this information with specialized knowledge graphs which has the potential to give users unparalleled insight into the complex interactions that govern the transmission of COVID-19, the disease’s progression, and potential therapeutic strategies. This approach to combining textual information, such as word embeddings, with ontological knowledge graphs has the potential to improve the performance of machine learning models that operate on these data structures and to enable new ways of exploring literature on emerging subjects by leveraging past knowledge more efficiently.

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