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UAEU develops new search engine for life sciences

Biocarian uses semantic search to help researchers find scientific data more easily

UAEU develops new search engine for life sciences
Biocarian has been developed by a team at UAEU led by Professor Nazar Zaki.

Researchers at the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) have developed a new search engine which should make it easier to search for scientific data.

The ‘Biocarian' search engine has been developed to provide an efficient and user-friendly way to search through life science databases.

The UAEU team said that Biocarian was developed to address the problem of large and complex data bases for healthcare and life science, which can result in researchers spending more than a third of their time searching for data. The new search engine users Semantic Web technology, so that researchers can easily create targeted searches to find the data they need in a more efficient fashion.

The research team was led by Professor Nazar Zaki, Chair of the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering within UAEU's College of Information Technology, and involving postdoctoral student Dr Chandana Tennakoon and UAEU undergraduates Meera Al-Shamisi, Aysha Alshamsi, Elham Mawlawi, Alanoud Al-Jaberi, and Amel Al-Ameri. The project is funded by the TRA's ICT Fund.

"The internet is a huge, interlinked information resource, but is largely restricted to human use because the information is represented only in natural language," explained Professor Zaki. "The Semantic Web is a vision for the next generation of the internet, with the primary goal of making its facts amenable to computational processing and enabling true integration of knowledge across the Web, revolutionizing the way we access information."

Biocarian, according to Professor Zaki, emerged from recognition of "the strong need to improve the efficiency of searching for scientific information", and is drawing on the skills of UAEU students to drive it forward through a three-year project that includes a commercialization strategy based on integrated e-commerce models.

It allows complex queries to be constructed and entered, and offers additional features such as the capacity to enter ‘facet values' according to specific criteria. These allow users to explore collated information by applying a range of filters, helping them to find what they are looking for quicker.

"Exploratory searches need customized solutions, especially when multiple databases are involved," said Professor Zaki. "This process is cumbersome and time-consuming for those without a sufficient background in computer science, which is why a search engine facilitating exploratory searches of databases would be of great help to the scientific community.

"The project has high importance for the UAE, as it will create a life science knowledge-base which the country can leverage in future projects, with a view to making significant contributions to medicine and healthcare, with specific relevance to the healthcare needs of UAE and other countries in the MENA region."

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