Search tool saves time in pharmaceutical research

Drug research and manufacturing giant Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) has begun the implementation of a knowledge management project...

Drug research and manufacturing giant Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) has begun the implementation of a knowledge management project which it hopes will achieve a 300%-400% improvement in search accuracy.

The company has signed a contract with Lexiquest to provide a search system for BMS' 5,500 knowledge workers querying documents on its pharmaceutical research institute intranet.

BMS has said it expects to see a full return on the investment "within a few months".

Lexiquest allows a user to enter a query in natural language which is then translated into technical language drawn from an industry-specialised pharmaceutical dictionary.

The system uses BMS' existing Verity search tool to retrieve corporate records, chemical and biological data, and sales and marketing records as well as patent information.

Stephen Highcock, director of information architecture for BMS, said, "We expect a full return on our investment in a few months.

"The amount of time spent searching will be reduced while greater amounts of
relevant information will result.

"We can reduce the time spent training people to extract different types of information from different systems - even a person as highly trained as a [research scientist] does not necessarily know how to formulate questions correctly for each system they use," he added.

Lexiquest's technology relies on a linguistic rather than statistical method of understanding the meaning of words. It determines the precise meaning of a word by its relationships to others, not just how often it occurs next to other words.

Julian Henkin, vice-president of worldwide customer service for Lexiquest, described it as, "a thesaurus on steroids".

Lexiquest organises information not just by the connections between concepts - such as synonyms - but also by the strength of connection between those concepts.

A team of linguists from BMS is collaborating with counterparts from Lexiquest to develop a dictionary for the industry-specific requirements of the company.

Work on the dictionary - aimed at creating a new semantic network - is expected to be concluded by the end of the year.

The document search project - part of an overall move to a common user interface - began in early October, and full deployment is expected to be completed in January 2002.

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