MeSH (full name Medical Subject Headings) is a controlled vocabulary that is widely used in medical information systems.  We’re actively exploring using it in Trip as we believe it can significantly improve our search results.

As far as I can tell it will improve them for two main reasons.  Firstly, it’ll improve our synonyms function as MeSH is great for that.  Secondly, and this is the most exciting aspect for me, is that MeSH is hierarchical. If you do a search for arrhythmia that maps to the MeSH concept of Arrhythmias, Cardiac:

From the image you can see that Arrhythmias, Cardiac is classed as a pathological condition (as you look up the hierarchy).  But as you go down the hierarchy you can see other terms such as atrial fibrillation, tachycardia, long QT syndrome etc.

This is important as by using MeSH in Trip a search for arrhythmia will also return results for atrial fibrillation, tachycardia, long QT syndrome.

No time frame for this work. But we’re starting investigating the various systems we require, namely:

  • Annotating articles in Trip that currently don’t have MeSH terms assigned. This will need to be automated but there are already good systems to do this.
  • How might it interact with the keyword searches our site currently uses? We need to figure out how MeSH might fit in with our current system.

I’m optimistic that this is not a massively complex piece of work – but we’ll have to see. If you think this would be useful feel free to send:

  • Encouragement (which will help speed things up)
  • General advice
  • Ways you’d like to see it used
  • Ways you’d not like to see it used