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New Academic Research Service Uncovers Concept Links

If Boethius had just had access to the technology just launched by Yewno, he may very well have succeeded in his ambition of bringing his own translated views of Aristotle and Plato together to show how much they actually agreed on things. (He was executed in the 6th century long before that could happen.) So now it's up to the modern generation of scholars to find uses for Yewno's new knowledge discovery service.

During this week's annual American Library Association conference, the start-up formally introduced Yewno for Education, a service to be offered in academic and research libraries to help users find connections among concepts. The company, which has been in "stealth" mode working on the application for two years, said its approach combines elements of computational linguistics, semantic analysis, neural networks and data visualization to generate its results.

The education version of the product currently contains a growing database of 45 million articles, books and other documents from academic publishers, governments and universities — with an emphasis on those already in the school's collection. The software analyzes the content and makes it discoverable in new ways, making it complementary to existing search tools.

The user points and clicks through correlated knowledge, which shows up on the right side of the screen and provides concepts and links to information sources. When the user has identified the concepts that are most interesting, he or she can connect to the details using multi-hop functionality, which reconfigures the relevant information to show the recalculated relationships among the selected concepts. Users can also directly access the content sources from the relevant node where concept linkages lead. Additionally, new ties may surface for further exploration when a user hovers over a connecting line to show additional correlated concepts and source documents.

Content categories for the education service cover multiple disciplines: agriculture, architecture, arts and design, biology, business, communications, computer science, education, engineering, humanities, law, math, medicine, physical sciences, planning, social sciences, technology and "other."

The company said that the service is under beta testing at several institutional libraries, including those at Stanford, Harvard and Stonehill College.

As Harvard Director of Library Digital Strategies and Innovation Suzanne Wones noted in a press release, "At the library our scholars often tell us while they love the immediate access of online research, they miss the serendipitous discoveries that wandering in the stacks can provide. Yewno offers a way to experience both — the delight of discovering unexpected connections and the efficiency of high-performance computing."

"Student motivation includes learning and meeting deadlines. When students are overwhelmed by the vast resources available to them, they sometimes choose to settle for initial research results and don't delve further into information to find the best sources," added Cheryl McGrath, director of MacPháidín Library at Stonehill. She said she's "excited" to incorporate Yewno into library resources "and help students access and visualize how they can incorporate high-quality content as they develop their ideas. In presentations to faculty and students conducting research, they have found new connections that are helping them to learn what are the questions they need to be asking and where they can find the answers."

"Yewno mirrors the human mind's own lateral thinking by pulling together and synthesizing analogous yet unrelated concepts to achieve deeper learning," said CEO and founder, Ruggero Gramatica, in a press release. "It generates results that evoke our natural abilities, using computational modeling to elegantly present both abstract knowledge and concrete linkage patterns in a visual matrix. The outcome is a transformation in creative capacity and critical thinking."

Eventually, the company expects to address additional vertical segments, including financial services, life sciences and news. A free "public" offering is also planned.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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