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This article is part of the supplement: Semantic Web Applications and Tools for Life Sciences, 2008

Open Access Research

GoWeb: a semantic search engine for the life science web

Heiko Dietze and Michael Schroeder*

Author Affiliations

Biotechnology Center (BIOTEC), Technische Universität Dresden, 01062, Dresden, Germany

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BMC Bioinformatics 2009, 10(Suppl 10):S7  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-10-S10-S7

Published: 1 October 2009



Current search engines are keyword-based. Semantic technologies promise a next generation of semantic search engines, which will be able to answer questions. Current approaches either apply natural language processing to unstructured text or they assume the existence of structured statements over which they can reason.


Here, we introduce a third approach, GoWeb, which combines classical keyword-based Web search with text-mining and ontologies to navigate large results sets and facilitate question answering. We evaluate GoWeb on three benchmarks of questions on genes and functions, on symptoms and diseases, and on proteins and diseases. The first benchmark is based on the BioCreAtivE 1 Task 2 and links 457 gene names with 1352 functions. GoWeb finds 58% of the functional GeneOntology annotations. The second benchmark is based on 26 case reports and links symptoms with diseases. GoWeb achieves 77% success rate improving an existing approach by nearly 20%. The third benchmark is based on 28 questions in the TREC genomics challenge and links proteins to diseases. GoWeb achieves a success rate of 79%.


GoWeb's combination of classical Web search with text-mining and ontologies is a first step towards answering questions in the biomedical domain. GoWeb is online at: webcite