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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Studying the correlation between different word sense disambiguation methods and summarization effectiveness in biomedical texts

Laura Plaza1*, Antonio J Jimeno-Yepes2, Alberto Díaz1 and Alan R Aronson2

Author Affiliations

1 Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Calle Profesor José García Santesmases s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain

2 National Library of Medicine, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894, USA

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BMC Bioinformatics 2011, 12:355  doi:10.1186/1471-2105-12-355

Published: 26 August 2011



Word sense disambiguation (WSD) attempts to solve lexical ambiguities by identifying the correct meaning of a word based on its context. WSD has been demonstrated to be an important step in knowledge-based approaches to automatic summarization. However, the correlation between the accuracy of the WSD methods and the summarization performance has never been studied.


We present three existing knowledge-based WSD approaches and a graph-based summarizer. Both the WSD approaches and the summarizer employ the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) Metathesaurus as the knowledge source. We first evaluate WSD directly, by comparing the prediction of the WSD methods to two reference sets: the NLM WSD dataset and the MSH WSD collection. We next apply the different WSD methods as part of the summarizer, to map documents onto concepts in the UMLS Metathesaurus, and evaluate the summaries that are generated. The results obtained by the different methods in both evaluations are studied and compared.


It has been found that the use of WSD techniques has a positive impact on the results of our graph-based summarizer, and that, when both the WSD and summarization tasks are assessed over large and homogeneous evaluation collections, there exists a correlation between the overall results of the WSD and summarization tasks. Furthermore, the best WSD algorithm in the first task tends to be also the best one in the second. However, we also found that the improvement achieved by the summarizer is not directly correlated with the WSD performance. The most likely reason is that the errors in disambiguation are not equally important but depend on the relative salience of the different concepts in the document to be summarized.