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Open Access Research article

Locating previously unknown patterns in data-mining results: a dual data- and knowledge-mining method

Mir S Siadaty* and William A Knaus

Author Affiliations

Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Box 800717, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22908, USA

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BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2006, 6:13  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-6-13

Published: 7 March 2006



Data mining can be utilized to automate analysis of substantial amounts of data produced in many organizations. However, data mining produces large numbers of rules and patterns, many of which are not useful. Existing methods for pruning uninteresting patterns have only begun to automate the knowledge acquisition step (which is required for subjective measures of interestingness), hence leaving a serious bottleneck. In this paper we propose a method for automatically acquiring knowledge to shorten the pattern list by locating the novel and interesting ones.


The dual-mining method is based on automatically comparing the strength of patterns mined from a database with the strength of equivalent patterns mined from a relevant knowledgebase. When these two estimates of pattern strength do not match, a high "surprise score" is assigned to the pattern, identifying the pattern as potentially interesting. The surprise score captures the degree of novelty or interestingness of the mined pattern. In addition, we show how to compute p values for each surprise score, thus filtering out noise and attaching statistical significance.


We have implemented the dual-mining method using scripts written in Perl and R. We applied the method to a large patient database and a biomedical literature citation knowledgebase. The system estimated association scores for 50,000 patterns, composed of disease entities and lab results, by querying the database and the knowledgebase. It then computed the surprise scores by comparing the pairs of association scores. Finally, the system estimated statistical significance of the scores.


The dual-mining method eliminates more than 90% of patterns with strong associations, thus identifying them as uninteresting. We found that the pruning of patterns using the surprise score matched the biomedical evidence in the 100 cases that were examined by hand.

The method automates the acquisition of knowledge, thus reducing dependence on the knowledge elicited from human expert, which is usually a rate-limiting step.