Parts-of-Speech Tagger Errors Do Not Necessarily Degrade Accuracy in Extracting Information from Biomedical Text


Background: An ongoing assessment of the literature is difficult with the rapidly increasing volume of research publications and limited effective information extraction tools which identify entity relationships from text. A recent study reported development of Muscorian, a generic text processing tool for extracting protein-protein interactions from text that achieved comparable performance to biomedical-specific text processing tools. This result was unexpected since potential errors from a series of text analysis processes is likely to adversely affect the outcome of the entire process. Most biomedical entity relationship extraction tools have used biomedical-specific parts-of-speech (POS) tagger as errors in POS tagging and are likely to affect subsequent semantic analysis of the text, such as shallow parsing. This study aims to evaluate the parts-of-speech (POS) tagging accuracy and attempts to explore whether a comparable performance is obtained when a generic POS tagger, MontyTagger, was used in place of MedPost, a tagger trained in biomedical text.

Results: Our results demonstrated that MontyTagger, Muscorian's POS tagger, has a POS tagging accuracy of 83.1% when tested on biomedical text. Replacing MontyTagger with MedPost did not result in a significant improvement in entity relationship extraction from text; precision of 55.6% from MontyTagger versus 56.8% from MedPost on directional relationships and 86.1% from MontyTagger compared to 81.8% from MedPost on nondirectional relationships. This is unexpected as the potential for poor POS tagging by MontyTagger is likely to affect the outcome of the information extraction. An analysis of POS tagging errors demonstrated that 78.5% of tagging errors are being compensated by shallow parsing. Thus, despite 83.1% tagging accuracy, MontyTagger has a functional tagging accuracy of 94.6%.

Conclusions: The POS tagging error does not adversely affect the information extraction task if the errors were resolved in shallow parsing through alternative POS tag use.

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