OHSU Health and Biomedicine Informatics Expert to Help Lead National Forum

03/04/03    Portland, Ore.

William Hersh named chairman of 2003 Text Retrieval Conference Genomics Track

One of the world's leading experts in medical informatics William Hersh, M.D., will serve as the chairman of his field's major experimental effort in the genomics area.

This effort, the Text Retrieval Conference (TREC), attracts the world's top information retrieval researchers from academia and industry to participate in an annual evaluation of search engines, also known as information retrieval systems.

"TREC provides an open and collegial forum for researchers to work on common problems with common data so they can compare their systems, identify challenges and stimulate innovation of more effective information retrieval systems," Hersh said.

Hersh is a professor and head of medical informatics and outcomes research in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine. Medical informatics is the application of information technology to health and biomedicine.

Ten "tracks" will be held during TREC 2003. Each focuses on a particular information retrieval problem. Among this year's tracks are the Web track, the video track, the question-answering track and the filtering track.

New to TREC 2003 is the genomics track, which Hersh will chair. The genomics track will evaluate the retrieval of genomic documents, based on queries about gene function and judgments about the relevance of documents.

"The quantity and complexity of genetic research information out there is staggering," Hersh said. "Ultimately, our goal is to design systems that simplify the search process. We want to make it possible for researchers to quickly and accurately access the information, people and resources they need to advance their science. It's about using technology to help save lives."

The National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) conducts TREC. Participants are provided with a standardized set of test documents and questions for each track. They then run their own research on the data and return to NIST a list of the retrieved documents. Test documents are released in the spring, research groups run their queries over the summer, and results are presented when TREC participants meet in November at NIST headquarters.

TREC was established in 1992 to support research within the information retrieval community. Its goals include encouraging research; creating an open exchange of research ideas; speeding the transfer of technology from research labs into commercial products; and increasing the availability of the most current evaluation techniques.

OHSU has an international reputation in the academic discipline of medical informatics, with more students than any similar program in the world. The university has awarded about 30 master's degrees in medical informatics since 1998 and has 60 students currently enrolled. A doctoral program is expected to begin next fall, and a postdoctoral fellowship has existed since 1992.

In addition, OHSU was among the first to offer a distance-learning program in medical informatics. About 200 students from around the world currently take the distance-learning classes, which lead to a graduate certificate. Graduates of OHSU's programs find work with hospitals and clinics, health product vendors and manufacturers, and other universities.

Hersh is secretary of the American Medical Informatics Association, a member of the editorial board of the association's journal and a fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics. He is the author of the recently published book, Information Retrieval: A Health & Biomedical Perspective (Second Edition).

Visit http://trec.nist.gov/call03.html for information about participating in TREC 2003. Log on to http://medir.ohsu.edu/~genomics/ for details on the genomics track.