To date, much of the discussion that surrounds applications for the semantic web in academic publishing have focussed on discoverability. For obvious reasons it's very easy for publishing professionals to get excited about a technology that promises to make the process of searching for and discovering new content truly intelligent. Yet beyond its ability to help readers and researchers find new books or articles they might never otherwise have uncovered, the semantic web has many exciting practical applications that we've only just begun to explore.
A key example of this is medicine, in that semantic web technology is ideally placed to help clinicians leverage the vast stores of published medical research and information and even perform as a diagnostic tool in itself. Imagine a medical library so intelligent that all a doctor has to do is list the combination of symptoms a patient is exhibiting and it returns a list of possible diagnoses and even makes suggestions of suitable treatments. It may seem like science fiction, but this is exactly what scientific publisher Elsevier has begun to do with its experimental platform Clinical Key, which uses semantic web technologies to aggregate huge amounts of medical and surgical content to create something it calls a Clinical Insight Engine.
The presentation below was delivered at last month's SemTech Biz Conference as well as at SSP. It's a fascinating insight into how Elsevier is using its semantic web expertise to push the boundaries of what's currently possible in academic publishing, and create a new category of content that allows publishers to fully exploit and commercialise their back catalogues. It's well worth a look. Ingenta's own Louise Russell used it as a key example of how the semantic web can deliver significant value to academic publishers when she appeared at STM's recent Medical Publishing seminar.