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    Turning the Pages

The Communications Engineering Branch (CEB) is part of the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, an R&D division of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Our mission is to conduct research and development directed toward mission-critical tasks at NLM and NIH, such as cancer research, document delivery, digital preservation, and automated ways of building resources such as MEDLINE®. All software products developed by our researchers are freely available.

A major focus at CEB is image engineering, both for biomedical as well as document images. This includes research in image processing, compression and enhancement. Other research is targeted toward text and data mining. Our work in these areas employs machine learning and natural language processing techniques. Scientific papers by staff appear under publications.

Biomedical ImagingDocument Image AnalysisDigital Preservation ResearchDocument Processing & DeliveryInteractive PublicationsDisaster ResponseClinical InformaticsVisualizing Rare BooksVisible Human ProjectDatasets & Repositories
The goal of our work in Biomedical Imaging is two-fold: One, to develop advanced imaging tools for biomedical research in partnership with the National Cancer Institute and other organizations. Second, to conduct research in Content Based Image Retrieval (CBIR) to index and retrieve medical images by image features (e.g., shape, color and texture), augmented by textual features as well. This work includes the development of the CervigramFinder for retrieval of uterine cervix images by image features, SPIRS for retrieval of digitized x-ray images of the spine from NHANES II and a distributed global system (SPIRS-IRMA) for image retrieval by both high-level and detailed features of medical images, in collaboration with Aachen University, Germany. CBIR is also an aspect of the Image Text Indexing (ITI) project that seeks to automatically index illustrations in medical articles by processing text in figure captions and mentions in the article, as well as image features in the illustrations.
Research in document image analysis and understanding is directed toward the automated extraction of bibliographic data from scanned and Web documents (medical journals) to populate MEDLINE®. This research focuses on the design of rule-based as well as machine learning algorithms (e.g., Support Vector Machine, Hidden Markov Model) relying on geometric, OCR-generated and contextual features in the documents. These algorithms are for page segmentation, zone labeling and named entity extraction. Based on this research we have developed and maintain production systems, MARS (Medical Article Records System) and PDR (Publisher Data Review) in operation at NLM.
Document image analysis and machine learning are also foundational to our Digital Preservation Research. We have developed a System for Preservation of Electronic Resources (SPER) that possesses key attributes for affordable long term preservation, such as automated metadata extraction and bulk migration. SPER is currently applied to the preservation of 70,000 historic documents from the Food and Drug Administration.
Document processing and document delivery are the goals for a suite of systems developed in the DocView project. In this project, we have developed DocView, client software used by libraries to receive documents sent by interlibrary loan services using Ariel® and similar systems. DocMorph is a system allowing users to use a Web browser to upload files in any of 50 formats for automatic conversion to PDF, TIFF or OCR-converted text. As an alternative to a browser, users may use MyMorph, a client that employs DocMorph for bulk conversion of thousands of files. MyDelivery is a system for the secure delivery of very large, Gigabyte-sized, files.
To address the increasing use of multimedia in scientific publishing, our research in Interactive Publications (IP) has resulted in prototype interactive documents integrating text with medical multimedia and large data tables. We have developed Panorama, a tool for viewing and manipulating medical images and video, analyzing tabular data, and converting tables to graphs and back.
Our Lost Person Finder project develops systems to assist with family reunification in the face of disasters. Some aspects are driven by NLM’s participation in the Bethesda Hospitals’ Emergency Preparedness Partnership (BHEPP), along with three Montgomery County, MD hospitals. Other aspects emerge as a response to international disasters like the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2011 Japan tsunami. The People Locator web site is the most visible face of this effort, which builds on research and development into mobile applications, web services, image and text understanding and search, and social networking.
The Repository for Informed Decision Making (RIDeM) project focuses on developing data mining tools to automatically create a repository of key facts extracted from the biomedical literature. The key facts are those needed for informed clinical decision making, and the tools rely on machine learning and natural language processing. NLM InfoBot is a related project that aims to develop a system that automatically augments a patient’s electronic medical record (EMR) with pertinent information extracted from NLM resources. The InfoBot software would run as background agents, both at NLM and at a clinical site. The latter would use our APIs to integrate the search setup and to display and store results in their existing EMR system.
Turning The Pages (TTP) has been developed to display photorealistic animations of high resolution scans of rare historic books in biomedicine in NLM’s collection. The kiosk version located at the Library, equipped with touchscreen monitors, allows patrons to ‘touch and turn’ the pages, zoom into details and hear voice annotations. TTP Online allows users on the Internet to ‘click and turn’ the pages. Included are 16th century books by Vesalius, Gesner and Paré in both kiosk and online versions. In the kiosks we also show the world’s oldest surviving surgical text, the Edwin Smith Papyrus written around the 17th century BCE.
Another system for the public, AnatQuest, allows users to view Visible Human images and 3D renderings of anatomic objects.
In addition to conducting research, we create and maintain ground truth databases (human validated data) for computer science and medical informatics research. These collections include annotated spinal x-rays and uterine cervix images. MARG, Medical Article Records Groundtruth, is a collection of bitmapped images of medical articles, validated OCR, zoned and labeled regions of the pages. It is used for developing and testing algorithms for page segmentation and labeling by bibliographic entity (article title, author names, affiliations and abstract.)