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Biotech Science Technology

Text-mining for Medicinal Plants 15

Posted by timothy
from the clever-convergence dept.
Damien1972 writes "Researchers are exploring ancient texts for medicinal plant information using text-mining. From Shamans and Robots: Bridging the Past and Future of Ethnobotany and Bioprospecting: "A new procedure that is being explored by researchers to track and classify useful medicinal plant species may negate some of the issues surrounding the acquisition of knowledge ... This method involves a practice called "text-mining," in which old botanical works are scoured for references to medicinal plants.""
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Text-mining for Medicinal Plants

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  • Wikipedia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BrookHarty (9119) on Monday April 25, 2005 @02:11PM (#12338861) Homepage Journal
    This would be a good use for Wikipedia, each plant's information should be put into into this opensource encyclopedia.

    I see this as part of the problem, getting the information out, reporting plants drug use out of books into a format more people can use. Perfect use for Wikipedia.
    • This would be a good use for Wikipedia, each plant's information should be put into into this opensource encyclopedia.

      I see this as part of the problem, getting the information out, reporting plants drug use out of books into a format more people can use. Perfect use for Wikipedia.

      Getting the information out is part of the problem however there's more to it than simply listing it on Wikipedia or other databases, whether open 'sauce' or proprietary. As the article points out it takes people to study t

  • by PsiPsiStar (95676) on Monday April 25, 2005 @02:21PM (#12338967)
    of reading. I can see how this might help with people who don't read greek, but with machine translation, that's not an issue.

    As the saying goes; a month in the lab can save you a whole day in the library. Is this really new in a good way? Given the fact that many plants have alternate names, some have the same name, etc. it seems that familiarity with one's subject material is not a particularly useful thing to shortcut-out. Consider, for example, the parable of the 'mustard seed' in the gospels. A grown mustard plant is described as a great tree. Huh?! Even when people are familiar with the text, translations of old plant names are often difficult.

    I'd just as soon read a machine translation of the bible or tartouffe than rely upon this technique. In fact, I'd sooner read a machine translation of the bible. Even if it mistranslated things, at least it'd be less likely to gloss the text. But that's not so much a problem with ethnobotany.

    "Text mining" is a solution which found the wrong problem.
  • "may negate some of the issues surrounding the acquisition of knowledge"

    Perhaps I am missing something but this makes it sound like there are people who are against this project. Other than some people objecting to this being a waste of time (I don't think it is), what else is there to be "negative" about? I mean the authors of these works have been dead for quite some time.
    • Re:What?! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MisterTut (663350) *
      Interesting information in this article, but it is really badly written, as if by a college kid the morning the paper is due. Sloppy thinking.

      The "negative" is that "westerners" (a laughable term when talking about, say, indigenous Brazilians vs US Drug companies, as this article begins with) ask native Shamen for information about useful plants, then take that powerful knowledge and make lucrative drugs without allowing compensation to flow back to the indigenous people.

      OK, that is a negative, I conce
      • OK, I missed the bottom of the artical where it was mentioned that old surveys of third-world plant life are moldering away unread in libraries.

        This still doesn't seem to have anything to do with ethics, though. Unless "ethics" is merely used as a term for balming the guilty consciences of first-world drug executives.
    • Actually, I think the issues they're talking about are mainly time. Not so much that this project is a waste of time, but that it would take an enormous amount of time to do an equally exhaustive search of all of these ancient texts by hand... assuming it's even possible to do an equivalent search by hand (which it's probably not, due to the complexity of the text mining algorithms).
    • Perhaps I am missing something but this makes it sound like there are people who are against this project. Other than some people objecting to this being a waste of time (I don't think it is), what else is there to be "negative" about? I mean the authors of these works have been dead for quite some time.

      What problem do people have with it? One word, "biopiracy'.

      Falcon
    • TFA talks about big drug companies benefitting from native people (shamans and such) without returning any of the profits. The sentence that you quoted finished with bypassing some of the controversy, in reference to the corporations' exploitation of the local people. This new process allows the companies to exploit historical documentation instead of contemporary individuals.
  • by Red Rocket (473003) on Monday April 25, 2005 @05:00PM (#12340681)

    Ooops. We wiped out that plant's habitat to build a highway.
    Ooops...Football stadium.
    Ooops...McMansions.
    Nothing left to see here. Move along and look for another miracle plant.
  • This must be the least popular topic in years!
  • slash dot (Score:2, Funny)

    by galdur (829400)
    Last post!

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