Document recommendation systems for locating relevant literature have mostly relied on methods developed a decade ago. This is largely due to the lack of a large offline gold-standard benchmark of relevant documents that cover a variety of research fields such that newly developed literature search techniques can be compared, improved and translated into practice. To overcome this bottleneck, we have established the RElevant LIterature SearcH consortium consisting of more than 1500 scientists from 84 countries, who have collectively annotated the relevance of over 180 000 PubMed-listed articles with regard to their respective seed (input) article/s. The majority of annotations were contributed by highly experienced, original authors of the seed articles. The collected data cover 76% of all unique PubMed Medical Subject Headings descriptors. No systematic biases were observed across different experience levels, research fields or time spent on annotations.
One of the challenges in large-scale information retrieval (IR) is to develop fine-grained and domain-specific methods to answer natural language questions. Despite the availability of numerous sources and datasets for answer retrieval, Question Answering (QA) remains a challenging problem due to the difficulty of the question understanding and answer extraction tasks. One of the promising tracks investigated in QA is to map new questions to formerly answered questions that are `similar'. In this paper, we propose a novel QA approach based on Recognizing Question Entailment (RQE) and we describe the QA system and resources that we built and evaluated on real medical questions. First, we compare machine learning and deep learning methods for RQE using different kinds of datasets, including textual inference, question similarity and entailment in both the open and clinical domains. Second, we combine IR models with the best RQE method to select entailed questions and rank the retrieved answers. To study the end-to-end QA approach, we built the MedQuAD collection of 47,457 question-answer pairs from trusted medical sources, that we introduce and share in the scope of this paper. Following the evaluation process used in TREC 2017 LiveQA, we find that our approach exceeds the best results of the medical task with a 29.8% increase over the best official score. The evaluation results also support the relevance of question entailment for QA and highlight the effectiveness of combining IR and RQE for future QA efforts. Our findings also show that relying on a restricted set of reliable answer sources can bring a substantial improvement in medical QA.