From the "Jeopardy"-winning IBM Watson to the voice-based personal assistant on your phone, the field of live question answering has quickly made its mark on the world. If those applications seem trivial, though, the future potential for question answering systems is anything but. For Professor Eric Nyberg and his Open Advancement of Question Answering (OAQA) team, one of the most significant challenges in question answering is how it can be used to dramatically improve information retrieval.
Case Study: Question Answering in Biomedical Science
From 2012 to 2016, the OAQA team collaborated with Hoffman-LaRoche's Innovation Center to develop information systems for unstructured biomedical text, including a passage retrieval system for the TREC Genomics dataset , a decision support system for gene targeting which leverages information gathered from PubMed articles by an automatic QA system . In 2016, the OAQA team took top honors in the BioASQ Biomedical Semantic Question Answering Challenge for the second year in a row, using supervised learning and natural language processing methods to create a system that automatically responds to biomedical questions with relevant concepts, articles, snippets, RDF triples, exact answers and paragraph-sized summaries. The Biomedical Semantic QA system also received six 1st-place scores in the 2015 BioASQ Challenge tasks , and three 1st-place scores in exact answer retrieval in the 2016 BioASQ Challenge . In the future, tools like these will enable physicians and researchers alike to find the specific bit of information they need with previously unheard of quickness and accuracy.
For More Information:
 Z. Yang, E. Garduno, Y. Fang, A. Maiberg, C. McCormack, and E. Nyberg (2013). "Building Optimal Information Systems Automatically: Configuration Space Exploration for Biomedical Information Systems", Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Information and Knowledge Management [ ACM Digital Library ]
 Z. Yang, Y. Li, J. Cai, and E. Nyberg (2014). "QUADS: Question Answering for Decision Support." In Proceedings of SIGIR 2014: the Thirty-seventh Annual International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval [ ACM Digital Library ]
 Z. Yang, N. Gupta, X. Sun, D. Xu, C. Zhang, and E. Nyberg (2015). "Learning to Answer Biomedical Factoid & List Questions: OAQA at BioASQ 3B", In Proceedings of CLEF 2015 Evaluation Labs and Workshop [ PDF ]
 Z. Yang, Y. Zhou and E. Nyberg (2016). "Learning to Answer Biomedical Questions: OAQA at BioASQ 4B", In Proceedings of Workshop on Biomedical Language Processing [ PDF ]