Changing word meanings in biomedical literature reveal pandemics and new technologies | BioData Mining | Full Text

peter.suber's bookmarks 2023-05-07


Abstract:  While we often think of words as having a fixed meaning that we use to describe a changing world, words are also dynamic and changing. Scientific research can also be remarkably fast-moving, with new concepts or approaches rapidly gaining mind share. We examined scientific writing, both preprint and pre-publication peer-reviewed text, to identify terms that have changed and examine their use. One particular challenge that we faced was that the shift from closed to open access publishing meant that the size of available corpora changed by over an order of magnitude in the last two decades. We developed an approach to evaluate semantic shift by accounting for both intra- and inter-year variability using multiple integrated models. This analysis revealed thousands of change points in both corpora, including for terms such as ‘cas9’, ‘pandemic’, and ‘sars’. We found that the consistent change-points between pre-publication peer-reviewed and preprinted text are largely related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also created a web app for exploration that allows users to investigate individual terms ( To our knowledge, our research is the first to examine semantic shift in biomedical preprints and pre-publication peer-reviewed text, and provides a foundation for future work to understand how terms acquire new meanings and how peer review affects this process.


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Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) » peter.suber's bookmarks

Tags: oa.publishing oa.linguistics oa.biomedicine oa.medicine oa.mining oa.ssh

Date tagged:

05/07/2023, 10:24

Date published:

05/07/2023, 06:24