A search engine for discovering and understanding the influence interrelationships between birth, growth, and development.


Influence Search

There is a vast amount of scientific findings scattered across the literature. Too many insights from research have gone undiscovered because fragments of independent but related knowledge have not been systematically retrieved, brought together, and interpreted. Influence Search provides a way to navigate the sea of research and assemble these puzzle pieces to help HBGDki understand both the scope of existing discoveries, and identify gaps in research that still need to be addressed.

intended use

This tool is intended to be used by subject matter experts to explore and construct influence models in the domain of child growth and development. A second intended use is for program officers to understand opportunities for future investments to improve children’s health, both generally and in ways particular to different geographic settings.

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The three main benefits of Influence Search

The challenge

A key challenge for HBGDki is the aggregation of the vast amount of information scattered across literature to accelerate the construction of multidisciplinary influence models, which, in turn, impact the holistic understanding of child growth and development, and enable future research in this domain. For example, PubMed alone indexes more than 1 million publications per year. At this scale, assistance from computers through machine reading, can help researchers keep pace with current information.

Directed by faculty lead Mihai Surdeanu, researchers in the Computational Language Understanding (CLU) Lab at University of Arizona implemented a machine reading system that has the capacity to extract and aggregate influence relations at scale. For example, the current version of the tool has processed approximately 115 thousand open-access publications to construct a searchable database of over two million concepts relevant to children health connected by more than 2.5 million influence relations.

The above database can be searched for direct and indirect influence interrelations (e.g., how does the bacteria campylobacter indirectly influence malnutrition?). The subject matter experts can assemble the results of these searches into influence models that can be edited and shared.

temporal timelines and intervention pathways

The tool can be used to search for influence pathways and aggregate them to into influence models that address various aspects of child growth and development. For example, the CLU team together with subject matter experts at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have used this tool to construct a conceptual model of risk factors and mechanisms connecting infant growth retardation to later obesity.

Start Date:

July, 2016

Stage of Development:

Beta Testing

Working Teams:

Marco Antonio Valenzuela-Escárcega
Gus Hahn-Powell
Zechy Wong
Mihai Surdeanu