NEWS

Elsevier working on traditional Chinese medicine

Elsevier has announced it is working with Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM) to create a new taxonomy for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in Embase, the biomedical literature database.

During the six-month collaboration, BUCM, one of the first institutions of higher learning on TCM, will review terms and help build a detailed, robust taxonomy to encompass all TCM data in Embase. The taxonomy will enrich and enhance the existing content in Embase; making it easily discoverable to users seeking knowledge from clinical practices for modern biomedical sciences. On completion, Embase will contain the most comprehensive taxonomy for TCM available.

The TCM market is currently valued at 786 billion yuan (approx. $121 billion USD) and growing, with pharmaceutical companies becoming interested in developing and verifying the benefits of TCM.

Despite having been practiced for thousands of years, research into TCM can present some modern challenges. Although TCM literature from the historical period and from modern clinical studies has recently been digitised in relational databases or text documents, searching and retrieving the precise evidence using abstract and indexing databases remains a challenge.

Furthermore, TCM relies on numerous spellings, synonyms, translations, and symbols – with multiple ways to refer to the same medicine. The new taxonomy will cover a variety of branches, including the ‘up’ branch, ‘narrow’ branch and ‘children’ structure of TCM, enabling researchers to search for any of the compounds which may make up traditional Chinese medicines and discover linked results.

'The trend in the use of traditional and complementary medicine is growing globally, and as a result, the volume of published resources into this field is increasing at a rate of around six per cent per year, with more than 10,000 scholarly research or review articles published in 2017 alone,' explained Cameron Ross, managing director of life science solutions at Elsevier.

'According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, more than 100 million Europeans are currently using traditional and complimentary medicines, with many more users in Africa, Asia, Australia and North America.

'In response to these market demands and the expectations of our customers, we are working with BUCM to build a taxonomy for Chinese medicine that will help our clients examine specific TCM practices from a scientific perspective. By enabling this discovery and analysis of integrated health and medical research, we can provide our customers with more successful outcomes and a deeper understanding of the evidence behind how TCM complements conventional medicine to improve prospects for patients.'

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