Bio-SimVerb and Bio-SimLex : Wide-coverage evaluation sets of word similarity in biomedicine


*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Word representations support a variety of Natural Language Processing (NLP) tasks. The quality of these representations is typically assessed by comparing the distances in the induced vector spaces against human similarity judgements. Whereas comprehensive evaluation resources have recently been developed for the general domain, similar resources for biomedicine currently suffer from the lack of coverage, both in terms of word types included and with respect to the semantic distinctions. Notably, verbs have been excluded, although they are essential for the interpretation of biomedical language. Further, current resources do not discern between semantic similarity and semantic relatedness, although this has been proven as an important predictor of the usefulness of word representations and their performance in downstream applications. 

Results: We present two novel comprehensive resources targeting the evaluation of word representations in biomedicine. These resources, Bio-SimVerb and Bio-SimLex, address the previously mentioned problems, and can be used for evaluations of verb and noun representations respectively. In our experiments, we have computed the Pearson's correlation between performances on intrinsic and extrinsic tasks using twelve popular state-of-the-art representation models (e.g. word2vec models). The intrinsic-extrinsic correlations using our datasets are notably higher than with previous intrinsic evaluation benchmarks such as UMNSRS and MayoSRS. In addition, when evaluating representation models for their abilities to capture verb and noun semantics individually, we show a considerable variation between performances across all models. 

Conclusion: Bio-SimVerb and Bio-SimLex enable intrinsic evaluation of word representations. This evaluation can serve as a predictor of performance on various downstream tasks in the biomedical domain. The results on Bio-SimVerb and Bio-SimLex using standard word representation models highlight the importance of developing dedicated evaluation resources for NLP in biomedicine for particular word classes (e.g. verbs). These are needed to identify the most accurate methods for learning class-specific representations. Bio-SimVerb and Bio-SimLex are publicly available.

Original languageEnglish
Article number33
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Bioinformatics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This work is supported by the Medical Research Council [grant number MR/M013049/1] and the ERC Consolidator Grant LEXICAL [grant number 648909].
Publisher Copyright: © 2018 The Author(s).


  • Downstream tasks
  • Intrinsic evaluation
  • Word similarity


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