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National Science Foundation

The goal of this research is to help researchers develop and use relatively simple tools to describe species in a way that make those descriptions easier to share with other scientists and easier for computers to process and analyze. The approach is bottom-up and iterative, involving the rapid prototyping of tools, combining of existing tools, and the tailoring of applications developed for one purpose but now being reused for this scientific activity. Innovation from this project is applicable to the long-term development of open source software initiatives serving labs throughout the world. The project provides rich, real-world training for graduate students in library and information sciences, training them to be much needed cross-disciplinary researchers in a field desperate for...

National Science Foundation

Taxonomists are scientists who describe the world’s biodiversity. These descriptions of millions of species allow scientists to do many different kinds of research, including basic biology, environmental science, climate research, agriculture, and medicine. The problem is that describing any one species is not easy. The language used by taxonomists to describe their data is complex, and typically not easily understandable by computers nor even other scientists. This situation makes it harder to search for patterns across millions of species documented by thousands of researchers over many decades of work worldwide.

The goal of this research is to help researchers develop and use relatively simple tools to describe species in a way that make those descriptions easier to share...


INDICATOR is a novel information system for collecting, integrating, and analyzing data from multiple sources to provide public health decision makers real-time data on the health of their community. Data comes from sources as varied as emergency department visits, school attendance, veterinary clinics, and social media postings and together have been used to change public policy in outbreak events.

Funding for this project was provided by the Carle Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Mar. 1, 2017

Associate Professor Catherine Blake will present at the 2017 inaugural Health Communication: Barriers, Breakthroughs, and Best Practices (HCB3) Conference from March 1-3 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. An exclusively online conference, HCB3 2017 is sponsored by the Health Communication Online Master of Science program at Illinois. Participants come from all professional areas of healthcare, especially those focusing on the intersections between technology and patient experiences, health literacy, provider-patient communication, cultural health communication, e-health accessibility, and application of theory to real-world practice.

The theme of this year's conference is Technology and Electronically-Mediated Communication in Healthcare. Three keynote presentations are scheduled to stream at 12:00 p....

Dec. 12, 2016

By using products such as soap, shampoo, body lotion, toothpaste and makeup, the average consumer may be exposed to dozens of chemicals each day. It's not easy, though, to know exactly what is in many consumer products or what potential risks they pose, either individually or in combination.

A doctoral student and a professor in the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences are using an informatics approach to help prioritize chemical combinations for further testing by determining the prevalence of individual ingredients and their most likely combinations in consumer products.

Doctoral student Henry Gabb and professor Catherine Blake published the results of the first phase of their work in Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health...

Nov. 15, 2016

Doctoral candidates Ana Lucic and Henry A. Gabb will present work with Associate Professor Catherine Blake at the 40th annual American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Annual Symposium held from November 12-16 in Chicago. AMIA is composed of more than 5,000 health care professionals, informatics researchers, and thought leaders in biomedicine, health care, and science.

Lucic will give the talk, "Improving endpoint detection to support automated systematic reviews."

Abstract: Authors of biomedical articles use comparison sentences to communicate the findings of a study, and to compare the results of the current study with earlier studies. The Claim Framework defines a comparison claim as a sentence that includes at least two entities that are being compared, and an endpoint that captures the way in which the entities are compared. Although automated methods have been developed to identify comparison...

Jul. 1, 2016

Doctoral candidate Shameem Ahmed successfully defended his dissertation, "mHealth Literacy: Characterizing People’s Ability to Use Smartphone-based Health-related Applications," on June 30.

His committee includes Associate Professor Kate Williams (chair), Professor Emeritus Abdul Alkalimat, Professor Linda Smith, and Tiffany Veinot (associate professor, University of Michigan School of Information and School of Public Health).

From the abstract: This dissertation investigates the following research question: what literacy does a user need to gain benefits from using a health-related app on a smartphone? It coins the term ‘mHealth Literacy’ to refer to all such necessary literacies or skills, and identifies ten literacies which are required to use mHealth apps.

More than one-third of the adult population in the USA suffers from the problem of inadequate Health Literacy. With the emergence of new forms of information technology, the focus of Health Literacy...

May. 4, 2016

A recent article in Environmental Health Perspectives by Associate Professor Catherine Blake and doctoral student Henry A. Gabb explores chemical exposure from consumer products in order to identify chemical combinations that appear together frequently.

Through an analysis of 38,975 product labels, Blake and Gabb identified a group of fifty-five asthma-associated chemicals and potential endocrine disruptors in various consumer product categories that focused on personal care items such as shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste. Many products contain more than one of the target chemicals. They also found that the same chemical is often listed under many different names—a practice that can make it difficult for consumers to recognize and avoid products that contain specific chemicals.

The informatics approach developed by Blake and Gabb complements spectroscopic approaches to chemical detection and provides a new method to prioritize the risk assessment of potentially...

Nov. 10, 2015

GSLIS Research Scientist Ian Brooks is part of an Illinois research team receiving $1 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop a mobile sensor technology for performing detection and identification of viral and bacterial pathogens. It is one of ten NSF Partnerships for Innovation: Building Innovation Capacity projects funded this year.

The project, PathTracker: A smartphone-based system for mobile infectious disease detection and epidemiology, will be led by principal investigator Brian T. Cunningham, director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory and a bioengineering professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Illinois.

In addition to Cunningham and Brooks, the...

Oct. 6, 2015

Assistant Professor Vetle Torvik participated in the 2015 Conference on Complex Systems, held from September 28 to October 2 in Tempe, Arizona. He spoke at the satellite event, “Quantifying Science,” at which he presented a paper coauthored with GSLIS alumna Laura G. Cruz (MS '15) titled, “Sex-bias in Biomedical Research: a Bibliometric Perspective.”

Abstract: Models of human disease have traditionally been biased towards the male body. Here, we perform a retrospective study of factors that may have contributed to (reducing) this bias across a variety of biomedical topics and study types in the United States during 1987-2009.

The Conference on Complex Systems is an international meeting hosted annually by the Complex Systems Society. The 2015 event was the first...