Masked researcher hunched over computer

Sorting through the torrent of COVID-19 research

The velocity of the scientific research being undertaken to address the COVID-19 pandemic can be overwhelming. New studies and papers on the topic are being published daily and sometimes even hourly. What is a researcher hoping to stay on the cusp of new findings to do?

Northwestern University researchers have developed a tool that will make researchers’ lives much easier.

The CAVIDOTS tool — short for Coronavirus Document Text Summarization — skims through scientific literature, analyzes which articles will be of most use for the given request, and creates short, easily skimmed summaries of each paper.

The tool was created by graduate student Ning Wang, an advisee of Han Liu, an associate professor of statistics at Weinberg College with a dual appointment in the McCormick School of Engineering. Wang worked with Diego Klabjan, a professor of industrial engineering and management sciences, to develop the project.

“Researchers can spend hours combing through documents and reading peer-reviewed papers,” Wang said. “Our tool provides the most salient details for academic articles rather than simply retrieving them. We hope this will be a time saver for researchers, guiding them to key information.”

CAVIDOTS can be accessed via a web-based application. Users enter progressively more specific search terms before the tool searches 30,000 documents in the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), a free database housing scholarly articles related to the novel coronavirus.

“We do hope this will help speed up research,” Wang said. “We want to provide medical researchers with more efficient tools to acquire the information they need to fight the virus.”