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Burrowing into the bran tub

Felix Grant assesses statistical information mining techniques

statistical information mining techniques to the combined database contents. As a direct result of the operation other companies, seen as friendly to the small country’s interests, received repackaged and anonymised material suggesting productive new lines of enquiry. Patents resulting from these have already been filed; others are in the pipeline. The large company that was the target of the operation, significantly, remains unaware of the opportunities that exist within components of its own activities, which have never been brought together. Or so, at least, I am told. I have no way to

Schematic illustration of the ADMIRE data management Integration model

Intelligence organs of a fairly small, but technologically proficient, country recently managed to clone the email and document bases of a fairly large, but unsuspecting, company with an active and diverse research operation. Not the research results bases

themselves; just the email and document archives. The immediate benefits of the theft were obvious, mundane, and irrelevant here. More interesting from a scientific computing viewpoint (if no more morally or legally defensible) were the spinoffs from applying

Keep taking the tablets

David Smith, pharmaceutical solutions architect for SAS UK, comments: ‘Most data mining techniques can be applied to pharmaceutical data, and have great potential for answering a wide variety of questions across all parts of the business. ‘Association analysis, for example, can help enterprises to understand which drug combinations are associated with adverse events, and which associations are strong


enough to be investigated and addressed. Segmentation techniques can help identify groups of physicians who are potential investigators in a new trial. ‘Variable selection can be used to answer questions, such as which genetic markers determine whether a patient will respond well to a treatment, or which process parameters predict quality control failure of a production batch.


‘Mining of linguistic information helps to gather insight into pharmaceutical methods and techniques. For example, text mining allows pharmacists to identify groups of adverse events associated with a particular drug, a so-called syndrome effect. Content categorisation can highlight potential drug safety concerns suggested by internet tweets and blog entries, or point to abstracts that researchers should prioritise.’

verify the truth of this story, of course. But the young man who tells it to me, sitting in the café at the National Gallery, his hands continually roving across the keyboard and digitiser pad of a notebook as he talks, has never sold me a lemon yet. And, true or not, it illustrates a truth: that much knowledge is locked away in information stores assembled for one set of reasons and never reexamined in other ways. Less melodramatically, and less dubiously, information openly published on the internet forms a huge field within which to prospect potential information seams – ‘The low user entry barrier of the web has resulted in massive amounts of unstructured and weakly structured data referring to objects, concepts, user interests and communities,’ to quote the Digital Enterprise Research Institute at

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