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Elsevier collaboration enables research into traditional Chinese medicine

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

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

‘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 6 per cent per year, with more than 10,000 scholarly research or review articles published in 2017 alone[1]. According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, more than 100 million Europeans are currently using traditional and complementary medicines, with many more users in Africa, Asia, Australia and North America’ ’ said Cameron Ross, managing director of life science solutions at Elsevier.

Despite having been practised for thousands of years, research into TCM can present some modern challenges. Although TCM literature from the historical period and 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.

Further, 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. 

‘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’ Ross added.

BUCM is also involved in another project the ‘Cochrane Collaboration’, a global independent network of researchers, professionals, patients, carers and individuals interested in health. As part of the Cochrane China Group, BUCM publishes evidence-based practices.

This experience with evidence-based TCM research helps to drive the collaboration to enhance Embase’s TCM data – while also making it more widely discoverable. The taxonomies will be provided in English, and researchers will be able to search the spelling of Chinese characters as part of the new taxonomies, which will be live in Embase in early 2019.

Embase has more than 32 million records from almost 8,300 published journals containing a wide range of evidence-based medicine, drug and medical device efficacy studies.

‘BUCM has been working in the field of traditional Chinese medicine for over 60 years, building a deep knowledge of the domain,’ said Professor Jianping Liu, director, Centre for Evidence-Based Chinese Medicine at Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. ‘We recognise the increasing interest in TCM and traditional medicines more generally and are extremely pleased to be able to share our knowledge with a wider audience through Embase. We are excited at this opportunity to further the field of TCM beyond the 313,000 professionals who have studied at BUCM. This is a chance for us to promote scientific research and evidence-based practice of TCM in China and around the world while helping researchers globally to develop further the understanding of TCM as a medical science, useful for both the prevention and the treatment of disease.’

[1] Source: Scopus mentions of traditional, complimentary or alternative medicine, conducted January 2018.

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