Few research tasks are as time-consuming and tedious as scouring the scientific literature. The searcher might need only one nugget of information, yet it can take hours or days to slog through hundreds of papers before that one fact is found. Now, a new open-source tool called Textpresso http://www.textpresso.org can find a single fact just by typing in a quick search entry.

Paul Sternberg's lab at the California Institute of Technology designed Textpresso to organize papers on Caenorhabditis elegans. Unlike the popular PubMed online search tool, Textpresso does a full text search. And unlike other text-search devices, Textpresso bases its search on ontological relationships, thus increasing its precision.

"Our first priority is retrieval," says Sternberg. "We want every reference we can find. But then we can provide precision on top of that." It's the difference between retrieving a hundred papers from a traditional search engine, he says, and retrieving...

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