As global interest in traditional and alternative medicine grows, Elsevier, the global information analytics business specialising in science and health, 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, the world’s most comprehensive biomedical literature database.
During the 6-month collaboration, BUCM, one of the first institutions of higher learning on TCM, will review terms and help build a detailed, robust taxonomy to encompass all TCM data in Embase.
The taxonomy will enrich and enhance the existing content in Embase, making it easily discoverable to users seeking knowledge from clinical practices for modern biomedical sciences. On completion, Embase will contain the most comprehensive taxonomy for TCM available.
Currently valued at 786 billion yuan (approx. $121 billion), the TCM market is growing, with pharmaceutical companies becoming interested in developing and verifying the benefits of TCM.
Despite having been practiced for thousands of years, research into TCM can present some modern challenges. Although TCM literature from the historical period and from 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.
“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 year, with more than 10,000 scholarly research or review articles published in 2017 alone,” said Cameron Ross, Managing Director of Life Science Solutions at Elsevier.
“According to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, more than 100 million Europeans are currently using traditional and complimentary medicines, with many more users in Africa, Asia, Australia and North America.
“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,” Mr Ross added.
“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.”
Beijing University of Chinese Medicine is one of the top ranking Chinese universities, with a long heritage of, and experience in, teaching TCM.
The university is also involved in 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 is dedicated to publishing high evidence-based practices, which, along with its vast experience of TCM, makes it a great collaborator to help make Embase’s TCM data 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.
“BUCM has been working in the field of traditional Chinese medicine for more than 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.”