Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Adding Solr to BioStor: searching for real


Prompted by the appearance on the BHL blog of an article about BioStor I've thinking about how to improve what is basically a fairly clunky tool.

One major weakness is searching the collection of nearly 40,000 articles extracted from BHL. Note the word "extracted." BioStor isn't a tool like PubMed or Google Scholar where the goal is to find articles on a topic. Instead it addresses a more specific question, namely whether a given article is contained in an item scanned by BHL. Confusion about this was one reason publication of my paper on BioStor (doi:10.1186/1471-2105-12-187) took so long to pass through the review stage.

However, users (myself included) expect to be able to search for articles. So, it's time to explore ways to make it easier to find articles within the BioStor database. I've junked the previous pretty crappy code I wrote and have started to play with the Solr search engine. I'd experimented with Solr a while ago, but other stuff got in the way. Today I've managed to add it to BioStor and do a preliminary indexing of the articles in BioStor. So far I'm only indexing basic bibliographic metadata, and displaying the first 30 hits, but already it's making it much easier to find interesting stuff in BioStor.

Solr also supports faceted searching (i.e., clustering results by categories such as year, author, journal). I don't so much with this yet, but there's clearly a lot of scope. I could also add taxonomic names, and even the OCR text to Solr, greatly expanding the ability to find articles. But that's for the future. For now, here are some interesting searches: