Artificial intelligence in public health: Challenges and opportunities for public health made possible by advances in natural language processing PMC


Natural language processing for humanitarian action: Opportunities, challenges, and the path toward humanitarian NLP

nlp challenges

While understanding this sentence in the way it was meant to be comes naturally to us humans, machines cannot distinguish between different emotions and sentiments. This is exactly where several NLP tasks come in to simplify complications in human communications and make data more digestible, processable, and comprehensible for machines. Google translate also uses NLP through understanding sentences in one language and translating them accurately, rather than just literally, into another. This is because words and phrases between languages are not literal translations of each other. NLP helps Google translate to achieve this goal including grammar and semantic meaning considerations. One of the fundamental challenges in NLP is dealing with the ambiguity and polysemy inherent in natural language.

In this specific example, distance (see arcs) between vectors for food and water is smaller than the distance between the vectors for water and car. The common clinical NLP research topics across languages prompt a reflexion on clinical NLP in a more global context. Global concept extraction systems for languages other than English are currently still in the making (e.g. for Dutch [114], German [115] or French [116, 117]). A notable use of multilingual corpora is the study of clinical, cultural and linguistic differences across countries. A study of forum corpora showed that breast cancer information supplied to patients differs in Germany vs. the United Kingdom [72]. There is sustained interest in terminology development and the integration of terminologies and ontologies in the UMLS [50], or SNOMED-CT for languages such as Basque [51].

The ability to analyze clinical text in languages other than English opens access to important medical data concerning cohorts of patients who are treated in countries where English is not the official language, or in generating global cohorts especially for rare diseases. Table 2 shows the performances of example problems in which deep learning has surpassed traditional approaches. Among all the NLP problems, progress in machine translation is particularly remarkable. Neural machine translation, i.e. machine translation using deep learning, has significantly outperformed traditional statistical machine translation.

BERT provides contextual embedding for each word present in the text unlike context-free models (word2vec and GloVe). For example, in the sentences “he is going to the riverbank for a walk” and “he is going to the bank to withdraw some money”, word2vec will have one vector representation for “bank” in both the sentences whereas BERT will have different vector representation for “bank”. Rationalist approach or symbolic approach assumes that a crucial part of the knowledge in the human mind is not derived by the senses but is firm in advance, probably by genetic inheritance.

The accuracy of the system depends heavily on the quality, diversity, and complexity of the training data, as well as the quality of the input data provided by students. In previous research, Fuchs (2022) alluded to the importance of competence development in higher education and discussed the need for students to acquire higher-order thinking skills (e.g., critical thinking or problem-solving). The system might struggle to understand the nuances and complexities of human language, leading to misunderstandings and incorrect responses. Moreover, a potential source of inaccuracies is related to the quality and diversity of the training data used to develop the NLP model. Facilitating continuous conversations with NLP includes the development of system that understands and responds to human language in real-time that enables seamless interaction between users and machines.

Development Time and Resource Requirements

Here, the virtual travel agent is able to offer the customer the option to purchase additional baggage allowance by matching their input against information it holds about their ticket. Add-on sales and a feeling of proactive service for the customer provided in one swoop. In the first sentence, the ‘How’ is important, and the conversational AI understands that, letting the digital advisor respond correctly.

  • Note that the singular “king” and the plural “kings” remain as separate features in the image above despite containing nearly the same information.
  • Because nowadays the queries are made by text or voice command on of the most common examples is Google might tell you today what tomorrow’s weather will be.
  • This means that social media posts can be understood, and any other comments or engagements from customers can have value for your business.
  • Sectors define the types of needs that humanitarian organizations typically address, which include, for example, food security, protection, health.

For example, data can be noisy, incomplete, inconsistent, biased, or outdated, which can lead to errors or inaccuracies in the models. To overcome this challenge, businesses need to ensure that they have enough data that is relevant, clean, diverse, and updated for their specific NLP tasks and domains. They also need to use appropriate data preprocessing and validation techniques to remove noise, fill gaps, standardize formats, and check for errors. Natural language processing (NLP) is a branch of artificial intelligence (AI) that enables computers to understand, analyze, and generate human language.

Synonyms can lead to issues similar to contextual understanding because we use many different words to express the same idea. Furthermore, some of these words may convey exactly the same meaning, while some may be levels of complexity (small, little, tiny, minute) and different people use synonyms to denote slightly different meanings within their personal vocabulary. Overcome data silos by implementing strategies to consolidate disparate data sources. This may involve data warehousing solutions or creating data lakes where unstructured data can be stored and accessed for NLP processing. Integrating Natural Language Processing into existing IT infrastructure is a strategic process that requires careful planning and execution.

Real-Time Processing and Responsiveness

There is currently a digital divide in NLP between high resource languages, such as English, Mandarin, French, German, Arabic, etc., and low resource languages, which include most of the remaining 7,000+ languages of the world. Though there is a range of ML techniques that can reduce the need for labelled data, there still needs to be enough data, both labelled and unlabelled, to feed data-hungry ML techniques and to evaluate system performance. The second is data-related and refers to some of the data acquisition, accuracy, and analysis issues that are specific to NLP use cases. In this article, we will look at four of the most common data-related challenges in NLP.

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In Natural Language Processing the text is tokenized means the text is break into tokens, it could be words, phrases or character. The text is cleaned and preprocessed before applying Natural Language Processing technique. These are easy for humans to understand because we read the context of the sentence and we understand all of the different definitions. And, while NLP language models may have learned all of the definitions, differentiating between them in context can present problems.

It is, however, equally important not to view a lack of true language understanding as a lack of usefulness. Models with a “relatively poor” depth of understanding can still be highly effective at information extraction, classification and prediction tasks, particularly with the increasing availability of labelled data. The success of these models is built from training on hundreds, thousands and sometimes millions of controlled, labelled and structured data points (8). The capacity of AI to provide constant, tireless and rapid analyses of data offers the potential to transform society’s approach to promoting health and preventing and managing diseases. Several companies in BI spaces are trying to get with the trend and trying hard to ensure that data becomes more friendly and easily accessible. But still there is a long way for this.BI will also make it easier to access as GUI is not needed.

They tried to detect emotions in mixed script by relating machine learning and human knowledge. They have categorized sentences into 6 groups based on emotions and used TLBO technique to help the users in prioritizing their messages based on the emotions attached with the message. Seal et al. (2020) [120] proposed an efficient emotion detection method by searching emotional words from a pre-defined emotional keyword database and analyzing the emotion words, phrasal verbs, and negation words. In the late 1940s the term NLP wasn’t in existence, but the work regarding machine translation (MT) had started.

The Pilot earpiece will be available from September but can be pre-ordered now for $249. The earpieces can also be used for streaming music, answering voice calls, and getting audio notifications. Information extraction is concerned with identifying phrases of interest of textual data. For many applications, extracting entities such as names, places, events, dates, times, and prices is a powerful way of summarizing the information relevant to a user’s needs. In the case of a domain specific search engine, the automatic identification of important information can increase accuracy and efficiency of a directed search. There is use of hidden Markov models (HMMs) to extract the relevant fields of research papers.

The objective of this section is to discuss the Natural Language Understanding (Linguistic) (NLU) and the Natural Language Generation (NLG). Developing applications with built-in data protection measures, such as encryption and anonymization, to safeguard user information. Their subtlety and variability make it hard for algorithms to recognize without training in varied linguistic styles and cultural nuances.

In those countries, DEEP has proven its value by directly informing a diversity of products necessary in the humanitarian response system (Flash Appeals, Emergency Plans for Refugees, Cluster Strategies, and HNOs). Structured data collection technologies are already being used by humanitarian organizations to gather input from affected people in a distributed fashion. Modern NLP techniques would make it possible to expand these solutions to less structured forms of input, such as naturalistic text or voice recordings. Recent work on negation detection in English clinical text [166] suggests that the ability to successfully address a particular clinical NLP task on a particular corpus does not necessarily imply that the results can be generalized without significant adaptation effort. This may hold true for adaptations across languages as well, and suggests a direction for future work in the study of language-adaptive, domain-adaptive and task-adaptive methods for clinical NLP. The LORELEI [167] initiative aims to create NLP technologies for languages with low resources.

It is a field that combines linguistics, artificial intelligence and computer science to interact with human language. For example, NLP on social media platforms can be used to understand the general public reactions towards events. If a post is created, NLP can understand if people are supportive, unsupportive, indifferent or any other kind of emotion- as a result of comments left. NLP systems identify and classify named entities mentioned in text data, such as people, organizations, locations, dates, and numerical expressions. NER is used in various applications, including information retrieval, entity linking, and event extraction.

Storing and processing large volumes of data requires significant computational resources, which can be a barrier for smaller organizations or individual researchers. Furthermore, analyzing large volumes of data can be time-consuming and computationally intensive, requiring efficient algorithms and techniques. Finally, the large volumes of data can also increase the risk of overfitting, where the model learns to perform well on the training data but does not generalize well to new, unseen data. Another challenge related to unstructured data is dealing with the large volumes of data available today. With the rise of the internet and social media, the amount of text data available for analysis has exploded.

  • In early 1980s computational grammar theory became a very active area of research linked with logics for meaning and knowledge’s ability to deal with the user’s beliefs and intentions and with functions like emphasis and themes.
  • Human beings are often very creative while communicating and that’s why there are several metaphors, similes, phrasal verbs, and idioms.
  • Use this model selection framework to choose the most appropriate model while balancing your performance requirements with cost, risks and deployment needs.
  • The language has four tones and each of these tones can change the meaning of a word.
  • The sixth and final step to overcome NLP challenges is to be ethical and responsible in your NLP projects and applications.
  • We don’t realize its importance because it’s part of our day-to-day lives and easy to understand, but if you input this same text data into a computer, it’s a big challenge to understand what’s being said or happening.

During the competition, each submission will be tested using an automated custom evaluator which will compare the accuracy of results from provided test data with the results from industry standard natural language processing applications to create an accuracy score. This score will be continually updated on a public scoreboard during the challenge period, as participants continue to refine their software to improve their scores. At the end of the challenge period, participants will submit their final results and transfer the source code, along with a functional, installable copy of their software, to the challenge vendor for adjudication. In light of the limited linguistic diversity in NLP research (Joshi et al., 2020), it is furthermore crucial not to treat English as the singular language for evaluation.

Over-reliance on systems such as Chat GPT and Google Bard could lead to students becoming passive learners who simply accept the responses generated by the system without questioning or critically evaluating the accuracy or relevance of the information provided. This could lead to a failure to develop important critical thinking skills, such as the ability to evaluate the quality and reliability of sources, make informed judgments, and generate creative and original ideas. Machine learning requires A LOT of data to function to its outer limits – billions of pieces of training data. That said, data (and human language!) is only growing by the day, as are new machine learning techniques and custom algorithms.

Fine-grained evaluation

It has the potential to aid students in staying engaged with the course material and feeling more connected to their learning experience. However, the rapid implementation of these NLP models, like Chat GPT by OpenAI or Bard by Google, also poses several challenges. In this article, I will discuss a range of challenges and opportunities for higher education, as well as conclude with implications that (hopefully) expose gaps in the literature, stimulate research ideas, and, finally, advance the discussion about NLP in higher education. NLP systems often struggle with semantic understanding and reasoning, especially in tasks that require inferencing or commonsense reasoning.

Human language is not just a set of words and rules for how to put those words together. It also includes things like context, tone, and body language, which can all drastically change the meaning of a sentence. For example, the phrase “I’m fine” can mean very different things depending on the tone of voice and context in which it’s said. However, open medical data on its own is not enough to deliver its full potential for public health.

For fine-grained sentiment analysis, confusing between positive and very positive may not be problematic while mixing up very positive and very negative is. Chris Potts highlights an array of practical examples where metrics like F-score fall short, many in scenarios where errors are much more costly. A powerful language model like the GPT-3 packs 175 billion parameters and requires 314 zettaflops, 1021 floating-point operations, to train. It has been estimated that it would cost nearly $100 million in deep learning (DL) infrastructure to train the world’s largest and most powerful generative language model with 530 billion parameters. In 2021, Google open-sourced a 1.6 trillion parameter model and the projected parameter count for GPT-4 is about 100 trillion. As a result, language modelling is quickly becoming as economically challenging as it is conceptually complex.

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End-to-end training and representation learning are the key features of deep learning that make it a powerful tool for natural language processing. It might not be sufficient for inference and decision making, which are essential for complex problems like multi-turn dialogue. Furthermore, how to combine symbolic processing and neural processing, how to deal with the long tail phenomenon, etc. are also challenges of deep learning for natural language processing. Existing multi-task benchmarks such as GEM (Gehrmann et al., 2021), which explicitly aims to be a ‘living’ benchmark, generally include around 10–15 different tasks.

Homonyms – two or more words that are pronounced the same but have different definitions – can be problematic for question answering and speech-to-text applications because they aren’t written in text form. Implement analytics tools to continuously monitor the performance of NLP applications. These could include metrics like increased customer satisfaction, time saved in data processing, or improvements in content engagement. This approach allows for the seamless flow of data between NLP applications and existing databases or software systems.

nlp challenges

The downstream use case of technology should also inform the metrics we use for evaluation. In particular, for downstream applications often not a single metric but an array of constraints need to be considered. Rada Mihalcea calls for moving away from just focusing on accuracy and to focus on other important aspects of real-world scenarios. What is important in a particular setting, in other words, the utility of an NLP system, ultimately depends on the requirements of each individual user (Ethayarajh and Jurafsky, 2020).

1. The emergence of NLP in academia

As they grow and strengthen, we may have solutions to some of these challenges in the near future. In conclusion, while there have been significant advancements in the field of NLP, there are still many challenges that need to be overcome. These challenges involve understanding the complexity of human language, dealing with unstructured data, and generating human-like text. Overcoming these challenges will require further research and development, as well as careful consideration of the ethical and societal implications of NLP.

NLP systems analyze text data to determine the sentiment or emotion expressed within it. This is widely used in market research, social media monitoring, and customer feedback analysis to gauge public opinion and sentiment toward products, services, or brands. Scalability is a critical challenge in NLP, particularly with the increasing complexity and size of language models.

Cosine similarity is a method that can be used to resolve spelling mistakes for NLP tasks. It mathematically measures the cosine of the angle between two vectors in a multi-dimensional space. As a document size increases, it’s natural for the number of common words to increase as well — regardless of the change in topics. This challenge is open to all U.S. citizens and permanent residents and to U.S.-based private entities. Private entities not incorporated in or maintaining a primary place of business in the U.S. and non-U.S. Citizens and non-permanent residents can either participate as a member of a team that includes a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S., or they can participate on their own.

For example, a user who asks, “how are you” has a totally different goal than a user who asks something like “how do I add a new credit card? ” Good NLP tools should be able to differentiate between these phrases with the help of context. Sometimes it’s hard even for another human being to parse out what someone means when they say something ambiguous.

This sparsity will make it difficult for an algorithm to find similarities between sentences as it searches for patterns. Here — in this grossly exaggerated example to showcase our technology’s ability — the AI is able to not only split the misspelled word “loansinsurance”, but also correctly identify the three key topics of the customer’s input. It then automatically proceeds with presenting the customer with three distinct options, which will continue the natural flow of the conversation, as opposed to overwhelming the limited internal logic of a chatbot.

nlp challenges

Resolving these challenges will advance the field of NLP and profoundly impact industries, from improving individual user experiences to fostering global understanding and cooperation. Ethical ConsiderationsAs NLP continues Chat GPT to evolve, ethical considerations will be critical in shaping its development. A word can have multiple meanings depending on the context, making it hard for machines to determine the correct interpretation.

Initially, the data chatbot will probably ask the question ‘how have revenues changed over the last three-quarters? But once it learns the semantic relations and inferences of the question, it will be able to automatically perform the filtering and formulation necessary to provide an intelligible answer, rather than simply showing you data. The extracted information can be applied for a variety of purposes, for example to prepare a summary, to build databases, identify keywords, classifying text items according to some pre-defined categories etc. For example, CONSTRUE, it was developed for Reuters, that is used in classifying news stories (Hayes, 1992) [54].

Rather than limiting the benchmark to a small collection of representative tasks, in light of the number of new datasets constantly being released, it might be more useful to include a larger cross-section of NLP tasks. Given the diverse nature of tasks in NLP, this would provide a more robust and up-to-date evaluation of model performance. LUGE by Baidu is a step towards such a large collection of tasks for Chinese natural language processing, currently consisting of 28 datasets. Data about African languages and culture bridges connections between diverse disciplines working to advance languages. Linguists collect corpora to study languages, while community archivists document languages and culture.

Our conversational AI platform uses machine learning and spell correction to easily interpret misspelled messages from customers, even if their language is remarkably sub-par. First, it understands that “boat” is something the customer wants to know more about, but it’s too vague. Even though the second response is very limited, it’s still able to remember the previous input and understands that the customer is probably interested in purchasing a boat and provides relevant information on boat loans. Business analytics and NLP are a match made in heaven as this technology allows organizations to make sense of the humongous volumes of unstructured data that reside with them.

For NLP, features might include text data, and labels could be categories, sentiments, or any other relevant annotations. Informal phrases, expressions, idioms, and culture-specific lingo present a number of problems for NLP – especially for models intended for broad use. Because as formal language, colloquialisms may have no “dictionary definition” at all, and these expressions may even have different meanings in different geographic areas. Furthermore, cultural slang is constantly morphing and expanding, so new words pop up every day. With spoken language, mispronunciations, different accents, stutters, etc., can be difficult for a machine to understand. However, as language databases grow and smart assistants are trained by their individual users, these issues can be minimized.

Even for seemingly more “technical” tasks like developing datasets and resources for the field, NLP practitioners and humanitarians need to engage in an open dialogue aimed at maximizing safety and potential for impact. Tasks like named entity recognition (briefly described in Section 2) or relation extraction (automatically identifying relations between given entities) are central to these applications. For some domains (e.g., scientific and medical texts), domain-specific tools haven been developed that facilitate structured information extraction (see, for example scispaCy for biomedical text24), and similar tools could highly benefit the humanitarian sector. For example, while humanitarian datasets with rich historical data are often hard to find, reports often include the kind of information needed to populate structured datasets. Developing tools that make it possible to turn collections of reports into structured datasets automatically and at scale may significantly improve the sector’s capacity for data analysis and predictive modeling. You can foun additiona information about ai customer service and artificial intelligence and NLP. Large volumes of technical reports are produced on a regular basis, which convey factual information or distill expert knowledge on humanitarian crises.

nlp challenges

NLP techniques could help humanitarians leverage these source of information at scale to better understand crises, engage more closely with affected populations, or support decision making at multiple stages of the humanitarian response cycle. However, systematic use of text and speech technology in the humanitarian sector is still extremely sparse, and very few initiatives scale beyond the pilot stage. Natural language processing (NLP) is a branch of artificial intelligence (AI) that deals with the interaction between computers and human languages. It enables applications such as chatbots, speech recognition, machine translation, sentiment analysis, and more. However, NLP also faces many challenges, such as ambiguity, diversity, complexity, and noise in natural languages.

nlp challenges

These challenges range from understanding the subtleties of human language, dealing with the vast amount of unstructured data, to creating models that can generate human-like text. This article will delve into these challenges, providing a comprehensive overview of the hurdles faced in the field of NLP. The first phase will focus on the annotation of biomedical concepts from free text, and the second phase will focus on creating knowledge assertions between annotated concepts.

As we have argued repeatedly, real-world impact can only be delivered through long-term synergies between humanitarians and NLP experts, a necessary condition to increase trust and tailor humanitarian NLP solutions to real-world needs. One of its main sources of value is its broad adoption by an increasing number of humanitarian organizations seeking to achieve a more robust, collaborative, and transparent approach to needs assessments and analysis29. DEEP has successfully contributed to strategic planning through the Humanitarian Programme Cycle in many contexts and in a variety of humanitarian projects and initiatives. Sources feeding into needs assessments can range from qualitative interviews with affected populations to remote sensing data or aerial footage. Needs assessment methodologies are to date loosely standardized, which is in part inevitable, given the heterogeneity of crisis contexts.

As a result, separating language-specific rules and task-specific rules amounted to re-designing an entirely new system for the new language. This experience suggests that a system that is designed to be as modular as possible, may be more easily adapted to new languages. As a modular system, cTAKES raises interest for adaptation to languages other than English. Initial experiments in Spanish for sentence boundary detection, part-of-speech tagging and chunking yielded promising results [30]. Some recent work combining machine translation and language-specific UMLS resources to use cTAKES for clinical concept extraction from German clinical narrative showed moderate performance [80].

NLU enables machines to understand natural language and analyze it by extracting concepts, entities, emotion, keywords etc. It is used in customer care applications to understand the problems reported by customers either verbally or in writing. Linguistics is the science which involves the meaning of language, language context nlp challenges and various forms of the language. So, it is important to understand various important terminologies of NLP and different levels of NLP. Lack of Quality DataA cornerstone of effective NLP is access to large, annotated datasets. However, such data is scarce, particularly for specific domains or less-resourced languages.

The challenge will spur the creation of innovative strategies in NLP by allowing participants across academia and the private sector to participate in teams or in an individual capacity. Prizes will be awarded to the top-ranking data science contestants or teams that create NLP systems that accurately capture the information denoted in free text and provide output of this information through knowledge graphs. Biomedical researchers need to be able to use open scientific data to create new research hypotheses and lead to more treatments for more people more quickly. Reading all of the literature that could be relevant to their research topic can be daunting or even impossible, and this can lead to gaps in knowledge and duplication of effort.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) is a subset of Artificial Intelligence (AI) – specifically Machine Learning (ML) that allows computers and machines to understand, interpret, manipulate, and communicate human language. This means that social media posts can be understood, and any other comments or engagements from customers can have value for your business. NLP techniques cluster and categorize text documents based on their underlying themes or topics. Topic modeling algorithms like Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) and Non-negative Matrix Factorization (NMF) help uncover hidden patterns and structures within large collections of text data, aiding in document classification, content recommendation, and trend analysis.

A simple four-worded sentence like this can have a range of meaning based on context, sarcasm, metaphors, humor, or any underlying emotion used to convey this. For example, the word “process” can be spelled as either “process” or “processing.” The problem is compounded when you add accents or other characters that are not in your dictionary. NLP can be used in chatbots and computer programs that use artificial intelligence to communicate with people through text or voice. The chatbot uses NLP to understand what the person is typing and respond appropriately. They also enable an organization to provide 24/7 customer support across multiple channels. NLP is useful for personal assistants such as Alexa, enabling the virtual assistant to understand spoken word commands.

One example is Gamayun (Öktem et al., 2020), a project aimed at crowdsourcing data from underrepresented languages. In a similar space is Kató speak, a voice-based machine translation model deployed during the 2018 Rohingya crisis. This effort has been aided by vector-embedding approaches to preprocess the data that encode words before feeding them into a model.

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