BERTMeSH: Deep contextual representation learning for large-scale high-performance MeSH indexing with full text

Ronghui You, Yuxuan Liu, Hiroshi Mamitsuka, Shanfeng Zhu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Motivation: With the rapid increase of biomedical articles, large-scale automatic Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) indexing has become increasingly important. FullMeSH, the only method for large-scale MeSH indexing with full text, suffers from three major drawbacks: FullMeSH (i) uses Learning To Rank, which is time-consuming, (ii) can capture some pre-defined sections only in full text and (iii) ignores the whole MEDLINE database. Results: We propose a computationally lighter, full text and deep-learning-based MeSH indexing method, BERTMeSH, which is flexible for section organization in full text. BERTMeSH has two technologies: (i) the state-of-the-art pre-trained deep contextual representation, Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT), which makes BERTMeSH capture deep semantics of full text. (ii) A transfer learning strategy for using both full text in PubMed Central (PMC) and title and abstract (only and no full text) in MEDLINE, to take advantages of both. In our experiments, BERTMeSH was pre-trained with 3 million MEDLINE citations and trained on ∼1.5 million full texts in PMC. BERTMeSH outperformed various cutting-edge baselines. For example, for 20 K test articles of PMC, BERTMeSH achieved a Micro F-measure of 69.2%, which was 6.3% higher than FullMeSH with the difference being statistically significant. Also prediction of 20 K test articles needed 5 min by BERTMeSH, while it took more than 10 h by FullMeSH, proving the computational efficiency of BERTMeSH.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)684-692
Number of pages9
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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