Case Study: American Association for the Advancement of Science Thesaurus Project


The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), publishers of Science magazine, contacted Access Innovations about a thesaurus project. AAAS was formed in 1848, and has content dating back to at least the 1880s. Over many years, the language of scientific discourse has expanded and changed a great deal.


AAAS was providing only free-text searches on their website. They wanted to initiate granular topical indexing and provide a mechanism for subject browsing of electronic content. Dealing with synonymy to cover the changes in terminology was identified early on as crucial to the success of the indexing project.  In addition to Science, AAAS also publishes several specialty journals (Science Signaling and Science Translational Medicine), so the taxonomy needed to address these areas with a high degree of specificity. Since Science covers all of science, AAAS also leveraged the expertise of a significant number of in-house subject matter experts (SMEs) to review the thesaurus.


By mining AAAS content and other resources for terms, Access Innovations’ team of taxonomists crafted a taxonomy of about 7,100 preferred terms and an additional 7,100 synonyms covering the entire spectrum of scientific literature. Special attention was given to the branches dealing with cell signaling and translational medicine for their specialty journals. Also, AAAS has content covering non-research topics, such as science industry news and employment opportunities, so the Access team added terms to provide good indexing for these articles. Access Innovations worked extensively with SMEs from AAAS to review and refine the thesaurus, which was successfully delivered for integration into their platform.


Access Innovations is working with AAAS to finish the complex rule base for indexing the entirety of AAAS content. Our taxonomists continue to assist with taxonomy management. AAAS implemented their new thesaurus, immediately enhancing user navigation for the document collection on their website.