Improving usability of community information systems through natural language queries

The Polis Center   (Indianapolis)

May 2011

The purpose of this project is to address a major challenge in the use of community information systems (specifically the SAVI Community Information System) by developing a new approach to information discovery.  The greatest challenge of SAVI and similar systems is making the data and information contained within them easily searchable by a variety of audiences (or user groups).  The challenge still remains for an easy way for users to discover the data to answer his/her specific question.  This project seeks to overcome this challenge by developing a way for users simply to type a natural language question and find the relevant data and information to answer their question without having to navigate a set of tools or understand a pre-defined data structure. 

The proof of concept will test the applicability of Natural Language Processing (NLP) to translate user questions into meaning search results.  It focuses on the technological framework and basic methodologies that will be used in the end-goal system.  Each aim of this proof of concept builds or tests a piece of the information architecture and data discovery process.  This is the foundation of the improved user interaction with the community information system and is a key step to reaching the larger goals of this project. 

This work will be transportable to other community information systems, and we may be seeking partners for future proposals to test this in other systems.  Please contact us if interested (