U.S. government program improves search and access to information with ontology management, text analytics

U.S. government program improves search and access to information with ontology management, text analytics


The Head Start Early Childhood and Learning Center website serves a diverse set of constituencies with a vast collection of department guidelines, best practices, program requirements, training manuals and educational materials.

The site serves the parents, grandparents and guardians of children in the Head Start program as well as the 25,000 Head Start grantees who serve those children. Some grantees have been in the Head Start program for years, but new ones join regularly, and this creates sub-constituencies for the website. Not only are there different types of content for these groups, that content was created across a span of time – and newer documents are not always the most relevant.


To help the right people find the right documents, Head Start, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, had a manual process for tagging content. However, that process did not work as well as it needed to – people tagged content in different ways and inconsistently added terms to the reference taxonomy. In addition, users varied in how they tagged terms over time – as thinking and language evolved.

Head Start's goal was to help users find all relevant content without having to do multiple searches or sift through piles of documents. As part of the project, Head Started needed to update tagged documents with consistent tags and convert some paper documents to electronic ones.

The Solution

When Head Start began producing documents in electronic form, users manually added classification tags to content as it was being uploaded to the web site. To try and maintain consistency, users referenced a taxonomy they maintained in Excel sheets.

Now, Head Start has imported that taxonomy into Semaphore's Ontology Manager and has enhanced it with related terms, synonyms, and language that reflect the most up to date thinking. Ontology Manager allows Head Start to account for language changes that have occurred over time by mapping how those terms relate to one another. 

"We wanted this tool to bring content out of the cellar that hadn't seen the light of day for years," said Townley Knudson, former project director at the Head Start Information and Communications Center. "It did that and showed us lost content that was still valuable." 

In the detailed case study learn more about the solution details including how it uses Classification Server to perform text analytics on content and applies the metadata.

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