A review of metadata: a survey of current resource description formats
Work Package 3 of Telematics for Research project DESIRE (RE 1004)
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This document has been prepared as a working paper in the Indexing and Cataloguing work package of the DESIRE project (WP3), funded by the European Union as part of the Telematics for Research area of the Fourth Framework Programme. A companion document Resource description: initial recommendations for metadata formats
lays out recommendations for metadata use within the subject-based information gateways within DESIRE.
The DESIRE project will use a generic metadata format for the records in the subject-based information gateways. There are a number of options for this format. This study provides background information which allows the implications of using particular formats to be assessed. Part I is a brief introductory review of issues. Part II provides an outline of resource description formats in directory style. This second part includes generic formats, but also, to give an indication of the range of development, domain-specific formats. The intention is not to be comprehensive, but to give sufficient examples to support understanding of a rapidly developing environment. The focus is on metadata for 'information resources' broadly understood; a variety of other approaches exist within particular scientific, engineering and other areas.
Metadata is data which describes attributes of a resource. A more formal definition is:
metadata is data associated with objects which relieves their potential users of having to have full advance knowledge of their existence or characteristics.
It is recognised that in an indefinitely large resource space, effective management of networked information will increasingly rely on effective management of metadata. The need for metadata services is already clear in the current Internet environment. As the Internet develops into a mixed information economy deploying multiple application protocols and formats this need will be all the greater. Metadata is not only key to discovery, it will also be fundamental to effective use of found resources (by establishing the technical or business frameworks in which they can be used) and to interoperability across protocol domains.
Thus, the nature of the problem to be solved suggests a variety of solutions. It is unlikely that some monolithic metadata format will be universally used. This is for a number of more or less well known reasons, not least the investment represented by legacy systems in terms of technology and human effort.
In Part I of this report we examine some characteristics of the environment in which network information of interest to European researchers is being created and some of the factors which are influencing the development of metadata services.
Part II of this report describes a range of metadata formats under a number of standard headings.
This document has been prepared as a working paper in the Indexing and Cataloguing work package of the DESIRE project (WP4), funded by the European Union as part of the Telematics for Research area of the Fourth Framework Programme.
This particular task is co-ordinated by UKOLN and the involved partners are UKOLN at the University of Bath, Loughborough University, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands, and SOSIG at the University of Bristol.
In preparing the material, the authors contacted a range of standards developers and implementors for further information or clarification. We would like to thank them for their kind co-operation and assistance. Any errors or misinterpretations remain the authors'. Those contacted included:
The authors acknowledge the helpful comments of the peer reviewers in the preparation of the final report.
A companion document Resource description: initial recommendations for metadata formats <URL:http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/metadata/DESIRE/recommendations> lays out recommendations for metadata use within the subject-based information gateways within DESIRE.
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