Metadata Practices

By Jennifer Kemp and Howard Ratner | Tue, Mar 17, 2020

Best Practices and Supporting Use Cases for Metadata 2020 Principles

In May 2019, we issued a call for comments on a draft set of high-level, aspirational principles designed to “advocate for all of us to be good metadata citizens.” Thanks very much to the project group and the community for input on this resource. Here we present the finalized version based on this input, and include practices and use cases to support the goals of the principles.

Principles

For metadata to support the community, it should be:

 COMPATIBLE : provide a guide to content for machines and people
So, metadata must be as open, interoperable, parsable, machine actionable, human readable as possible.

 COMPLETE : reflect the content, components and relationships as published
So, metadata must be as complete and comprehensive as possible.

 CREDIBLE : enable content discoverability and longevity
So, metadata must be of clear provenance, trustworthy and accurate.

 CURATED : reflect updates and new element
So, metadata must be maintained over time.

Best Practices

As promised, the group has also created a set of Best Practices- with details added for clarity. The Principles are the why, the Practices are the how. Like the Principles, the Practices are context-sensitive and will be more goals than reality for some of us for some time to come, and that’s OK. What’s important and what we hope these combined resources support, is that the various stakeholders, described as personas in a previous post, move toward a common set of goals, with support and guidance.

To that end, we are collecting metadata use cases and we invite you to add yours. These use cases are real-world examples designed to illustrate and enlighten and may be from practitioners and the curious alike. In other words, if you have a question about how all of this works, that can be a use case too and we can build on the resource over time. Please get in touch with us for more information.

We hope this is a useful overview showing how all of the best practice efforts fit together with the metadata principles. Our goal is to make these examples useful for your organization and for the shared goal of having richer, connected, and reusable, open metadata for all research outputs, which will advance scholarly pursuits for the benefit of society.

Principles, Practices & Personas

1. Connect to what already exists

Connect to what already exists graphic

  • Do: Understand recommendations and context
  • Do: Seek out and use existing metadata schema and practices
  • Do: Use community resources and in-house expertise to contextualize requirements and maximize the opportunities they afford for discoverability

    Performed by Metadata 1 Creators; 2 Curators; 3 Custodians; 4 Consumers
    Principles supported:  COMPATIBLE       CURATED 

2. Adopt schema best practices

Adopt schema best practices graphic

  • Do: Include best practice elements when possible
  • Do: Include definitions and document schema rationale, e.g. label fields
  • Do: Provide best practice elements for repositories and schemas

    Performed by Metadata 1 Creators; 3 Custodians
    Principles supported:  COMPATIBLE       CREDIBLE 

3. Honor the strategic nature of metadata

Honor the strategic nature of metadata graphic

  • Do: Treat metadata as a strategic, primary output, like content
  • Do: Consider broadly how rich metadata can benefit your organization by facilitating better discovery, and more linked data between resources

    Performed by Metadata 1 Creators; 3 Custodians
    Principles supported:  CREDIBLE       CURATED 

4. Prepare for evolving needs

Prepare for evolving needs graphic

  • Do: Sample and audit regularly to resolve gaps and errors
  • Do: Make bulk updates when new elements are introduced
  • Do: Consider ongoing investments to improve metadata
  • Do: Provide for interoperability
  • Do: Think beyond traditional formats and publishing paradigms, e.g. books, data and other formats that may not be digitized yet or need special attention
  • Don’t: Assume research itself will not also evolve and change how it will be conducted in future

    Performed by Metadata 1 Creators; 2 Curators; 3 Custodians
    Principles supported:  COMPLETE       CURATED 

5. Facilitate discoverability

Facilitate discoverability graphic

    Performed by Metadata 1 Creators; 2 Curators;
    Principles supported:  COMPATIBLE       CREDIBLE 

  • Do: Use verified PIDs (Persistent IDentifiers, e.g. ORCIDs) for all contributors, organizations, and content
  • Do: Use correct spelling and authoritative names from established vocabularies
  • Do: Use complete publication dates
  • DO: Continue to use interoperable data formats like UTF-8 and ISO 8601.
  • Do: Include all contributors and their affiliations whenever possible
  • Do: Favor electronic lookups and/or APIs to digitally obtain information directly from authoritative source systems
  • Don’t: Re-key information or copy/ paste without proof-reading
  • Do: Describe content in normalized, type-appropriate ways that are consistent with best practices
  • Don’t: Use a unique-to-you approach. Augment community-specific approaches with PIDs and other standard metadata approaches

6. Adopt an attitude of continuous improvement

Adopt an attitude of continuous improvement graphic

  • DO: Respond to and address user requests for data correction
  • Do: Follow the lead of users (including machines) and solicit feedback
  • Do: Create feedback mechanisms for users to report their needs

    Performed by Metadata 1 Creators; 2 Curators; 3 Custodians
    Principles supported:  CURATED 

7. Act on issues when found

Act on issues when you find them graphic

  • Do: Utilize feedback mechanisms, e.g. to report errors
  • Don’t: Miss the opportunity to contribute to improvement

    Performed by Metadata 4 Consumers
    Principles supported:  COMPLETE       CURATED 

  • Do: Collaborate to solve problems
  • Don’t: Work around problems

    Performed by Metadata 1 Creators; 2 Curators; 3 Custodians; 4 Consumers
    Principles supported:  COMPATIBLE       CURATED 

8. Take a personal role in making metadata richer

Take a personal role in making metadata richer graphic

  • Do: Collaborate.Take an active role to advocate (demand, collaborate for) richer metadata
  • Don’t: Accept the status quo

    Performed by Metadata 4 Consumers
    Principles supported:  CURATED 

Use Cases

What does this mean for the daily work of librarians, publishers, service providers and others? We are gathering specific examples help illustrate the challenges and potential of working toward Best Principles and Practices. We’re all in this together so we recommend looking at the unfamiliar in addition to those that may be close to your work.

See the Metadata Use Cases.

Do you have a use case to share? Please contribute it!

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