I’ve worked in the content side of scholarly publishing for 25 years, and I cannot count the number of times I’ve been asked or overheard the question, “what is metadata exactly?” I always have a pretty visceral negative reaction to the description of metadata as “data about data.” Not because the definition is wrong (it isn’t), but because it is just not helpful. You’re always left with the follow-up thought, “OK, so what does that mean?
One of the interesting ingredients for success in several current metadata projects is agreement across communities about what metadata are important for various use cases. In an earlier blog, I introduced the idea that metadata recommendations provide descriptions of which documentation concepts communities or organizations believe are important. These recommendations provide an opportunity to identify similarities and differences between community beliefs. We have collected recommendations from 10-20 organizations and communities as part of an NSF Project aimed at evaluating metadata collections in various dialects with respect to these recommendations.
First let me say what a pleasure it is for me to write this blog post. Thanks to the Metadata 2020 team for giving me this opportunity. On the 7th of November, I had the pleasure to attend the workshop given by the Metadata2020 group at the Charleston Conference. Metadata2020 is a collaboration project between librarians, publishers and service providers that advocates the creation of better metadata. At the workshop, among the attendees were librarians, publishers and other information professionals.
Embracing the enormity of metadata challenges in Scholarly Communications through Community Group discussions. Metadata 2020 has always had big goals. From the earliest conversations between Metadata 2020 Director Ginny Hendricks and the Advisory Group she quickly convened, it was clear that there were a number of different directions a collaborative effort could take to improve metadata scholarly communications, the possibilities were seemingly endless. How, then, to narrow the scope and organize efforts?
We recently represented Metadata 2020 in a panel presentation in Washington, DC, at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s symposium, International Coordination for Science Data Infrastructure. The event was comprised of short talks and panels that explored existing and emerging efforts in sharing scientific research data and discussed issues related to the design and use of such systems. The one-day symposium was a great opportunity to tell others about Metadata 2020 and to share how they could participate in the cause.
Full disclosure: I am not a metadata expert. What I am is a branding and marketing consultant specialising in scholarly communications. I’ve been working in the industry since 1999 and in that time I’ve done a whole lot of research with pretty much every type of audience you can imagine. Hundreds of in-depth interviews and dozens of focus groups later, I know a thing or two about publishers, librarians, researchers, funders and other stakeholders in the scholarly ecosystem.
Following the launch of Metadata 2020 at the beginning of September, we have been delighted to receive many enquiries from individuals across scholarly communications who are eager to participate in the collaboration. The support is also clear through Twitter conersations. Thank you to all of you who have offered your help! As a result of the interest received, we have been able to start to form a variety of Community Groups for Publishers, Librarians, Researchers, Funders, Service Providers/Platforms and Tools, and Data Publishers/Repositories.
no·men·cla·ture The devising or choosing of names for things, the body or system of names in a field. For me, it started with earthquake prediction – trying to find signals – real signals. I needed consistent long-term datasets. I needed to find changes and then figure out if they were real… Turned out that most signals were changes in how things were measured… I needed good documentation.
Writing a blog post ‘about metadata’ is like calling a paramecium ‘a hungry slipper with fringe’ - you’re bound to miss out on a lot of detail. Metadata is the thing I got my library degree for, mostly because I think metadata is fascinating, but also because I loathed the reference desk and wanted regular hours. However, as my career went on (and on), I found the issues around metadata to be increasing as the supposed ease of discovery through electronic means became more universal.
I’ve been thinking and talking about Metadata 2020 for well over a year now, and we’ve run lots of workshops and met several times with a team of advisors, so this is a bit of a weird post to write. (And a bit nerve-wracking now we’re making it official - there’s even a news release about the launch!) But here we are with three or four events under our belts and more planned, numerous interviews giving clear insights, dozens of supporters with plans for thousands, and some very ambitious goals: