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Report of the Metadata Workshop
held in Luxembourg, 26 June 1998


Updated: 22 OCT 98


Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Specific objectives of the second workshop
  3. Participation
  4. Structure of the workshop
  5. Morning session: technical issues
  6. Afternoon session: strategic issues
  7. Conclusions
  8. List of acronyms and references

The full report of the workshop is available for download in Word (100 KByte) and PDF (83 KByte) format.


Executive summary

On 26 June 1998, the second workshop of a series on the subject of metadata organised by the European Commission DGXIII/E4 took place in Luxembourg.

32 participants attended the workshop. Many organisations in Europe involved in the implementation of metadata for electronic resources were represented, as were several European Commission services.

The workshop contained one session on technical and implementation issues and one session on strategic and standardisation issues reflecting the specific objectives of the workshop.

The first specific objective was to give a number of projects the opportunity to present results in the area of metadata from various perspectives. In the morning session, the issues that were covered in the presentations were:

  • metadata creation tools
  • definition of local extensions to Dublin Core for specific application areas
  • the use of controlled vocabulary
  • multilingual metadata

The presenters of these subjects conducted a panel discussion on these issues and others raised by the audience.

The second specific objective was to discuss metadata in a broader context with project participants and experts involved in definition and standardisation of metadata elements. In the afternoon session, presentations covered:

  • metadata activities in context
  • future developments in Dublin Core

In a plenary discussion, the participants discussed strategic issues concerning the definition and standardisation of metadata element sets.

The major conclusions of the workshop can be summarised as follows:

  • the strategic discussions highlighted that establishing widely accepted agreements is essential for the success of metadata;
  • it is necessary that consensus on agreements for metadata is achieved across domains (e.g. libraries, museums, education, business, etc.);
  • agreements and standards need to be maintained over time in a clear and open way with participation of all interested parties (especially user communities) to guarantee stability over time;
  • formal and informal bodies involved in the standardisation of metadata sets (Dublin Core community, CEN, ISO) need to find effective ways of co-operation to ensure maximum acceptance of agreements and to avoid overlapping activities;
  • further metadata workshops organised by the European Commission are considered to be valuable platforms for co-ordination and exchange of experience.

For further information, including PowerPoint presentations, see the Workshop's Web site at:http://www.echo.lu/libraries/en/metadata2.html

For more information on the Libraries sector of the Telematics Application Programme, see:http://www.echo.lu/libraries/en/libraries.html

1. Introduction

This document is the report of the second Workshop on Metadata, held in Luxembourg on 26 June 1998.

DGXIII/E4, the Electronic publishing and libraries unit, is organising a series of workshops on the issue of metadata. Intended participation is from libraries sector projects within the Telematics Applications Programme and from projects in other TAP sectors and other programmes, both EU and national. The primary objectives of the workshops are:

To establish a platform for co-ordination between projects concerned with metadata in a broad sense.

Under the current Framework Programme for RTD there are a number of projects concerned with metadata as such or with descriptions and descriptors of electronic documents. These projects will come across the same issues and problems and will benefit from concertation, as this will allow them to compare their concepts and approaches with others.

To make a wider European community aware of developments in the standards arena and stimulate feedback from the projects to the standards.

Developments in metadata in the Internet, specifically in Dublin Core, are moving fast. Some European organisations invest in participating in the Dublin Core workshops but not all have easy access to this activity. By inviting Dublin Core workshop participants to present the developments in the proposed workshops, a wider European audience can be informed on this subject. At the same time, models and experiences from the projects can be fed back into the standards arena.

The first workshop which took place on 1 and 2 December 1997, contained a tutorial, project presentations, breakout sessions discussing various aspects of metadata creation and usage.

The workshop, although recognising the usefulness of Dublin Core as a starting point in metadata descriptive standards, brought forward a number of concerns regarding the current state and the further development of Dublin Core:

  • There is currently no formal responsibility for the maintenance of Dublin Core: development takes place in an informal group of invited experts which meets once or twice per year in what is known as the Dublin Core Workshop Series.
  • The current technical state of Dublin Core is unstable: during the meetings of the Dublin Core group, changes are being made to the format and there is no convergence to a stable version.
  • The use of the current Dublin Core metadata format is not supported by the existence of guidelines: some of the philosophy and terminology of Dublin Core is not obvious to the uninitiated user which could lead to different interpretations adversely affecting interoperability.

It was also identified that the current take-up of Dublin Core is slow and that there is a lack of critical mass. This seems to be a classical chicken-and-egg situation: authors and publishers do not invest in providing Dublin Core metadata if the Internet indexing services (the 'harvesters') do not utilise it, and harvesters do not collect Dublin Core and use it for selective indexing if there is not enough data available. If this situation cannot be changed, Dublin Core might not turn into reality.

The workshop identified a number of actions that could be taken to promote and encourage the use of Dublin Core, including the following:

  1. There needs to be clarity about version control and maintenance of Dublin Core. The Dublin Core group, addressed through the mailing list META2, will be asked to give a clear statement about this.

  2. Further pilot projects should be started to further develop experience, test out the issues and help realise a critical mass of Dublin Core metadata. The European Commission and national bodies like National Libraries might have a role to play by encouraging the provision of Dublin Core metadata in documents, e.g. in project deliverables and electronic documents in the national deposit.

  3. The interest and requirements existing in Europe warrant the establishment of a European group of implementers discussing the practical issues of implementing metadata in general and Dublin Core in particular. The Luxembourg workshops, such as this December 1997 one and a second one scheduled for mid-1998, could develop into a regular series.

  4. The liaison with other groups concerned with metadata, such as the CEN/ISSS working group on Metadata for Multimedia Information (MMI), should be established to ensure applicability and interoperability of metadata as widely as possible and cover the needs of a wide range of communities.

The report of the first workshop is available on the Web at http://www.echo.lu/libraries/en/metadata.html .

2. Specific objectives of the second workshop

The specific objectives of this second workshop, held in Luxembourg on 26 June 1998, were as follows.

The first specific objective of the second workshop was to give a number of projects the opportunity to present results in the area of metadata from various perspectives. In the morning session, the issues that were covered in the presentations were:

  • metadata creation tools
  • definition of local extensions to Dublin Core for specific application areas
  • the use of controlled vocabulary
  • multilingual metadata

The presenters of these subjects conducted a panel discussion on these issues and others raised by the audience.

The second specific objective was to discuss metadata in a broader context with project participants and experts involved in definition and standardisation of metadata elements. In the afternoon session, presentations covered:

  • metadata activities in context
  • future developments in Dublin Core

In a plenary discussion, the participants discussed strategic issues concerning the definition and standardisation of metadata element sets.

3. Participation

32 persons representing projects from the Telematics programme, national projects and various Commission services attended the workshop.

The list of participants is attached as appendix 3.

4. Structure of the workshop

This second workshop was organised on a single day and contained two sessions: one session on technical and implementation issues and one session on strategic and standardisation issues reflecting the specific objectives of the workshop.

5. Morning session: technical issues

In the first presentation, Anna Brümmer of Lund University in Sweden demonstrated metadata creation software constructed for the Nordic Metadata Project. This creation software on the Web offers an easy way to attach descriptive metadata to resources and has helped to build the SweMeta Dublin Core Database for Sweden, which contains 110.000 records. The system also allows users to assign a unique URN to their resource. Currently there is no statistical information on the use of the various elements, which could provide interesting information. There is no validation of the terms entered. This could be considered in the future.

Erik Duval of Leuven University in Belgium presented the Ariadne project aiming at sharing and re-use of pedagogical resources to make the best use of scarce high-quality material for educational purposes. The project provides authoring tools that produce base metadata, which helps in creating a corpus of consistent descriptions. The project constitutes a closed environment for the participants, allowing a strong exercise of editorial control and therefore of quality. Furthermore, users have the possibility to add annotations to the descriptions. A “Replicator Scheme” controls the distribution and access to the resources available in the Central Pool and the Local Pools in various places around Europe. The project has not reached the stage where a critical mass of material is available and is looking for further participants. The Ariadne project is co-operating with the IMS (Instructional Management Systems) project to co-ordinate the metadata definitions and agree a common metadata set. This set is not technically speaking Dublin Core as it has a richer structure and contains elements specific to educational use of the resources, but the mapping of Dublin Core into the Ariadne metadata set is considered to be possible. Also the project participates in the work in the IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee which develops technical Standards, Recommended Practices, and Guides for software components, tools, technologies and design methods that facilitate the development, deployment, maintenance and interoperation of computer implementations of education and training components and systems.

Paul Miller of the Archaeology Data Service in the UK introduced the advantages of using controlled vocabularies and thesauri. For users, these tools would help gaining more effective access to resources and reduce the number of false hits. Creators would be able to make more consistent descriptions and achieve a better integration of new and existing resources. It was noted that a major factor for the use of controlled vocabulary is the ease with which it can be used in both the process of creation of metadata and in the process of searching.

Matthew Stiff of the Museum Documentation Association in the UK spoke about multilingual aspects of information retrieval. He discussed the creation of parallel metadata in multiple languages versus the use of translation tools and multilingual thesauri. He identified the need for new tools but also noted these tools will be expensive and will take a lot of time to develop. Various options can be explored to create multilingual thesauri, including linking existing monolingual ones and translating one thesaurus in multiple languages. He touched upon the fundamental issue of incomplete equivalence of terms in different languages. Project Term-IT is investigating mechanisms to facilitate the production and dissemination of multilingual thesauri in the cultural sector through establishing dialogue with users and analysis of the economics of thesaurus production.

As a conclusion of the technical session it was identified that:

  • quality is a crucial issue both in the creation of metadata and in its maintenance
  • there should be a clear focus on the user when designing tools to help create and use metadata; user communities should be actively involved to make sure their requirements are taken into account
  • special attention must be given to the change in concepts and terminologies over time.

6. Afternoon session: strategic issues

The first presentation in the afternoon session was delivered by Ian Campbell-Grant of ICL, chairman of the CEN/ISSS Workshop on Metadata for Multimedia Information. He introduced the work of this group as part of a new approach to standardisation especially intended to achieve rapid agreements on standards and a wide acceptance n the market. The specific objectives of the group include to gather information on metadata activities, to identify gaps and overlaps in current work and to disseminate this information to European industry, projects and programmes. The group is currently working to establish a framework that will help to find existing activities in the area of metadata definition.

In the final presentation, Stuart Weibel of OCLC in the US presented the current state and the future prospects for the Dublin Core metadata initiative. He outlined the objectives of the initiative, noting that it is a simple set for descriptive elements that are relevant for resource discovery. It could be used as a cross-domain “switching” language, working together with other sets in the framework provided by RDF. He presented the current thinking on the issue of more formally standardising Dublin Core, working through any body that would be appropriate for that purpose (IETF, ISO, NISO, CEN/ISSS).

In the discussion that took place after the presentations, several aspects were identified:

  • the involvement of user communities and business areas is crucial to make sure their requirements are being taken into account
  • again the issue of critical mass was raised: Dublin Core and other structured metadata forms an `island in the sea of marked data'. There needs to be more metadata before it can produce benefits to the users.
  • the CEN/ISSS workshop could form an appropriate platform for rapid standardisation of Dublin Core in the form of a CEN Workshop Agreement; this needs to be further explored.
  • the issue of maintenance of metadata standards is very important. The mechanism and structure should allow open and international participation to ensure the widest possible and agreement

7. Conclusions

The major conclusions of the workshop can be summarised as follows:

  • the strategic discussions highlighted that establishing widely accepted agreements is essential for the success of metadata;
  • it is necessary that consensus on agreements for metadata is achieved across domains (e.g. libraries, museums, education, business, etc.);
  • agreements and standards need to be maintained over time in a clear and open way with participation of all interested parties (especially user communities) to guarantee stability over time;
  • formal and informal bodies involved in the standardisation of metadata sets (Dublin Core community, CEN, ISO) need to find effective ways of co-operation to ensure maximum acceptance of agreements and to avoid overlapping activities;
  • further metadata workshops organised by the European Commission are considered to be valuable platforms for co-ordination and exchange of experience.

The First Metadata Workshop was held in Luxembourg on 1-2 December 1997
European Commission 
DGXIII Telematics for Libraries
Contact: Concha Fernandez de la Puente
e-mail: concha.fpuente@lux.dg13.cec.be 

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