EDDI Conference System, EDDI16 – 8th Annual European DDI User Conference

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Metadata: Foundation, Philosopher’s and Rosetta Stones
Keith Jeffery

Last modified: 2016-09-27


Research is now digital in execution and reporting/preservation. The end-to-end process of research – from idea to proposal to funded project to outputs – is supported by ICT (Information and Communication Technologies).

The various entities of the research domain require digital description to facilitate discovery, contextualization (for relevance and quality but including rights, costs, security, and privacy restrictions) and action. Metadata is the magic key for this; starting with datasets metadata now describes software, workflows, persons, organisations, equipment, computing resources and more.

Metadata must have formal syntax and declared (multilingual) semantics. Most existing metadata ‘standards’ do not meet these criteria, but many can be interconverted to a subset of a canonical form that does to permit interoperation. CERIF (Common European Research Information Format: a European Union Recommendation to Member States) is a widely-used canonical data model to meet these objectives. RDA (Research Data Alliance) is evolving a list of metadata elements to be recommended to support the operations described above; the set accords well with CERIF and – like CERIF - is a superset of other metadata ‘standards’.

The philosopher’s stone was reputed to turn base substances to valuable ones. The Rosetta stone permitted multilinguality. Metadata has these properties.

Keith Jeffery is an independent consultant and past Director IT at STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory with 360,000 users, 1100 servers and 140 staff. Keith holds 3 honorary visiting professorships, is a Fellow of the Geological Society of London and the British Computer Society, is a Chartered Engineer and Chartered IT Professional and an Honorary Fellow of the Irish Computer Society. Keith is past-President of ERCIM and past President of euroCRIS, and serves on international expert groups, conference boards and assessment panels. He has advised government on security and green computing. He chaired the EC Expert Groups on GRIDs and on CLOUD Computing. He is serving as co-chair in several working and interest groups of the Research Data Alliance (Metadata, Metadata Standards Directory, Data in Context, Metadata Standards Catalog).