The simplest, most literal definition of metadata is that it is ‘data about data’. More descriptive definitions include: “A structured description of the essential attributes of an information object” (Gill, 2008). “The sum total of what one can say about any information object at any level of aggregation” (Gilliland-Swetland, 2008).
There are many kinds of metadata, from simple html to highly complex schemata designed for a wide range of specific purposes. This research project focuses on recordkeeping metadata, which is significantly more complex in purpose and design than metadata schemata for discovery and retrieval of information resources. The Monash University Records Continuum Research Group’s Recordkeeping Metadata Project (1998-99) stated:
“Recordkeeping metadata is defined broadly to include all standardised information that identifies, authenticates, describes, manages and makes accessible documents created in the context of social and organisational activity.”
The ISO Standard for Metadata for Records defines records management metadata as follows:
“In a records management context, metadata are defined as data describing the context, content and structure of records and their management through time (ISO 15489-1:2001, 3.12). As such, metadata are structured or semi-structured information that enables the creation, registration, classification, access, preservation and disposition of records through time and within and across domains. Each of these domains represents an area of intellectual discourseand of social and/or organizational activity with a distinctive or limited group of people who share certain values and knowledge. Records management metadata can be used to identify, authenticate and contextualize records and the people, processes and systems that create, manage, maintain and use them and the policies that govern them” (ISO23081-1: 2006, 4).
Recordkeeping Metadata Project
The Australian Recordkeeping Metadata Project at Monash University (sometimes called the SPIRT Recordkeeping Metadata project, after the grant system that funded the research), was the first research-based attempt in Australia at building a comprehensive metadata schema (The Recordkeeping Metadata Schema or RKMS) that would ensure records could be documented in such a way that their authenticity and evidentiality is demonstrable. Results of this research can be found in McKemmish et al (1999) and through its ‘Deliverables’* contributed to the Australian National Standard for metadata, which in turn contributed to ISO 23081-1 2006. Information and documentation- Records management processes – Metadata for records.
The RKMS provides:
- a standardised set of structured recordkeeping metadata elements;
a framework for developing and specifying recordkeeping metadata standards;
- a framework for reading or mapping metadata sets in ways which can enable their semantic interoperability by establishing equivalences and correspondences that can provide the basis for semi-automated translation between metadata schemas*.
The Description Cross-domain Task Force of InterPARES2 developed a Metadata Schema Registry, called MADRAS. It is described on its website as follows: “MADRAS is a web-based tool for developing, registering, and evaluating record- keeping related metadata schemas and archival description standards. It was developed by researchers on the Descriptive Cross-Domain Team of the International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems 2 (InterPARES 2) project. MADRAS was built to act as a data collection and analysis tool for the comparison and study of descriptive schemas. It can also be used to register, select, and compare metadata schemas.”
Metadata schemas may be submitted to MADRAS for analysis and measurement against standards developed by InterPARES; against ISO 23081; and the Record- Keeping Metadata Standard for Commonwealth Agencies (RKMS). The analysis will measure how the schema meets record-keeping requirements and provide recommendations to help the schema meet such requirements. This part of the InterPARES project aims to provide input to the proposed part 3 of ISO 23081.
The InterPARES Descriptive Cross-Domain Task Force also developed a Metadata Specification Model:
• To identify an overall set of metadata requirements that specify what metadata need to be created, how, and by whom at all points within the Chain of
1 Recordkeeping Metadata Project. Input to the Australian National Standard. http://www.sims.monash.edu.au/research/rcrg/research/spirt/deliver/auststand.html 2 Recordkeeping Metadata Project. Australian Recordkeeping Metadata Schema (RKMS): http://www.sims.monash.edu/research/rcrg/research/spirt/deliverables.html#arkms
Preservation and Business-driven Recordkeeping Models being developed by
the IP2 Modeling Cross-domain Task Force.
• To develop a set of specifications for automated tools that can be used to assist with the creation, capture, management and preservation of essential metadata for active and preserved records.
Monash Clever Metadata project: The Clever Use of Metadata in eGovernment and eBusiness Processes In Networked Environments. The guiding concept of the Clever Metadata Project (2004-2006) was the aim to “Create Once, Use Many Times”: This Project is introduced on its website as follows:
"Recordkeeping professionals now recognise the value of metadata as a tool for ensuring reliable recordkeeping in electronic environments, particularly in eBusiness and eGovernment. However, the implementation of recordkeeping metadata standards is proving to be problematic: tools for automatic metadata creation are inadequate, and current systems environments generally do not support the sharing of metadata between business systems for multiple purposes.
The project aimed to demonstrate how standards-compliant metadata can be created once in particular application environments, then used many times to meet a range of business purposes.
The results of these three projects will provide a framework for metadata research in the CEDIF Project. Any standard and/or schema developed in the research must also be compatible with descriptive requirements of the Swedish National Archives, while meeting the business information management needs of the Västernorrlands County.
The advantage of using a metadata standard is that data sets will interoperate with other sets that use the same standard. This is essential in providing wider access to records and retaining authenticity and reliability when migrating records to future systems for continuing use and preservation purposes.
Any metadata schema produced by this research will:
• Conform to the ISO 23081 standard, Information and documentation- Records
management processes – Metadata for records
• Be mapped to the Record-Keeping Metadata Schema.
Other standards that support accessibility of information resources should also be
investigated for their usefulness to the project, for example
ICA Principles and Functional Requirements for Records in Electronic Offices is in three modules:
Module 1: Overview – principles and functional requirements; Module 2: Guidelines and functional requirements for ERMS
Module 3: Guidelines and functional requirements for records in business systems.
This standard is particularly useful because it addresses records created and held in systems other than ERMS, thus reflecting the reality of the electronic records environment in many organisations.
The MoReq2 Specification and Metadata Model
MoReq2 provides generic requirements for electronic management systems and is intended for use throughout the European Union. It has become a useful standard that is also used outside the EU by EDRMS developers.
The Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting5, which
- Enables metadata harvesting by allowing metadata records to be exposed on the Web in a predictable way.
- Requires Dublin Core XML as a minimum requirement.
- Supports interoperability
• Of systems
• Of metadata between different systems.