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DCAT application profile for data portals in Europe

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The DCAT Application profile for data portals in Europe (DCAT-AP) is a specification based on the Data Catalogue vocabulary (DCAT) for describing public sector datasets in Europe. Its basic use case is to enable cross-data portal search for data sets and make public sector data better searchable across borders and sectors. This can be achieved by the exchange of descriptions of datasets among data portals.

In February 2015, the ISA Programme of the European Commission has started an activity to revise the DCAT-AP, based on experience gained since its development in 2013. 

DCAT-AP v1.1 is now available. 

Find out more here

Known implementations

The DCAT-AP is used in the Open Data Support service initiated by the European Commission with the purpose of realising the vision of European data portals. Moreover, the DCAT-AP is the standard that will be used for describing datasets on the Pan-European Data Portal, which is currently under development.

The Swedish innovation agency VINNOVA, which runs the Swedish Open Data Portal, in collaboration with Open Knowledge UK and MetaSolutions have undertaken many activities to support DCAT-AP in the Swedish Open Data Portal, including:


Key milestones

  • In March 2015, the ISA Programme of the European Commission started working on a GeoDCAT-AP extension.
  • In February 2015, the ISA Programme of the European Commission started the revision process of the DCAT Application Profile by inviting stakeholders to participate by submitting change requests and additional suggestions that can be taken into account.
  • On 5 July 2014, the call for tender SMART 2014/1072 for the pan-European open data portal was published, including DCAT-AP as an explicit requirement.
  • On 13 March 2014 the Coordination Group of the Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations (ISA) Programme endorsed the DCAT-AP specification.
  • On 16 January 2014 W3C published the DCAT specification as a W3C Recommendation; and
  • On 1 September 2013 DCAT-AP was implemented on the Open Data Interoperability Platform (ODIP) of Open Data Support service initiated by DG CONNECT of the European Commission. The platform contains harmonised descriptions of more than 77.000 datasets from 16 European data catalogues.
  • On 8 May 2013 a final draft of DCAT-AP was released to the general public for a two-month public review period.
  • From April 2013 till May 2013 the DCAT-AP specification was created by a Working Group with representatives from 16 European Member States, some European Institutions and the US, following an open and inclusive process of consensus building.

Who initiated this work?

The DCAT Application profile is a joint initiative of

Why is an application profile needed?

Studies conducted on behalf of the European Commission (see this link for an overview) show that businesses and citizens still face difficulties in finding and re-using public sector information. In its communication on Open Data of December 12 2011, the European Commission states that the availability of the information in a machine-readable format as well as a thin layer of commonly agreed metadata could facilitate data cross-reference and interoperability and therefore considerably enhance its value for reuse.

The aim to ensure consistency in the description metadata published by data portals across Europe is important and has a clear business case. We see the following scenarios: 

  • Data reusers find it at times difficult to get an overview of which datasets exists and which public administrations are maintaining it, in particular if the datasets are in another Member State where language barriers may apply and the structure of government is unfamiliar.  To address this problem, data publishers and portals, maintain catalogues of datasets that are made available by public administrations on their websites. The quality of the description metadata in these catalogues directly affects how easily datasets can be found.
  • Data providers want to encourage reuse of their datasets by making them searchable and accessible. Here publishing description metadata of the datasets online can be at times more important than making it the actual data available. Especially in cases where the costs to publish datasets is high and the actual demand for it unclear, listing on one or more data portals can signal availability at low cost.

The application profile is a specification for metadata records to meet the specific application needs of data portals in Europe while providing semantic interoperability with other applications on the basis of reuse of established controlled vocabularies (e.g. EuroVoc) and mappings to existing metadata vocabularies (e.g. Dublin Core, SDMX, INSPIRE metadata, etc).

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