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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 (DCATfor 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 sectorsThis can be achieved by the exchange of descriptions of data sets among data portals.

The DCAT-AP is used in the Open Data Support service initiated by the European Commission with the purpose of realising the vision of the pan-European Data Portal(s).


Key milestones

  • From April 2013 till July 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.
  • On 8 May 2013 a final draft of DCAT-AP was released to the general public for a two-month public review period.
  • 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 contained harmonised descriptions of more than 50.000 datasets from 9 data catalogues.
  • On 16 January 2014 W3C published the DCAT specification as a W3C Recommendation; and
  • On 13 March 2014 the Coordination Group of the Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations (ISA) Programme is expected to endorse the DCAT-AP specification.

What are the objectives?

An international Working Group of experts will be set up to forge a consensus on a DCAT application profile. The Working Group has 3 objectives:

  1. Identify the essential elements and attributes of DCAT in the European context;
  2. Identify the controlled vocabularies to be used in the European context; and
  3. Identify the strict minimum description metadata to be exchanged between data portals in Europe.

Who initiated this work?

The DCAT Application profile is a joint initiative of two Directorates-General of the European Commission DG CONNECT  and DG DIGIT and the EU Publications Office.

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).

Invitation to participate in the Working Group​

The European Commission invites metadata experts who directly or indirectly work for a governmental data portal to submit their application to participate in the Working Group via the contact form on Joinup. Applicants should clearly indicate which governmental data portal they work for and to which public administration it relates.

Information on collaboration in the Working Group

Below you can find all the practical information on the tools used by the Working Group to collaborate. Please click the links if referred to another page.

  • Members of the Working Group and Review Group: A list with the current members.
  • Conference call system
  • Public mail archive: the public mail archive.
  • Issue tracker: This is where you can submit issues and comment on the issues that are already logged.
  • e-Library: This contains all the documents of the Working Group: the Virtual Meetings agenda and minutes, the use cases, controlled vocabularies, related work and other documents.
  • Sign the ISA Contributor Agreement v1.1: This contributor agreement documents the rights granted by contributors to the European Union. We invite all contributors to sign it to allow the EU to release the specification under the ISA Open Metadata Licence v1.1. You need to be a member of this project and logged in if you want to be able to view (and possibly sign) the contributor agreement.


All working group members will be invited to participate in a limited number of online meetings and will have the ability to contribute to and review the specification of the proposed application profile. During the consultation process a number of interim drafts of the specification will be produced, before the final draft is released for public review. Each interim draft will be open to comments, input and feedback from the working group members.

  1. DCAT Application Profile WG Virtual Meeting 2013-04-03
  2. DCAT Application Profile WG Virtual Meeting 2013-04-17
  3. DCAT Application Profile WG Virtual Meeting 2013-05-08
  4. DCAT Application Profile WG Virtual Meeting 2013-07-18

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