This report presents the results of a study on metadata management and governance practices and methodologies, and reusable of metadata tools currently used by EU Institutions and Member States. The study was commissioned by the Interoperability Solutions for European Public Administrations (ISA) Programme of the European Commission in the context of Action 1.1 on semantic interoperability.
The study defines metadata governance as comprising well-defined roles and responsibilities, cohesive policies and principles, and decision-making processes that define, govern and regulate the lifecycle of metadata. It defines metadata management as the good practice of adopting policies, processes, and systems to plan, perform, evaluate, and improve the use and re-use of data models and reference data.
Metadata management and governance ensures the coordinated development, use and maintenance of metadata, whilst ensuring also the sustainability of the metadata.
In this vein, one of the aims of this report is to identify and document best practices concerning metadata management requirements and existing solutions in EU Institutions and Member States.
Another goal of the report is to make conclusions and provide recommendations for the improvement of metadata management and governance practices and methodologies, also to identify opportunities for the reuse of metadata tools. The study is focused on data models and reference data within the inter-organisational information exchanges at both national and pan-European levels.
The key method of the study was in-depth analysis of selected cases conducted via structured interviews. The analysis framework was organised according to the three dimensions, namely metadata governance, metadata management and tool support. The cases for the detailed research were selected upon the predefined criteria such as regional diversity, information accessibility among others. The following cases were selected at pan-European level:
- The Statistical Office of the European Union - Eurostat, which process and publish comparable statistical information at European level.
- Joint Research Centre - INSPIRE, which enables the sharing of environmental spatial information among public sector organisations.
- Inter-institutional Metadata Management Committee (IMMC), Publications Office Metadata Registry (MDR), which registers and maintains metadata elements, named authority lists, schemas, etc.
- To cover national dimension of the analysis those cases were examined:
- KoSIT (Koordinierungsstelle für IT-Standards), which coordinates the development and operation of IT standards for data exchange in the public administration in Germany.
- CISE – Centre for Semantic Interoperability, which carries out projects related to information and communication technologies (ICTs) in accordance with the strategic priorities in Spain.
- Lithuanian Spatial Information Portal (LSIP), which makes conditions for the provision of centralized spatial data.
- Knowledge and Exploitation Centre Official Government Publications (KOOP), which manages the metadata standard for information published by the Dutch government.
- Local Government Inform (LG Inform/LG Inform Plus), which provides benchmarking data service of Local Government Administration for councils in the UK.
- The in-depth analysis of selected cases was supported by the results of the online survey, which was distributed among organisations involved in metadata governance and/or management. The survey was conducted in order to bring a wider perspective and better understand the research objectives and the related context.
Summary of recommendations and good practices
Concluding, the study identified a number of observations of good practices put forward by the selected case studies and a number of recommendations.
The identified good practices are:
1. In a good governance structure, the roles concerning legislation, strategy, functionality and operations are clearly distinguished and assigned to designated bodies.
2. The involvement of direct stakeholders in the metadata governance process ensures that the interests of the stakeholders are taken into account which maximises buy-in and take-up.
3. Voluntary sharing and re-use works best if stakeholders are aware of the advantages of collaboration and of the benefits for interoperability.
4. Application of a standard for metadata management creates a well-structured management environment based on existing good practice. We defined two families of standards:
a. Standards for metadata management, such as ISO/IEC 11179, ISO 19135 and ISO 19115.
b. Standards for documentation and representation, such as SMDX, ADMS and SKOS.
5. Good change management processes are based in stability where possible without sacrificing flexibility where needed and take into account an alignment between the life cycles of structural metadata development and software development.
6. Changes in structural metadata are well planned and tracked, preserving backward compatibility as much as possible; in cases where disruptive changes are unavoidable, these changes should be planned and communicated well in advance.
7. Structural metadata is managed in formats that are appropriate for the type of use. Metadata describing the structural metadata is expressed or exported using the Asset Description Metadata Schema.
8. Standard reference data is used wherever appropriate; if locally defined reference data is used, this is mapped to standard reference data to enable wider interoperability.
9. Structural metadata is distributed in machine-readable formats that can be processed by the tools available by the reusers.
10. Content negotiation is used to manage and provide different types of formats from the same URI.
11. Metadata governance and management ensures the sustainability of structural metadata.
The recommendations are:
1. Legislation should be formulated on a sufficiently high level and should not specify details like the values in a code list or the elements of a data model; these details should be specified as part of the implementation and made available from an authoritative source to which the legislation can refer.
2. The structural metadata management processes should be documented.
3. Owners of structural metadata should be made aware of the importance of clear licensing arrangements that specify unambiguously under which conditions the metadata can be reused. Open reusable metadata is recommended.
4. Stakeholders should be aware of the expected benefits of metadata sharing and reuse.
5. Management processes and publication frequencies should be different for changes to data models on one hand, and reference data on the other hand.
6. Structural metadata should have persistent unique identifiers.
7. Tools used for supporting metadata governance and management should be based on open standards and should be interoperable.
- Methodology: Process and methodology for developing semantic agreements, June 2013.
- Tutorial: Tutorial on the use of SILK for aligning controlled vocabularies, March 2014.
Nature of documentation: Official reports and studies