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D-Lib Magazine
April 2003

Volume 9 Number 4

ISSN 1082-9873

State of the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative, April 2003


Makx Dekkers
Managing Director

Stuart Weibel
Consulting Research Scientist
OCLC Office of Research

Red Line



The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative continues to grow in participation and recognition as the predominant resource discovery metadata standard on the Internet. With its approval as ISO 15836, DC is firmly established as a foundation block of modular, interoperable metadata for distributed resources. This report summarizes developments in DCMI over the past year, including the annual conference, progress of working groups, new developments in encoding methods, and advances in documentation and dissemination. New developments in broadening the community to commercial users of metadata are discussed, and plans for an international network of national affiliates are described.


The annual DCMI conference, held in Florence, Italy in October, attracted 210 participants from 25 countries. The conference venue was the historic Convitto della Calza, and participants worked in the mild autumn air of Tuscany to progress DCMI activities in a variety of areas. As with last year's Tokyo conference, the program included a tutorial track (well attended and praised), a refereed paper track, and a workshop track. The four-day schedule was packed with content, working groups, plenary sessions and opportunities to socialize and exchange ideas, capped with a conference dinner in the Room of Five Hundred of PalazzoVecchio.

The program also featured Special Sessions that provided platforms for discussions on accessibility issues and for project presentations by corporate users and RDF developers.

The keynotes, papers and posters of the conference are available online [1]. The printed proceedings are available from Firenze University Press.


DC-2003 will be held in Seattle, Washington, USA, from 28 September to 2 October 2003. The event will consist of Conference, Workshop, and Tutorial tracks. The call for papers for DC-2003 is open until 3 May 2003. For further details, see the conference Web site [2].


Version 1.1 of the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set was balloted in the International Standards Organization (ISO) as DIS 15836. In January 2003, the ballot finished with 18 "yes" votes and without any "no" votes. Publication as ISO 15836 will be forthcoming in the near future. Publication of this standard culminates a series of standardization work by the Internet Engineering Task Force, CEN (the European consortium of standards bodies), the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) in the US, and now in the international domain. Ratification of the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set within ISO illustrates that it is indeed a standard for all nations, serving as a foundation for global metadata interoperability.

Web Site and Documentation

In Spring 2003, a new feedback service (AskDCMI) will be introduced. This effort, spearheaded by Stuart Sutton and Diane Hillmann, will be deployed using the virtual reference infrastructure developed by Syracuse University's Information Institute of Syracuse as part of the Virtual Reference Desk project. AskDCMI will fill an important need in the DCMI community, connecting registered experts in the field with users who have questions about the deployment of Dublin Core metadata [3].

The DCMI Web site has been substantially revised and streamlined. All of the metadata terms defined in all of the DCMI namespaces are now included in a single, consolidated document. This one-stop document brings together all Dublin Core terms that have heretofore been available in various places on the website. It is now part of a formal process for vocabulary control, so that new decisions of the DCMI Usage Board are encoded in a structured file, which is processed automatically to create the metadata terms document available to the public. This system dramatically reduces the time necessary to create new documentation and reduces the opportunity for errors to creep into documentation.

Technical Developments

The specification of the expression of simple Dublin Core metadata in RDF/XML became a DCMI Recommendation in October 2002 [4]. The specification for the RDF/XML expression of qualified Dublin Core metadata and the finalization of the necessary RDF schemas are being progressed further in co-operation with representatives of W3C, taking into account recent changes in the W3C RDF specifications. The Proposed Recommendation for the expression of Dublin Core metadata in XML will be available for Public Comment during the month of March 2003 [5]. A new XML schema for simple Dublin Core metadata was published in December 2002 [6].


In January 2003, the total number of subscriptions to the DCMI mailing lists was just over 3,100, an increase of 700 (+29%) in comparison with January 2002. The general mailing list DC-General had 955 subscribers (+10%); the five largest working and interests groups were DC-Libraries (361 subscribers, +10%), DC-Education (289, +23%), DC-Government (182, +24%), DC-Architecture (133, +20%) and DC-Environment (131, a new group in 2002).

The DC Corporate Circle is one of the newest parts of the community, emerging as a strong area of interest through workshops held as part of the Florence meeting. The concept of Circles originated in the DCMI Board of Trustees discussions, as a means to focus known interest in the use of Dublin Core metadata in specific areas. Because of the rapid pace of change in a commercial setting, there is an inherent conflict between slowly evolving standards and the immediate need for a working model to use for business purposes. To address this, the Board came up with the idea of a self-directed forum, run by and for members of the corporate world using Dublin Core metadata, to share best practices and provide direct input to the standard from their point of view. [7]

The DC Corporate Circle now has its own mailing list and is working towards a special track at DC-2003 to further develop ideas and interests identified in Florence.

Affiliate Program

Dublin Core has had a strong international focus since its inception, philosophically and pragmatically grounded in a worldwide perspective that resource discovery is intrinsically an international, multi-cultural, multilingual activity. As DCMI has evolved from an initial exploratory workshop to a workshop series, and then an international conference series and a standards maintenance organization, its management and governance has had to change to reflect this development.

As custodian of an international standard, as well as other local and regional standards, it is more important than ever for DCMI to reflect and project the objectives, values, and culture of its constituents. It is also important to share the costs of managing the standards and the program of work that advances them in order to distribute these costs equitably and to assure the independence of the Initiative.

The DCMI Affiliate program is an important vehicle through which these objectives and goals are being advanced. DCMI Affiliates are intended to solidify the link between the DCMI Directorate and regional constituents.

Affiliates will provide the primary link between the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative as a worldwide activity and the local and regional activities of practitioners. They will promote the adoption of Dublin Core specifications and assure the availability of authoritative translations of basic DCMI standards and documentation, thereby increasing the global network value for all.

As local custodians of the DCMI brand, Affiliates will be a critical link in promoting DCMI standards through educational and training offerings, as well as bringing local concerns to the attention of the larger metadata community. This will improve international coherence of the overall architecture and semantic content of metadata.

A single Affiliate will be designated for a given geographic region, typically a country, though affiliates may be established as representatives for more than one country when the natural interests of a region so dictate.

Usage Board

The Usage Board, a critical component of DCMI operations, has entered its third year of activity. Led by Tom Baker, of Frauenhofer Gesellshaft in Berlin, the committee has made exceptional contributions, not only in reviewing and guiding proposals, but also refining its documentation and process. A major achievement in the last year was the development of a mechanism to encode decisions made by the Usage Board to allow for the automated generation of documentation and schemas so DCMI documentation can be kept up to date more easily and in a more timely manner than in the past. For the first time, all current metadata terms managed by DCMI can be accessed in a single, consolidated document [8]. This documentation has been designed to be simple and straightforward for readers, while a parallel set of documents provides an authoritative set of supporting decisions and historical context for these terms as well. In January 2003, Andrew Wilson of the National Archives of Australia was appointed as the board's ninth member.

Working Group Highlights

The following is a brief summary of activity in DCMI working groups. Further information is available regarding these activities and subscription guidance for their mailing lists is available as well [9].

DCMI Administrative Metadata WG - This group is finalizing a proposal presented at the Florence workshop and the group will then solicit interest from the community to continue as an Interest Group.

DCMI Accessibility IG - The chair is working on a proposal to convert this Interest Group into a Working Group with an established work plan and committed resources, potentially in the form of sponsorship.

DC Agents WG - The group will conduct a feasibility study for an Agent Core and will discuss a proposal for an Agent Linking Convention.

DCMI Architecture WG - This group operates as a platform for sharing experience on technical issues (e.g., RDF). All outstanding deliverables are close to completion.

DCMI Citation WG - The group plans to revise the proposal for Structured Values for journal articles (dependent on guidelines from the Usage Board), draft guidelines for encoding bibliographic citation OpenURLs, and assemble a list of Citation Styles.

DCMI Collection Description WG - Activity in this group has been minimal in 2002. The chairs are investigating interest in the community to resume activities.

DCMI Education WG - The group submitted a proposal for an educationLevel refinement for audience element to the Usage Board, which was accepted. In the next period, the group will work on the development of the Application Profile, and will continue work on vocabulary development for the Education domain.

DCMI Environment IG - The group continues its activities as a discussion platform for people working in the area of environmental metadata. The current emphasis is on reporting metadata, environmental terminology and metadata for geographic information (ISO 19115).

DCMI Government WG - In 2002, the group submitted proposals to the Usage Board, some of which were accepted. The group recently issued an update on the "Survey of government implementations of DC," and in the next year the group intends to investigate relations to WSDL (Web Services Discovery Language) and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration of Web Services), and develop guidelines for Government use of DC metadata and training materials. Work on the Application Profile and on functional requirements for service description will continue.

DCMI Internationalization and Localization IG - This group has supported and will continue to support the DCMI Registry group in developing the multilingual registry.

DCMI Libraries WG - The group plans to work on a maintenance revision of the Application Profile, provide implementation guidance, reach out to the wider library community and vendors, and start working on an XML Schema for the Library Application Profile once it is stable.

DCMI Registry WG - This group is continuing its work with the definition of the requirements for version two of the DCMI Registry scheduled to be available by summer 2003. Also, an activity to improve user documentation is on the group's list for this year.

DCMI Standards WG - With the adoption of the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set by ISO in early 2003, this group will convert into an Interest Group as a platform for people who are involved in international and national standardization work related to the Dublin Core.

DCMI Tools WG - No activity took place in 2002. Activities on development of reference implementations are under consideration.

DCMI Type WG - The group is working on proposals for the addition of Moving Image, and a complementary Still Image, to the Type list.

DCMI User Guide WG - This group will continue activity as an Interest Group. A new version of the User Guide is under development, including examples from the XML and RDF encoding guidelines.

At the Florence meeting of the Advisory Board, two new Interest Groups were established:

DCMI Global Corporate Circle IG - This group will provide a platform for people involved in Knowledge Management in global corporations to discuss issues related to the adoption of the Dublin Core in the corporate world [10]. With the installation of the DCMI Global Corporate Circle IG, it was decided to discontinue the DCMI Business IG.

DCMI Kernel/ERC - This group intends to discuss issues related to simple "kernel" approaches to metadata.

Organization and Management

In Florence, the Board of Trustees discussed the organizational priorities of DCMI and scenarios for sustainable funding of the Initiative. One priority for DCMI in the next year is to provide better documentation on how to implement Dublin Core metadata in a variety of environments. Progress has been made in these areas, with the publication of new technical documentation for encoding as well as complete restructuring of the Usage Board pages and the creation of the consolidated metadata terms document [8] described in this article.

The Advisory Board discussed practical approaches to activity and resource planning and looked at the achievements and priorities of the various Working and Interest Groups. After the Florence conference, the chairs of the Working and Interest Groups published reports of meetings in Florence and proposed work plans for 2003.

A new overall deliverable schedule for 2003 is now available online [11].

Challenges and Opportunities

DCMI marked the 8th anniversary of its origins in March 2003. Its growth and evolution have been dramatic in some respects. Dublin Core is now established as the primary metadata standard in the Internet world. Other aspects of its growth have been painfully slow, a reflection of the difficulty of reaching (and consolidating) international consensus about how resource description should be done and how it can remain flexibly extensible and scalable. New developments in the government realm and in the corporate world suggest that the benefits are recognized increasingly broadly and that DCMI is succeeding in its cross-disciplinary and international goals.

The most difficult aspects of the work have always been juggling priorities and managing consensus, and this still remains the case. The key to these challenges has always been to establish and sustain broad ownership of the standard, but this makes the effort of sustaining the Initiative more challenging — if ownership is broadly distributed, who can be counted on to bear the burdens?

The growth in popularity of DC metadata by corporations, governments, and supra-national agencies suggest the answer, and the Affiliate program is intended to instantiate that answer. Testing this model while sustaining the open, consensus-building culture of the DCMI community will challenge us in 2003 and beyond.


[1] DC-2002: Metadata for e-Communities: Supporting Diversity and Convergence [homepage], Florence, October 13-17, 2002. <>.

[2] DC-2003: Supporting Communities of Discourse and Practice - Metadata Research and Applications [homepage], Seattle, Washington, September 28-October 2, 2003. <>.

[3] AskDCMI virtual reference desk [homepage]. <>.

[4] Expressing Qualified Dublin Core in RDF/XML. Stefan Kokkelink and Roland Schwänzl <>, 2002-05-15 <>.

[5] Guidelines for Implementing Dublin Core in XML. Andy Powell and Pete Johnston, 2002-12-02 <>.

[6] Simple DC XML Schema. Pete Johnston, Carl Lagoze, Andy Powell and Herbert Van de Sompel 2002-10-09 <>.

[7] "Dublin Core Corporate Circles of Interest". Mike Crandall, 2002-11-25, Montague Institute Review. <>.

[8] DCMI Metadata Terms. Dublin Core Metadata Initiative 2001-03-04. <>.

[9] DCMI Working Groups [homepage], <>.

[10] DCMI Global Corporate Circle (Special Interest Group) [homepage], <>.

[11] DCMI Deliverables April 2003. Makx Dekkers, 2003-04-01 <>.

Copyright © Makx Dekkers and Stuart Weibel.

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DOI: 10.1045/april2003-weibel