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May 04, 2007

When worlds collide...

20070501_datamodelmeeting_2 I spent Monday and Tuesday this week at an invitational meeting at the British Library in London entitled the Data Model meeting.  The primary purpose of the meeting was to compare notes on the ongoing work of both the DCMI, particularly in the areas of the DCMI Abstract Model and application profiles, and the Joint Steering Committee for Revision of AACR (JSC), which is currently working towards a new standard: entitled RDA: Resource Description and Access.  The intent being to see how far we could share expertise and build on each other's work.

We spent the first day summarising where we are currently.  From the DCMI side of things this meant talking about the DCMI Abstract Model and its central role in the development of future DC application profiles.  We used the DC Eprints Application work (funded by the JISC) as an example, to show how fairly complex metadata 'description sets' can be built up from the combination of a 'domain model' (the model of the things that are being described) and the DCMI Abstract Model (the model of what DCMI metadata looks like).  More generally we talked about the value of disclosing metadata vocabularies, both properties (elements) and values (controlled vocabularies), on the Web at persistent 'http' URIs and using standard languages such as RDF, RDFS and SKOS to provide machine-readable declarations.

From the RDA side of things, Tom Delsey and Barbara Tillet spoke about the current status of the RDA work and the rational for the way it has been developed.

Good stuff, and it quickly became clear that one significant area of commonality in our different activities was the use of FRBR as the underlying 'domain model' in both the Eprints Application Profile and the RDA work.

The second day was spent in the British Library Board Room under the watchful eyes of a portrait of Anthony Panizzi, brainstorming how we can move things forward together.  As a group, we agreed the following statements, all of which seem very positive.

Firstly, we agreed that RDA and DCMI should work together to build on the existing work of both communities. We recommended that Committee of Principles (the body that oversees the development of RDA) and DCMI seek funding for work to develop an RDA DC Application Profile.  In order to do so,  the following activities need to be undertaken:

  • disclosure of an RDA Element Vocabulary
  • development of an RDA DC Application Profile based on FRBR and FRAD
  • disclosure of RDA Value Vocabularies using RDF/RDFS/SKOS

The benefits of this activity will be that:

  • the library community gets a metadata standard that is compatible with the Web Architecture and that is fully interoperable with other Semantic Web initiatives
  • the DCMI community gets a libraries application profile firmly based on the DCAM and FRBR (which will be a high profile exemplar for others to follow)
  • the Semantic Web community get a significant pool of well thought out metadata terms to re-use
  • there is wider uptake of RDA

In addition, the meeting agreed that DCMI and DC Application Profile developers consider the value of using conceptual models such as FRBR as the basis for describing intellectual or artistic creations.

I think the brevity of these conclusion masks the intellectual effort that went into getting us to where we are now, both in terms of the meeting itself and in terms of all the work that has gone before.  I'm convinced that this move to bring RDA and DCMI closer together is a big step in the right direction and that we'll see good things coming of this work over the next year or so.

[Image: meeting participants in the BL boardroom]

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