Metadata Principle 6

Metadata Principle 6: Good metadata records are objects themselves and therefore should have the qualities of good objects, including authority, authenticity, archivability, persistence, and unique identification.

Because metadata carries information that vouches for the provenance, integrity, and authority of an object, the authority of the metadata itself must be established. “Meta-metadata,” or stored information about the metadata, should include the identification of the institution that created it and what standards of completeness and quality were used in its creation. The institution should provide sufficient information to allow the user to assess the veracity of the metadata, including how it was created (automatically or manually) and what standards and vocabularies were used.

Some metadata schemes include within them sets of metadata elements for describing the metadata records themselves. These include the IEEE LOM (in the section called “meta- metadata”), the EAD (in “eadheader”), and MODS (in “recordInfo”).

The problem of non-authentic and inaccurate metadata is real and serious. Many web search engines deliberately avoid using metadata embedded in HTML pages because of pervasive problems with spoofing (one organization supplying misleading metadata for a resource belonging to another organization) and spamming (artificially repeating keywords to boost a page’s ranking). The same techniques used to verify the integrity and authenticity of digital documents (e.g., digital signatures) can also be applied to metadata.

Automated controls on data entry and/or data values help ensure quality metadata. Many metadata schemes today have standard representations as XML schema (http://www.w3.org/XML/Schema). XML schema language can define characteristics such as repeatability and obligation, and can enforce these properties when metadata records are validated against the schema. XML Document Type Definitions (DTDs) (http://www.w3schools.com/dtd/default.asp) can also be used to provide standardization of metadata information, but they are less effective than XML schemas, because they do not support as many editorial controls over the data.  

Last updated: 04/17/2008