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Metadata and Persistent Identifiers

Learn what metadata is and what it is for in this article.
© Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

To ensure findability of any content on the internet, structured and machine-readable information describing the work is necessary. This information (often also referred to as “data about data”) is called metadata and serves to identify and reference certain attributes of the work, but not the content thereof itself. The ability to search for certain attributes of a work is essential for ensuring that it can be found and accessed. Metadata exists in many different formats and schemas, often specifically designed for the need to describe certain object types, e.g. text publications, datasets or other material. The attributes chosen to describe an object type, their sequence and formal representation differ accordingly. For the research and publication process itself, metadata is of immense significance.

To make sure that search engines and other services can find, add and index a work, it is important to use a schema that is machine-readable. Of course, a database can only process the information it has been fed by humans. It is therefore of critical importance to provide as much information as possible during the publication process about your work to make use of its full potential.

An important element of metadata and source of (further) information about a work and its creator are persistent identifiers (PID). They ensure the unique identifiability and citability of a publication for the long term. A common and well-known identifier for publications is the DOI (digital object identifier) (International DOI Foundation 2021), which is used for a variety of digital resources. Most publishers assign a DOI to their publications and they are also commonly used by repositories and are a valuable quality indicator in this context. Another important identifier is the ORCID (ORCID [Online] 2022) which is a persistent identifier for persons. ORCID is a free service for researchers and enables them to curate a profile with data on their academic career, affiliation and publication list. In general, you should use as many persistent identifiers as you can, to facilitate interoperability.

© This work by Jessika Rücknagel is licensed under CC BY 4.0.
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