One important component in the project centers on developing the metadata standardization and descriptions for collections of data that will reside within the DRINET portal. Over the past year the DRINET project team has been engaged in ongoing discussions with our advisory committee and stakeholder communities to gather input and solicit recommendations for the development of DRINET. These discussions have included the identification of relevant datasets for ingest into the DRINET portal, possible use cases for these datasets and some of the functional requirements for making use of the data. As datasets are identified for inclusion into the DRINET portal, we are developing an inventory list of the data including how the data are currently described and documented. As the use cases and functional requirements for the data come into focus, we are exploring how and to what extent these requirements could be addressed through metadata. This exploration includeds an environmental scan of relevant descriptive metadata standards and how these standards could potentiallyan be applied to the datasets within the DRINET portal. A particular challenge in selecting standards is the need to accomodate disparate data sets from multiple sources that span beyond a single discipline or area of research. Beyond the ability of the metadata standard to address stated needs of stakeholders, the additional criteria for selecting a standard for the DRInet portal include acceptance and support from a community similar to DRInet, flexibility to accommodate local needs, usability by multiple audiences, and the investment from the data producer required to generate the metadata.
After reviewing many potential standards, the Directory Interchange Format (DIF) is emerging as the strongest candidate for the foundational metadata standard within DRInet. The DIF is a well established standard used primarily for NASA's Global Change Master Directory (http://gcmd.nasa.gov/) to describe data sets related to the earth sciences. The DIF standard addresses many of the needs identified thus far for the metadata and appears to provide the flexibility that will be needed for the DRInet environment. Crosswalks have been developed between the DIF and other metadata standards relevant to DRInet (notably FDGC and Dublin Core) to aid interoperability for DRInet metadata.
The DIF standard is being tested through the development of sample metadata records for the data sets currently hosted in DRInet. These records will be reviewed by DRInet personnel, the advisory committee, and stakeholders to the extent that is possible. The gaps in the DIF standards ability to address the functional requirements of DRInet are being documented and customizations to address them will be developed. Once a standardized metadata record template has been finalized, tools to aid in the development, utility and dissemination of metadata will be built. An example of this is the incorporation of metadata development functionality as a component of DRInet’s iData data management tool.