In July, CCC’s Jamie Carmichael hosted The State of Scholarly Metadata in 2023: Insights From Around the Globe, a webinar seeking to assess the challenges around low-quality metadata and underutilization of persistent identifiers. The program followed publication in April of The State of Scholarly Metadata, an examination of metadata management across the research lifecycle CCC conducted with Media Growth Strategies.
“These concerns we uncovered directly lead to disruption in various stages of the research lifecycle – including, but definitely not limited to, the transition to open access publication,” Carmichael noted.
“In embarking on our study of metadata management, it’s become clear, at least to me, that an ecosystem-wide commitment to improving data quality from the policy level down to editorial system configurations will help facilitate the transition to open, while also helping to preserve research integrity, enhance findability of research, and improve impact measurement.”
Carmichael welcomed first Deni Auclair of Media Growth Strategies, who worked with CCC to create the State of Scholarly Metadata interactive report. Auclair spoke with dozens of community members to map the complexities and the breakages, as well as the value of metadata across all research stages.
“We asked questions around implementation and use of quality metadata with the goal of figuring out how we can improve. We asked questions like who should create and maintain metadata? Where should it originate? What resources do these various stakeholders invest to create, curate, or maintain various types of metadata? What are their biggest challenges when it comes to metadata management or the use of persistent identifiers? What are the most critical metadata elements? What’s at stake if those elements don’t persist through the scholarly communication process? And who should own metadata quality and control?” Auclair explained.
“Basically, the industry is leaving money on the table because the lack of standards is hindering search and discovery. Research is repeated or it’s slowed down, because content isn’t discoverable, especially in underrepresented areas of the world. And there’s a massive amount of manual effort involved in managing metadata.”
“The case for rich metadata is pretty clear, but the way in which we integrate that metadata into our processes is still a challenge,” he said. “And when metadata is an afterthought, because we’re laser-focused on the post-publication value, then we’ve already missed opportunities in the after-submission and peer review processes to continually enhance and enrich that metadata,” Townsend told Carmichael.
“From my perspective, metadata should begin to be captured upstream in the idea development phase, which is from the research that you all presented a few minutes ago. Theoretically, that puts the onus on the researcher. And the challenge there is we’re putting more and more requirements and pressure on the researcher, who may not be qualified or have the bandwidth to meet those expectations,” he concluded.
Bringing in a perspective from the scholarly publishing community in South America, Ana Heredia, a senior associate at Maverick Publishing Specialists, reported that the challenges around metadata and persistent identifiers are not very different from those seen in North America or Europe.
“There are several articles, blog posts, talks, and guidelines or tool kits being shared and being prepared on how to raise awareness and engage researchers around the importance of metadata. I am involved in some of them, advocating for researchers to take a more active role in metadata sharing,” Heredia stated.
“Of course, researchers benefit from accessing contextual information around other researchers’ data, but only very engaged individuals will have the necessary knowledge, as was mentioned before, or would take the necessary time to enter the data properly for it to be reused,” she told Carmichael. “Librarians and publishers typically are the ones who have this knowledge, because they are used to indexes. They are used to taxonomies and standards for research information.
“If I had to summarize,” Heredia concluded, “I would say librarians and publishers have the how. Funders have the why. And researchers have the what.”
Finally, Jamie Carmichael welcomed Wolfgang Mayer, head of e-resource management at the University of Vienna to provide an institutional perspective on the role universities can play to improve the quality of scholarly metadata, especially supporting researchers.
“Obviously, it’s the task of the university to enable [researchers] to put as much effort and energy into research and less into administration as we could. But nevertheless, administration of their publications, of their research data, of their identifiers, of the metadata – that is still part of their job,” Mayer told Carmichael.
“In Europe, it’s a little different than the US, I think. Funders, based upon the Coalition S initiative, are trying to increase the pressure regarding Open Access and the traceability and visibility of these publications,” he explained.
“I think it’s also a generation gap. With young researchers with new projects, when we can present incentives regarding the visibility of their work especially, they are quite easily motivated to put thought into the metadata. [The University of Vienna] is the second-largest university in northern Europe, with 10,000 researchers and more than 90,000 students. We are creating ORCID IDs, creating sets of Ringgold IDs, helping the researchers from the beginning of their research projects to create research data and wherever possible, to help them across the research workflow.”
As CCC’s Jamie Carmichael observed in her closing remarks, “A dedication to metadata stewardship across each stakeholder group is a shared responsibility. For service providers like CCC, supporting them is vital.”