Are You Ready? Metadata -- The Musical!

Over 60 people attended the first NISO Plus Forum on September 20 in Washington, DC. It was also our first in-person event since the inaugural NISO Plus conference in February 2020—and we certainly made the most of being back together in real life

Facilitator and NISO Board member Jonathan Clark led us through a World Cafe–style day of small group discussions on the topic of metadata—focusing in turn on identifiers, exchange, and structures—in which everyone had a chance to work with everyone else. This generated a LOT of ideas, which were gradually whittled down to around 10 for each theme (see below). 

Each group then picked their favorite idea(s) and converted them into over 20 proposed sessions for a metadata track at NISO Plus 2023, ranging from “National Metadata Policies and What They Mean for the NISO Community” to (if you read the title then, yes, you guessed it) “Metadata—The Musical!” These ideas have now been passed along to the Planning Committee, who will decide which ones to take forward in next year’s program. Watch out for more on that later this year!

We’re happy to report that feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive. Of the 20 people who responded to the post-event survey, 11 (55%) gave the NISO Plus Forum 10/10 when asked how valuable they found it; another 40% rated it 8/10 (20%) or 9/10 (20%). The World Cafe format, networking opportunities, and the speakers and facilitator were all rated as outstanding by a majority of respondents (85%, 70%, and 70%, respectively), with everyone else rating them as good. This was backed up by comments such as, “The format was really fresh, and I loved that it kept us moving around physically and gave me opportunities to meet lots of people and gain exposure to new ideas and perspectives.” The identifiers session was especially popular; 75% of respondents rated it as outstanding, and 25% as good. The remaining sessions (exchange, structures, and outputs/next steps) were all rated as outstanding or good by the vast majority of respondents (100%, 95%, and 90%, respectively).

We also received some useful feedback about how to improve future NISO Plus Forums—for example, providing more context for each discussion topic and for NISO’s work in general; helping with table assignments; and sharing outputs from each session on slides rather than the large, handwritten sticky notes we used. And, while metadata was clearly a very popular topic, respondents also had plenty of other suggestions for future events, including accessibility, privacy/rights, and open science—or even focusing on one specific standard.

Overall, we are delighted that the first-ever NISO Plus Forum was such a success—due in large part to the enthusiastic participation of all the attendees and Jonathan’s expert facilitation. Our lunchtime speakers/provocateurs, Ana Heredia, Kathryn Kaiser, and Diana Marsh, gave us lots of food for thought, and our wonderful sponsors helped us ensure that the Forum was affordable for everyone. Huge thanks to everyone who contributed!

Ideas Summary from NISO Plus Forum 2022


  1. Map out who is responsible for what in terms of metadata (note that this will differ by geography, discipline, etc.)
  2. Name change best practice guidelines
  3. Metadata provenance—tracking changes (who made them and when), geolocation info, adding granularity
  4. Better metadata/IDs for context/relationships—perhaps via an expansion of CRediT
  5. Identifiers in new workflows, especially those related to open research
  6. Identifiers to support equity—guidelines/best practices (but note that there are privacy issues)
  7. Make use of existing frameworks like JAV, ISSN, etc.—don’t reinvent the wheel
  8. The technology exists, but the social aspect is not yet fully realized
  9. Convene competing interests to resolve issues
  10. If metadata has to be entered manually, the system is broken: It must be automated/standardized


  1. A clear value proposition for metadata is needed, based on a shared understanding of problems/value
  2. Barriers are both technical (e.g., ease of use) and non-technical (e.g., lack of capacity and incentives)
  3. The challenge of maintaining/fixing data validity during exchange/transfer
  4. Exchange of sensitive data (e.g., diversity data)
  5. Open versus closed data (note that many organizations want to monetize open data)
  6. Compliance with guidelines—is a carrot or stick approach better?
  7. Those who use data and experience the issues with it aren’t the same as those responsible for fixing it or those paying to fix it
  8. Languages and the lack of multilingual metadata
  9. Legacy systems
  10. Provenance and change-tracking


  1. Accessibility
  2. Sharing guidelines (e.g., for authors)
  3. Structured metadata for funders/funding
  4. Flexible solutions that work well enough for all but can be adapted to community needs
  5. Metadata about metadata (e.g., provenance of ORCID IDs)
  6. Ontology for metadata structure
  7. Discoverability—versions of research, retractions, permissions, etc. are all fragmented and reduce discoverability
  8. Value proposition/buy-in for a shared vision across all stakeholders
  9. Coordination of expectations about metadata, requirements of funders globally and development of “minimum viable metadata structure”