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Harvestable Metadata Services

This Working Group (WG) was created to support Members of the World Data System who do not yet have a harvestable metadata catalogue. Having a harvestable metadata catalogue is a minimum requirement for being a WDS Member, is consistent with the FAIR principle that metadata are retrievable using a standardized communication protocol [1] and is part of the CoreTrustSeal Requirement to facilitate machine harvesting of metadata [2]. It is also important to WDS partners and the wider scientific community to make WDS data assets visible and findable in aggregator platforms such as OpenAire, PANGAEA, DataCite, and Google Dataset Search.
Co-chairs: Prof Aude Chambodut (Director of the International Service of Geomagnetic Indices at the University of Strasbourg), Prof Juanle Wang (Director of the WDC for Renewable Resources and Environment)

rice terracesThe WG is intended to be a community-driven, multidisciplinary platform where WDS Members can interact, collaborate, and share their good practices, approaches, and pain-points associated with creating harvestable metadata services. The intent is to first identify the issues that are preventing WDS Members from exposing their metadata assets, create a scope of work detailing the issues identified, then create and follow through with an implementation plan to create publically harvestable metadata services using common and well established protocols. 

Terms of Reference

The WG is specifically focussed on exposing metadata assets of the WDS community. There are multiple components of metadata development that the community may wish to engage in and that are not part of this WG. For example, WDS Members may have metadata that is incomplete; Members may not currently assign Permanent Identifiers (e.g., Digital Obeject Identifers) to their metadata; or their metadata may not be enriched with semantic tags, such as or some domain-specific ontologies. All of these types of metadata development processes are outside the scope of this WG. All participants of this WG should have metadata in a standard format, and a desire to make that metadata harvestable. If participants wish to identify enrichment programmes for their metadata, there will be an opportunity to create separate WG for these activities.

To reduce the burden on repositories, we do not seek to create a single, formal federation, nor do we seek to prescribe what metadata format or metadata service protocol will be used by the WG members. Members of the WG will choose a metadata format and metadata service protocol that is standard and makes sense for the community they serve. Each WG member will create a metadata service, and they will identify metadata aggregators that will have either a direct harvester or some type of middleware broker that will consume the WDS Member's metadata service. We anticipate that mature domains, such as weather and seismic monitoring, will have already identified standards supporting the access and harvesting of metadata. Less mature and newer research areas served by WDS repositories will need to identify, evolve, and adapt approaches to harvesting [3].

Deliverables and Milestones

The Harvestable Metadata Services WG aims to help participants to:

  1. Determine if they want to create an implementation plan to create a harvestable metadata service, and if so
  2. Examine the current state of their metadata and metadata delivery options.
  3. Work with colleagues to write a scope of work that will enable them to create a harvestable metadata service.
  4. Include some sort of consumption benchmark in the plans, a metric of how much metadata and data they are currently serving—the 'hits' their data is getting—and a method to compare this number against the amount of metadata and data they are serving, or the clients they are reaching after implementing a harvestable metadata service.
  5. Include consumption options in the plans—a list of which harvesters they can support.
  6. Collectively gather all of the use cases, identify common pain-points and lessons learned, and publish as guidance for the wider Research Data Management community who are facing the same challenges.
  7. Support participants in their implementation and where necessary, seek additional expertise and resources to support WG member implementation.

The WG will leverage existing interest in metadata services as expressed in the 2019 WDS Member Survey [4] to expose more data to the scientific community. 


By the end of this 24-month WG period, there will be:

  • An acceleration in the maturation of less advanced WDS communities, and the emergence of a global community supporting scientific data services.
  • An explicit understanding of the barriers to metadata service deployment in a variety of contexts and settings.
  • An increase in WDS Members with harvestable metadata services, and by extension, more findable and accessible data. This will increase the global standing of WDS as an integral part of international collaborative scientific research.
  • Users and consumers of these services accessing data that was previously unavailable.


The Co-chairs and members of the WG are appointed by WDS Science Committee (WDS-SC). Its membership will be reviewed every two years by the WDS-SC during one of its biannual face-to-face Meetings.


Participation of members of the WDS-WG is voluntary. Administrative support is provided by WDS International Programme Office (WDS-IPO) and/or WDS International Technology Office (WDS-ITO). This includes organizing online meetings and providing an online collaborative space.

The WDS-IPO and WDS-ITO cannot provide financial support for travelling or for any other costs. Face-to-face meetings will be organized as the opportunity arises at international conferences, and participants will be expected to fund their travel and expenses through their own organizations. Additional grants might be secured by the WDS-IPO, WDS-ITO, or their partners to support the activities of the WG.


The Co-chairs will be responsible for the agenda of WG meetings and for calling those meetings. They will report to the WDS-SC regularly; at least twice a year on the occasion of the biannual WDS-SC face-to-face Meetings.

Term and Review

This WG activity and its continued operation will be reviewed during the SC Meeting two years after the WG invitations have been sent.