Is Your Metadata a Unicorn?

Author: Vanessa Fairhurst, Crossref
International Community Outreach Manager, Crossref
Oxford Centre for Innovation, New Road, Oxford, OX1 1BY, UK

Membership at Crossref is not just about creating persistent identifiers (DOIs) for research content. It is about placing that content into context. A DOI is simply one small, but important, piece of the puzzle. Crossref works in collaboration with individuals and organizations to collect extensive metadata, both bibliographic and non-bibliographic, so that connections can be made between publications, people, organizations, and other associated outputs. This short talk aims to deepen the understanding of the power of good metadata, explaining how this can be harnessed to aid discoverability of content and build tools and services for the research community.

There are a number of different methods to register the metadata for your content at Crossref (1), via machine or human interfaces, or third-party plug-ins such as those developed by the Public Knowledge Project (PKP) (2), which aid publishers around the globe to share their metadata. Crossref has minimal requirements in order to support a variety of publication practises, and all of the metadata received is standardized and machine readable. However, the schema supports a diverse range of content types and associated metadata; the more complete this metadata is, the more likely content can be discovered and disseminated.

Whenever you submit metadata to Crossref, DataCite (3), OJS, DOAJ (4), and other organizations, the metadata you deposit should be accurate, complete and up to date. Accuracy is important as misspelled author names, incorrect dates, missing license information, or bad URLs undermine the usefulness of collaborative services and are a pain for readers and authors. Additionally, after talking to members at Crossref, we found that not only did people not fully grasp the value of their metadata, but often they were unsure about what they could deposit or what they were already depositing (5). Participation reports were developed as a ‘checklist’ of key metadata elements. This helps Crossref members to identify gaps in their metadata records and to add more metadata. I’ll explain how to go about identifying errors and missing metadata, as well as how to update your records at Crossref.

Rich, connected, open metadata helps to build a shared infrastructure for the advancement of scholarly research. Initiatives such as Metadata2020 (6) and The Initiative for Open Citations (I4OC) (7) work towards greater collaboration and interoperability across various systems and stakeholders and teach us how to use open, comprehensive metadata. It’s important that publication metadata is preserved and archived for scholarly record and made openly available across a range of interfaces and formats, so that the community can use it and build tools with it. Its value lies in powering tools and services developed by Crossref and the wider community such as search and discovery, metrics and analysis, manuscript tracking, annotation, and more.

I’ll detail some examples of the applications of scholarly metadata and how this all helps research be found, cited, linked-to, assessed, and re-used. Enabling researchers and publishers to provide the most comprehensive and accurate metadata is vital.

Key words

Crossref, metadata, discoverability, interoperability, open


  1. Crossref Content Registration. Available at:
  2. Crossref | OJS 3.1.2+ Manual by PKP. Available at:
  3. DataCite metadata schema 4.3. Available at:
  4. DOAJ blog (2019). Are you using an up-to-date version of DOAJ metadata? Apparently not. Retrieved July 24, 2020 from
  5. How good is your metadata? Available at:
  6. Metadata 2020 Initiative. Available at:
  7. Initiative for Open Citations. Available at: