DCAT Application profile for data portals in Europe (DCAT-AP)

The DCAT Application profile for data portals in Europe (DCAT-AP) is a specification based on the Data Catalogue vocabulary (DCAT) for describing public sector datasets in Europe. Its basic use case is to enable cross-data portal search for data sets and make public sector data better searchable across borders and sectors. This can be achieved by the exchange of descriptions of datasets among data portals.

  1. DCAT-AP v1.2 is the last version available.
  2. There are DCAT-AP technical implementation guidelines and a Change and Release Management Policy for DCAT-AP.

The application profile is a specification for metadata records to meet the specific application needs of data portals in Europe while providing semantic interoperability with other applications on the basis of reuse of established controlled vocabularies (e.g. EuroVoc) and mappings to existing metadata vocabularies (e.g. Dublin Core, SDMX, INSPIRE metadata, etc). In its communication on Open Data of December 12 2011, the European Commission states that the availability of the information in a machine-readable format as well as a thin layer of commonly agreed metadata could facilitate data cross-reference and interoperability and therefore considerably enhance its value for reuse.

The aim to ensure consistency in the description metadata published by data portals across Europe is important and has a clear business case. We see the following scenarios:

  1. Data reusers find it at times difficult to get an overview of which datasets exists and which public administrations are maintaining it, in particular if the datasets are in another Member State where language barriers may apply and the structure of government is unfamiliar. To address this problem, data publishers and portals maintain catalogues of datasets that are made available by public administrations on their websites. The quality of the description metadata in these catalogues directly affects how easily datasets can be found.
  2. Data providers want to encourage reuse of their datasets by making them searchable and accessible. Here publishing description metadata of the datasets online can be at times more important than making it the actual data available. Especially in cases where the costs to publish datasets are high and the actual demand for it unclear, listing on one or more data portals can signal availability at low cost.