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Topic Review -
Taxonomy

Updated 20/5/13

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Metadata, categorisation, taxonomy, ontology, classification, filing labels....

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Introduction

Metadata, categorisation, taxonomy, ontology, classification, filing labels.... A boring but necessary basis to being able to manage data and bring it together to create meaningful information. There appears to be a lack of any sector-wide effort to agree (electronic) standards. VolResource is concerned that this could put voluntary groups at a disadvantage in the future when coming up against public sector data standards which are getting increasingly sophisticated, or other funder monitoring requirements.

See Wikipedia for a definition and discussion of Taxonomy.

The data we have in mind is anything to do with keeping tabs on sector activity, whether that is case work, service delivery or member processes. Its use will go well beyond IT, so this subject should not be seen as just a technical issue.

Viewing the Sector

The most obvious need for some degree of standardisation is in voluntary sector research.

Online directories and electronic databases of voluntary organisations is perhaps the usage that comes to mind from the term 'metadata'. (See our Web Glossary.)

Various local, regional and national sector umbrella bodies have of necessity worked on classification for their web based directories. Here's some efforts we know about:

Scotland's CVS network established a Data Management Consortium - but only known web link has gone. There was also a ShareIT Community Metadata Schema, in Manchester, but we believe funding cuts have hit what little activity there was.

Wales Council for Voluntary Action has a classification system with "46 categories which are a mixture of beneficiary types, activities and functions, and any one organisation can be coded in as many categories as seems appropriate". (Unlike ICNPO which insists on just one box being ticked). The categories are grouped into 23 forums, which are the basis of the representative seats at the Voluntary Sector Partnership Council with the Welsh Assembly. See WCVA Research Publications.

Frontline operations also have a need for relevant classification systems, for monitoring activity (reporting to funders, benchmarking against others), making information available online categorised for different service user needs etc.

Questions

The following have been raised in various discussions on taxonomy issues.

We would like to help with the sector developing its metadata needs.

Public sector

The public sector has been working on its electronic classification standards for some time. The Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary brings together three existing labelling mechanisms for electronic information: the Government Category List (GCL), Local Government Category List (LGCL) and the seamlessUK taxonomy. At 2013, see ESD Standards section. Also see other taxonomies (controlled lists or standards) maintained by ESD.