The Use of Dublin Core Metadata in a Structured Health Resource Guide on the Internet

Ce document a été réalisé par l'équipe CISMeF.

Last update: 2000-06-20

published version in BMLA

MeSH keywords:

Abstracting and indexing; Cataloging; France; Information Storage and Retrieval; Internet; MEDLINE; National Library of Medicine (U.S.); Subject Headings; Support, Non-U.S. Gov't; Vocabulary controlled


The objective of CISMeF [1-2] is to describe and index the main French-speaking health resources to assist health professionals during the search of electronic information and knowledge available on the Internet. CISMeF is a project initiated by the Rouen University Hospital (RUH). Its Universal Resource Locator (URL) is CISMeF began in February 1995 with the creation of the RUH's Web site. In May 2000, the number of indexed resources totaled over 9,000 with a mean of 51 new sites each week.

CISMeF uses two standard tools for organizing information: the MeSH (Medical Subject Heading) thesaurus from the US National Library of Medicine [3] and the Dublin Core metadata format [4].

Description of the Dublin Core

The Dublin Core (DC) is a metadata element set intended to facilitate discovery of electronic resources, [5]. Originally conceived for author-generated description of Web resources, the DC is now used by museums, libraries, government agencies, and commercial organizations.

The building of an interdisciplinary, international consensus around a core element set is the central feature of the DC which benefits from active participation and promotion in some 20 countries in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia.

The DC is intended to be used by non-catalogers as well as resource description specialists [5].


The fifteen Dublin Core elements are optional. Resources included in CISMeF are described by the 11 following items of the 15 taken from DC []: author or creator, date, description, format, identifier, language, publisher, resource type, rights, subject and keywords, and title. CISMeF does not use the other DC fields (contributor, coverage, relation, source). The following eight fields are added in the metadata and are specific to CISMeF: institution, city, province or state, country, target, type of access, cost and sponsorship.

From 1995 to 1999, CISMEF used only static HTML. As CISMeF uses the MeSH to index resources, every HTML page is based on a MeSH term. In May 2000, CISMeF used 2,100 MeSH terms (11% of the MeSH thesaurus). Table 1 gives the Dublin Core elements used in the metadata of each CISMeF MeSH Page (paralysis as an example). These elements are manually written and updated by the CISMeF team.

Since 2000, CISMeF has also used automatic HTML to generate one HTML page for every indexed resource. Table 2 gives the Dublin Core and the CISMeF elements used in each CISMeF resource page. These elements are automatically written from the CISMeF database.

Example of a description of a document indexed in CISMeF:

Protocole d'investigation sur la paralysie flasque aiguë et la poliomyélite paralytique soupçonnée Groupe de travail sur l'éradication de la poliomyélite et la Division de l'immunisation - Bureau des maladies infectieuses - Laboratoire de lutte contre la maladie [site éditeur Santé Canada ; contexte, définition des cas de surveillance, investigation et signalement des cas, gestion des contacts, signalement de la découverte fortuite de poliovirus sauvage, références bibliographiques, annexes ; document en anglais et en français ; daté d'avril 1997 ; mis à jour en juillet 1997 ; visité le 6 janvier 2000]. -Ca
mots clés : paralysie ; poliomyélite antérieure aiguë
type de ressource :
ligne directrice pratique médicale ; rapport technique

Protocol For The Investigation Of Acute Flaccid Paralysis And Suspected Paralytic Poliomyelitis Working Group on Polio Eradication and the Division of Immunization Bureau of Infectious Diseases, Laboratory Centre for Disease Control, Health Canada, Ottawa [publisher Health Canada ; Background Surveillance, Case Definitions, Investigation and Reporting of Cases, Management of Close Contacts, Reporting of Incidental Finding of Wild Poliovirus, References ; document in English and French ; creation date: April 1997 ; last update: July 1997 ; last visit: January 2000] -Ca
keywords: paralysis; poliomyelitis
resource type:
practicel guideline; technical report


The Internet facilitates the communication between health professionals and with the general public, and also improves information access. However, only a minority of medical resources available on the Internet have a valid information content.

Several tools in the retrieval of health information on the Internet have been distinguished and structured:

OMNI indexes approximately 4,500 resources, mostly from UK, CISMeF about 9,000, mostly from France, MedHunt and HON approximately around 40,000. OMNI and MedWebPlus use the UMLS metathesaurus to provide a conceptual network to the subject headings. OMNI, HON, and CliniWeb have also developed a structured database (dynamic HTML) which permits better searches. Healthinsite and CISMeF use the Dublin Core metadata format, which is expected to become the dominant metadata format for Internet resource description.

CISMeF use DC differently according to "browse" (CISMeF MeSH Page, table 1) or "search" (CISMef resource page, table 2) strategy chosen by the end-user. The choice of the Dublin Core was prompted by its institutional origin and its notoriety in the academic world. Several other health sites are now using the Dublin Core: Australian Department of Health and Aged Care [], Better Health Channel [], National Health and Medical Research Council [], and WHO (World Health Organization) []. See here the exhaustive list of health projects using the Dublin Core metadata format.

The use of metadata is one main criterion to assess the quality of health information on the Internet [10]. The use of metadata implies the necessity to structure information. The quality of metadata description reflects the quality of online information.

The DC provides an economical alternative to more elaborate description models such as the full MARC cataloging of the library world [5]. Additionally, it includes sufficient flexibility and extensibility to encode the structure and more elaborate semantics inherent in richer description standards (e.g. the add of eight items specific to CISMeF). The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has begun implementing an architecture for metadata for the Web. The Resource Description Framework (RDF) has been designed to support the many different metadata needs of vendors and information providers. Representatives of the DC effort are actively involved in the development of this infrastructure, bringing the digital library perspective to bear on this important component of the Web infrastructure [5]. Finally, promoting a commonly understood set of descriptors that helps to unify other data content standards increases the possibility of semantic interoperability across disciplines. The diversity of metadata needs on the Web requires an infrastructure that supports the coexistence of complementary, independently maintained metadata packages.


To help healthcare professionals and health consumers to more easily locate high-quality health information on the Internet, catalogues must use standard tools especially metadata to describe and index resources.


CISMeF was supported in part by the grant n 1998 06 016 from the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie in the program "French-speaking Virtual University". The authors thank Richard Medeiros for his advice in the editing of this manuscript and Myriam Quéré for her secretarial assistance.


  1. Thirion B, Darmoni SJ. Simplified access to MeSH tree structures on CISMeF. Bull Med Libr Assoc 1999 Oct;87(4):480-1.
  2. Darmoni SJ, Leroy JP, Baudic F, Douyère M, Piot J, Thirion B. CISMeF: a structured Health resource guide. Methods Inf Med 2000 Jan;39(1):30-35
  3. National Library of Medicine. Fact Sheet Medline. 4 May 2000 [Web document, accessed 5 June 2000] Available from Internet: <>
  4. Weibel S, Juha H. DC-5: The Helsinki Metadata Workshop; A Report on the Workshop and Subsequent Developments. D-Lib Magazine 1998 February. Available from Internet: <>.
  5. Dublin Core Metadata Initiative. 2 June 2000 [Web document, accessed 5 June 2000] Available from Internet: <>
  6. National Library of Medicine. Fact Sheet UMLS Metathesaurus. 12 Aug 1998 [Web document, accessed 5 June 2000]. Available from Internet: <>
  7. Hersh WR. Brown KE. Donohoe LC. Campbell EM. Horacek AE. CliniWeb: managing clinical information on the World Wide Web. JAMIA 1996;3(4):273-80.
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  10. Centrale Santé. Net Scoring : criteria to assess the quality of Health Internet information. 29 Feb 2000 [Web document, accessed 2 May 2000]. Available from Internet: <>.


Table 1: Dublin Core metadata elements used in a CISMeF Mesh Page

<meta name="DC.Creator" content="CISMeF team;">
<meta name="DC.Format" content="(SCHEME=IMT) text/html">
<meta name="DC.Language" content="(SCHEME=RFC1766) fr">
<meta name="DC.Publisher" content="Rouen University Hospital ; Centre hospitalier universitaire de Rouen ">
<meta name="DC.Rights" content="Copyright CHU de Rouen. Toute utilisation partielle ou totale de ce document doit mentionner la source">
<meta name="DC.Subject.Keywords" content="(SCHEME=MeSH) paralysie; paralysis">
<meta name="DC.Type" content="(SCHEME=CISMeF) text">

<link rel="schema.MeSH" href="">

<link rel="schema.RFC1766" href="">

<link rel="schema.IMT" href="">

<link rel="schema.CISMeF" href="">

* These DC are common to all MeSH pages in CISMeF


Table 2: Dublin Core metadata elements used in a CISMeF resource page

<meta name="DC.Title" content="Protocole d'investigation sur la paralysie flasque aiguë et la poliomyélite paralytique soupçonnée">

<meta name="DC.Type" content="clinical guideline; technical report">

<meta name="DC.Subject.Keywords" content="(SCHEME=MeSH) paralysie ; paralysis ; poliomyélite antérieure aiguë ; poliomyelitis">

<meta name="CISMeF.Target" content="healthcare professionals">

<meta name="DC.Publisher" content="Santé Canada">

<meta name="DC.Format" content="text/html">

<meta name="DC.Identifier" content=">

<meta name="DC.Description" content="contexte, définition des cas de surveillance, investigation et signalement des cas, gestion des contacts, signalement de la découverte fortuite de poliovirus sauvage, références bibliographiques, annexes">

<meta name="DC.Date.Lastmodified" content=2000 01 06>

<meta name="CISMeF.Access" content="unreserved">

<meta name="CISMeF.Cost" content="free">

<meta name="DC.Institution" content="Santé Canada, Laboratoire de lutte contre la maladie, Bureau des maladies infectieuses, Groupe de travail sur l'éradication de la poliomyélite et la Division de l'immunisation">

<meta name="CISMeF.Sponspor" content="non granted">

<link rel="schema.MeSH" href="">

<link rel="schema.RFC1766" href="">

<link rel="schema.IMT" href="">

<link rel="schema.CISMeF" href="">