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Towards interoperable recordkeeping systems: A meta-model for recordkeeping metadata

Gregory Rolan (Caulfield School of Information Technology, Monash University, Caulfield East, Australia)

Records Management Journal

ISSN: 0956-5698

Article publication date: 17 July 2017




The purpose of this paper is to introduce an infrastructural approach to metadata modelling and a generalised meta-model for recordkeeping metadata. This meta-model is an attempt to support interoperability between disparate systems, and particularly, between sets of ostensibly incommensurate record documentation.


The investigation used a reflective design-science investigation comprising interviews adaptive literature review, creation of conceptual models and the design and instantiation of a proof-of-concept system.


The investigation confirms that recordkeeping interoperability between disparate ontologies is achievable through a meta-model approach. In particular, the meta-model carefully defines relationships between entities with specific semantics that enable the development of interoperable domain schemas.

Practical implications

A meta-model for recordkeeping metadata facilitates the development of recordkeeping systems that possess interoperability-by-design.

Social implications

Recordkeeping systems that conform to the meta-model can, therefore, transcend the immediate transactional context and support participatory recordkeeping in terms of a plurality of stakeholder world views and agency in records.


This paper is one of the few reporting design-science approaches to recordkeeping informatics and one that has used a meta-model approach for recordkeeping metadata design. In contrast to most empirically determined metadata schemas, the top-down design approach has produced a schema from a wide variety of ontological sources.



The author wishes to acknowledge the wisdom and feedback given by his doctoral supervisors: Dr Joanne Evans, Professor Sue McKemmish and Associate Professor Gavan McCarthy who started this train of thought, as well as Dr Frank Upward and his pedantry regarding topology and topography, albeit in a different context. The author is also immensely grateful to his research participants and their invaluable feedback during the evaluation sessions.


Rolan, G. (2017), "Towards interoperable recordkeeping systems: A meta-model for recordkeeping metadata", Records Management Journal, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 125-148.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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