The purpose of attribute schemas is to describe the structure and use of an attribute such that applications and services have standardized patterns to work with for each attribute. If there are attributes about a person, place, or thing that need to be shared between systems, making sure that attribute is described in a schema is the way to go.
The REFEDS Schema Editorial Board manages several schemas for the REFEDS community, including eduPerson, SCHAC, voPerson, and a few others. eduPerson and SCHAC have both been updated this summer; eduPerson sees the addition of eduPersonDisplayPronouns and mapping to semantic-style versioning, whereas SCHAC sees the deprecation of schacGender.
The latest version of eduPerson (202208 by the older versioning, or v4.4.0 according to semantic-based versioning) adds one new attribute: eduPersonDisplayPronoun. This attribute was designed by the Pronouns Subcommittee of the Schema Editorial Board and reviewed with the community via consultation earlier this year.
According to the Pronoun Subcommittee charter,
“Personal selection of pronouns is becoming increasingly common, leading to ad hoc storage and poor coordination across campus IAM systems, IdPs, and SPs (intramural and federated). This subcommittee will evaluate the current landscape and make a recommendation for how pronouns should be managed.”
This attribute offers a common field for storing an individual’s personal pronoun choices without limiting the options to any predefined list. The goal with this information is to offer personalized services, not classification.
For more guidance on when and how to use eduPersonDisplayPronoun, see the associated best practice guidance here.
Rather than adding a new attribute, the recent update to SCHAC, taking it to v1.6.0, deprecated the attribute schacGender. schacGender is a very different attribute than eduPersonDisplayPronoun. It is about biological sex and is restricted to the values available in ISO 5218. ISO 5218, most recently updated earlier this year, states that this standard “meets the requirements of most applications that need to code human sexes. It does not provide codes for sexes that can be required in specific medical and scientific applications or in applications that need to code sex information other than for human beings. It also does not provide codes for human gender identities that can be required in other applications.”)
The description of the deprecated attribute now states, “This attribute does not have clearly defined applicability, and does not align with evolving requirements for gender representation.” Outreach inquiring about the use of schacGender indicated that most organizations that use SCHAC have chosen not to use this attribute due to privacy concerns.
Evolving R&E Schema
REFEDS-managed schemas evolve based on community feedback and direction. If you have thoughts on a new attribute that would be broadly useful in our community, please join the schema-discuss mailing list or submit an issue in one of our GitHub repositories (links here: voPerson, eduPerson, SCHAC)!