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Temporal coverage

Meaning & purpose

Temporal coverage refers to the time period during which data was collected or observations were made; or a time period that an activity or collection is linked to intellectually or thematically (for example, 1997 to 1998; the 18th century). Temporal coverage is contained within the Coverage element wrapper.

Temporal coverage can be recorded as a date range using the Date child element or it can be entered as text using the Text child element:

  • Date - a time period described using dates, for example, 1978 to 1990
  • Text - a text description of a time period, for example, 21st century; 1863 to present day

Temporal Coverage attributes

Temporal Coverage Date Type

If Temporal Coverage is described using the Date element, a Date Type is required, preferably from the Temporal Coverage Date Type vocabulary:




the start date for a temporal coverage period


the end date for a temporal coverage period

Date Format attribute

If Temporal Coverage is described using the Date element, a DateFormat attribute is required for each instance of Date Type. A single date or a range of dates can be provided and may include both start and end dates or an open ended date. The W3C Date Time Format (W3CDTF) is the only format specified in the vocabulary.

Use in Research Data Australia

Temporal coverage description using dates supports timeline filtering and display of search results in Research Data Australia.

Temporal coverage is displayed in records using the labels 'From [date]' and 'To [date]'. If only one date is provided, only the appropriate label will be displayed with the date.

Best practice

  • The time period that the collection is linked to intellectually or thematically takes priority over the time period during which data was collected or observations made.
  • If Temporal Coverage applies to a collection, preferably this is also reflected in the collection Name and/or Description.
  • If Temporal Coverage Type "date" was chosen, specify Date Type and DateFormat.
  • If multiple date periods are needed, use a separate Coverage element for each pair of "dateFrom" and "dateTo" dates, otherwise Research Data Australia will not be able to display the date pairs correctly.
  • Some collections may have only a starting date or only an end date. This is common for cultural collections such as those held by museums, where, for example, a collection is still being added to on an ongoing basis. In these cases, use only "dateFrom" or "dateTo" as appropriate.
  • Do not use Temporal Coverage to provide start and finish dates of activities (a project about the First World War should not have a temporal coverage of 2007-2009). Use ExistenceDates instead.
  • Temporal Coverage is not relevant to parties. Do not use for party records.


RIF-CS v1.0.1 users only...

In RIF-CS v1.0.1 temporal coverage was provided using the Location element with type="coverage". The information below applies only to those users. Upgrade of feeds to the current version of RIF-CS is recommended to take advantage of schema enhancements and the current Research Data Australia display.

There were no defined types, only dates were used. If temporal coverage could not be described as dates using dateFrom and dateTo (for example, 18th century), this information was recorded in a Description element using type of "temporal".

RIF-CS 1.0.1 example of temporal coverage:

<location dateFrom="2010-03-01T00:00:00Z" dateTo="2011-01-31T00:00:00Z" type="coverage">

XML encoding examples

Temporal coverage using W3C date format:

        <date type="dateFrom" dateFormat="W3CDTF">2001</date>
        <date type="dateTo" dateFormat="W3CDTF">2004</date>
        <date type="dateFrom" dateFormat="W3CDTF">2001-01-12T19:20:30.45Z</date>
        <date type="dateTo" dateFormat="W3CDTF">2004-03-12T09:14:10.00Z</date>

Temporal coverage using text format:

        <text>18th century</text>

Temporal coverage for an open-ended collection - Date option:

        <date type="dateFrom" dateFormat="W3CDTF">1863</date>

Temporal coverage for an open-ended collection - Text option:

        <text>1863 to present day</text>


Change history

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Change history

April 2010

Consultation draft

26 Oct 2010

RIF-CS 1.2.0 changes and examples added

6 Jan 2011

RIF-CS 1.2.0 examples corrected to show temporal coverage dateFormat on date type as specified in schema; examples for describing open-ended collections added

6 Dec 2011

Page restructured to separate RIF-CS v1.0.1 information to avoid confusion; information about display of temporal information added;  Research Data Australia image updated

8 Jun 2012

Added ISO3166 example

5 Jul 2012

Added advice to use W3CDTF format

16 Jul 2012

Corrected links to ISO 3166 information

31 Jul 2012

UTC: Coordinated Universal Time was removed as approved by RAB

Nov 2012

Split Spatial and Temporal coverage into two pages



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