A one day workshop, organised by ELIXIR, BioMedBridges and RDA, was held on 16 October 2014 in Brussels to kick-start agreement on a common ‘topics’ vocabulary to classify resources in the life sciences domain, including databases, tools, courses, training materials, meetings, jobs and publications. Service providers and registries currently use different vocabularies to classify resources. From the user point of view, a common topics vocabulary would enhance the ability to find related resources of interest. From the provider point of view, a common vocabulary would be an important step to facilitate the interoperability of existing resources and significantly increase the impact and reach to different user communities. Workshop participants, who also discussed use cases and how agreement on high-level terms would positively impact the different communities, included representatives of societies, networks, institutes, organisations, research infrastructures and projects, as well as BioMedBridges project partners and members of several ELIXIR Nodes. The workshop, both in terms of participation and the reaction in the wider community, revealed that there is widespread interest in and support for the development of a common topics vocabulary, and it provided the basis and strategies for moving forward. While there was general agreement on the aims and content of the vocabulary proposed at the workshop, there were indications that the structure may need further discussion. Ultimately, wide adoption is necessary to realise potential impact. To achieve this, a critical mass of initial resources needs to adopt the vocabulary to be able to demonstrate its utility with the first use cases. Funding will eventually be necessary to further develop and adapt the vocabulary itself as well as to develop further applications.