Standards Bodies

One of the primary questions to ask when considering a metadata standard is who developed the standard. A standard that was developed with broad, organized community input, and which has an organization to manage and maintain it is more likely to be useful, widely adopted, and persistent into the future. Here, three of the larger standards bodies are describe: the International Standards Organization (ISO), the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI), and the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC).

ISO: International Standards Organization

Focus: Content and Format Standards

The world leader in the effort to set international standards is ISO, which works toward consensus agreements between national delegations representing all the economic stakeholders concerned—suppliers, users, government regulators and other interest groups, such as consumers. They agree on specifications and criteria to be applied consistently in the classification of materials, in the manufacture and supply of products, in testing and analysis, in terminology and in the provision of services.

ISO provides a reference framework, or a common technological language, between suppliers and their customers, which facilitates trade and the transfer of technology. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is the US representative of ISO.

The ISO standards most relevant to marine data are


The official adoption of the DCMI core metadata element set as an ISO standard Technical Committee 46 (Technical Interoperability)


Geographic information metadata content and conceptual framework Technical Committee 211 (Geographic Information, Geomatics)


Geographic MetaData (gmd) - XML schema implementation Technical Committee 211 (Geographic Information, Geomatics)

DCMI: Dublin Core Metadata Initiative

Focus: Largely Content Standards

DCMI represents a focused effort to establish a baseline for metadata content standards. DCMI takes its name from its origins as an invitational workshop convened in Dublin, Ohio, in 1995 with the purpose of establishing “core” elements that should be included in any metadata set because they are broad, generic and useful for describing a wide range of resources. The “Dublin Core” consists of 15 basic elements that are considered part of a larger metadata resource maintained by DCMI.

In addition to the core elements, DCMI metadata terms include a broader set of elements and element refinements, a vocabulary, and a list of encoding schemes (Dewey Decimal, Library of Congress, etc.). They also provide for encoding guidelines for employing RDF, XML and HTML format standards (schemas) in support of their content standards.

It is intended that these resources allow the combination of DCMI standards with other compatible standards in the creation of application profiles based on the DCMI Abstract Model. DCMI also serves as an active promoter of support services and fostering active forums to provide examples of successful applications of the core standards in various fields.

Major Standards


The official adoption of the DCMI core metadata element set as an ISO standard Technical Committee 46 (Technical Interoperability)

ANSI/NISO Z39.85-2007

Relies on DCMI Core metadata element set to define fifteen metadata elements for resource description in a cross-disciplinary information environment.

FGDC: Federal Geographic Data Committee

Focus: Largely Content Standards

The focus of the Federal Geographic Data Committee is to “provide coordination of federal geospatial activities between, among, and within agencies by establishing policy and providing guidance and direction” to United States governmental agencies.

The FDGC developed and endorsed the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) in 1994 and updated it in 1998. At the time this guide was written, all federal agencies are required to use this standard in metadata documentation. Many state and local agencies have adopted it as well to assure "up the line" compatibility and to comply with reporting requirements tied to funding.

In order to ensure international interoperability, FDGC is in the process of adopting the North American Profile of ISO 19115 as its primary standard.

FGDC also endorses a suite of profiles and extensions to CSDGM, including an extension for remote sensing data, a biological data profile, and a shoreline data profile. These allow the creation of metadata tailored to the specific characteristics of these data types, while still providing full compatibility with the base standard.

Suggested Citation

Hogrefe, K. 2011. "Standards Bodies." In The MMI Guides: Navigating the World of Marine Metadata. Accessed August 6, 2020.