Caryn Neiswender

Metadata Standards vs. Metadata Specifications

Some confusion exists about the use of the words standard and specification when applied to metadata. On the MMI site, we maintain the following distinction:

Metadata Extensions and Profiles

Customizing metadata standards with extensions and profiles

The Common Standards guide describes widely used standards for projects seeking a generic metadata approach. These standards were generally created for broad application, and thus usually represent the lowest common set of metadata that applies to many disciplines. These standards provide an organized way to represent many of the general characteristics of a dataset.

Definition of Metadata

Metadata are used to describe data or information. In environmental sciences like oceanography, metadata describe the information that scientists collect and informs users about the characteristics and history of a data set or data item—including methodological, temporal and spatial information.

The word metadata is sometimes used in a singular form (metadata is). We use the plural (metadata are). Both are in common usage, though in the sciences it’s typically used in the plural.

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