Karen Stocks

Meeting NSF Data Policy Requirements

The National Science Foundation (NSF) provides a brief  Division of Ocean Sciences Data and Sample Policy (2004) outline. This policy applies specifically to the NSF's Division of Ocean Sciences. Other NSF program policies may differ.

Selecting a Standard

Metadata standards are formal specifications of how metadata should be expressed, and following an accepted metadata standard helps ensure that data are appropriately described for later discovery and reuse. But there are many standards, and not all standards are appropriate to a particular project. In choosing a standard from the hundreds available, it is important to evaluate options based on project needs with the goal of creating an interoperable system.

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:

The Importance of Metadata Standards

Metadata Standards are sets of topic-specific norms and definitions that guide the collection and documentation of metadata so that the result has consistent collection criteria, nomenclature, and structure. This consistency defines formal metadata. Creation of formal metadata through adherence to standards is essential for sharing data, for data management within the project, and for future funding.

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.

The Importance of Metadata

If you have ever wanted to use someone else's data, such as for a meta-analysis or for comparison with your own data, you may have had a difficult time finding, deciphering, and using that data. You may have found that critical information about the data is missing. Worse, there may have been no clear contact information where you could send questions.

Metadata Classifications

In developing data systems, a number of categories have been used for metadata. This guide explains a few of these and some of their strengths and weaknesses.

Machine Readability

Metadata provide important information about a data resource. In theory, this information can be provided in many forms. For instance, the methods section of a scientific journal paper can be considered metadata.

Getting Started - How You Can Publish Your Metadata

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to metadata. This guide is an overview of the steps in the metadata creation process from initial planning through publication in a metadata registry or repository. Even if your ultimate goal is not to publish your metadata, the initial steps below will still be relevant for planning your in-house metadata. 

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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