4.3 Metadata

Metadata refers to information that describes and provides context for a dataset, and which can take on different forms depending on the type of information being conveyed. Metadata is a central element of digital curation, facilitating findability, accessibility, interoperability and reusability of data. Metadata can take different forms, such as a structured metadata file packaged with data or structured metadata in a data catalogue.

In this document, metadata includes the concept of documentation, which is sometimes defined as a separate entity. Here, documentation requires a structured approach and therefore is included in the metadata concept. This is a common approach in several fields, such as Geoscience.

Metadata can be categorized for ease of use:

  • Descriptive metadata, describing the content of a dataset, is perhaps the most useful type for finding and selecting relevant data, as well as for analysis.
  • In contrast, structural metadata are the prerequisite that helps the analyst understand the structure of the dataset, by describing ‘data about the containers of data’ [*].
  • Administrative metadata are collected for the effective operation and management of data storage.
  • Finally, the study documentation provides an overall description of how the study was performed.

Relevant metadata can be created according to predefined metadata standards, which among other things describe the structure and content of metadata through a metadata schema – a structured collection of relevant predefined metadata elements, relationships and terminologies. Using an existing schema allows for easier transfer of relevant information, since fields and terminology can be predefined, and semantic issues minimized. Metadata standards can be generic or specialized and can build on, or be mapped to, one another to make communication across standards easier. Although this document does not describe a fully-fledged metadata standard, a set of metadata elements is suggested for use in data creation and sharing activities. In the future, this profile can be schematized mapped to existing metadata standards to increase metadata interoperability.

[*] Roebuck K., 2012. Metadata Repositories: High-impact Strategies – What You Need to Know: Definitions, Adoptions, Impact, Benefits, Maturity, Vendors. Emereo Publishing.