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Which metadata standard should I use to manage data?

In the context of data management, metadata are a subset of core standardized and structured data documentation that explains the origin, purpose, time reference, geographic location, creator, access conditions and terms of use of a data collection, and other pertinent information to describe the data.  Metadata allow individuals to be able to discover data sets in data repositories, and provide necessary information to interpret the data.


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  • Identify the metadata standard appropriate for the data type
  • Generate metadata that adheres to the selected metadata standard



While data curators, and increasingly researchers, know that good metadata is key for research data access and re-use, figuring out precisely what metadata to capture and how to capture it is a complex task. Fortunately, many academic disciplines have supported initiatives to formalise the metadata specifications the community deems to be required for data re-use. This page provides links to information about these disciplinary metadata standards, including profiles, tools to implement the standards, and use cases of data repositories currently implementing them.

This free online information resource is all about taxonomy: Content and links to everything you need to know about taxonomy in one convenient website. Explore our subject-oriented directory of taxonomies and their publishers; peruse blogs and events about taxonomies; discover taxonomy books and standards; research taxonomy software products; and connect with experts and consulting services.



This video explains what metadata is and why it is important to record it.



  • Blank, Grant, and Karsten Rasmussen. “The Data Documentation Initiative: The Value and Significance of a Worldwide Standard.” Social Science Computer Review no. 22 (2004): 307–318. doi:10.1177/0894439304263144.

Effective secondary analysis of social science data requires good documentation. Especially because Internet access has become standard, the problems of reading and understanding the contents of data files have become acute. Resolving these problems requires standards for documenting data, as well as standard formats for both data and documentation that can be read and displayed by computers and software anywhere in the world. To define a documentation standard, representatives of North American and European survey research and data archive organizations have created a Data Documentation Initiative (DDI). This article discusses the value and significance of that effort for the social sciences.

  • Edwards, Paul N., Matthew S. Mayernik, Archer L. Batcheller, Geoffrey Bowker C., and Christine L. Borgman. “Science Friction: Data, Metadata, and Collaboration.” Social Studies of Science 41, no. 5 (August 15, 2011): 667–690. doi:10.1177/0306312711413314.

When scientists from two or more disciplines work together on related problems, they often face what we call ‘science friction’. As science becomes more data-driven, collaborative, and interdisciplinary, demand increases for interoperability among data, tools, and services. Metadata – usually viewed simply as ‘data about data’, describing objects such as books, journal articles, or datasets – serve key roles in interoperability. Yet we find that metadata may be a source of friction between scientific collaborators, impeding data sharing. We propose an alternative view of metadata, focusing on its role in an ephemeral process of scientific communication, rather than as an enduring outcome or product...Metadata-as-process suggests the very large role of the ad hoc, the incomplete, and the unfinished in everyday scientific work.

Digital data repositories ought to support immediate operational needs and long-term project goals. This paper presents the Dryad repository's metadata best practice balancing of these two needs. The paper reviews background work exploring the meaning of science, characterizing data, and highlighting data curation metadata challenges...The conclusion summarizes limitations and advantages of the two prongs underlying Dryad's metadata effort.

An online publication devoted to metadata, its types and uses, and how it can improve access to digital resources.

Sections include: Metadata and Digital Curation, Description of a Metadata Standard, Examples of Metadata Standards, and Additional Resources

Defines metadata, explains various metadata schemes and element sets, and considers the creation, interoperability, and future directions of metadata.


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