Metadata or 'the documentation of data' serves the purpose of making data discoverable, usable and understandable. A variety of metadata standards and formats have been developed over time to support data discovery and data documentation.
Metadata can be represented in a number of standards and formats. Many discipline-specific or community-specific metadata standards have been developed to support data management and data discovery systems and to capture and convey information to users. Examples include Directory Interchange Format (DIF), Ecological Metadata Language (EML), Sensor Model Language (SensorML), Climate Science Modeling Language (CSML), and NetCDF Markup Language (NcML). One commonly used metadata standard, the Federal Geographic Data Committee's (FGDC) Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM) was developed in support of the coordinated development, use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial data on a national basis.
Additionally, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) developed a series of standards to describe geographic information. The use of metadata to document environmental data is described in NOAA Administrative Order 212-15 which outlines the Management of Environmental Data and Information. NOAA's Environmental Data Management Committee's (EDMC) Data Documentation Planning Directive "establishes ISO 19115 Parts 1 and 2 and a recommended representation standard (ISO 19139) for documenting NOAA's environmental data and information."
The production, validation, and management of metadata records can be challenging and time consuming. A number of content sources, formats, storage structures and standards exist and change over time. Metadata creation is often further impeded by complex of metadata standards and a variety of available tool-sets. Some methods for automating metadata transformations are described in XML Transformations.
The National Centers for Environmental Information have personnel who are experienced working with data providers to develop metadata for their data. Information about NCEI's current online metadata training courses can be found on the NCEI Metadata Training Page.
Workbooks have been developed as a guide to implementing the ISO 191** metadata standards and are available in PDF format below:
- ISO 19115:2003 Geographic Information - Metadata Workbook (2.5 MB) - Guide to Implementing ISO 19115:2003(E), the North American Profile (NAP), and ISO 19110 Feature Catalogue.
- ISO 19115:2003 Geographic Information - Metadata - Biological Extensions Workbook (2.75 MB) - Guide to Implementing ISO 19115:2003(E), the North American Profile (NAP), and ISO 19110 Feature Catalogue with Biological Extensions.
- ISO 19115-2:2009 Geographic Information - Metadata - Part 2: Extensions for imagery and gridded data Workbook (2.99 MB) - Guide to Implementing ISO 19115-2:2009(E), the North American Profile (NAP), and ISO 19110 Feature Catalogue.