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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. The FGDC is an interagency committee that promotes the coordinated development, use, sharing, and dissemination of geospatial data on a national basis. The FGDC Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata (CSDGM), Vers. 2 is the current federal standard in support of Executive Order 12906, though recent guidance from FGDC encourages agencies to transition to ISO metadata as they are able to do so.

  • Geospatial Metadata Standards authored by FGDC includes the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata, Vers. 2 (FGDC-STD-001-1998). A CSDGM Workbook, and the CSDGM Graphical Representation are also available.
  • Profiles and Extensions of FGDC CSDGM include:
    1. Biological Data Profile of the Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata
    2. Metadata Profile for Shoreline Data
    3. Content Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata: Extensions for Remote Sensing Metadata
    NCDDC (now NCEI Stennis) has defined a set of extended elements of the FGDC CSDGM as outlined in this on-line reference titled NCDDC Metadata Profile Version 2.0 .
  • Endorsed ISO Metadata Standards support a transition to ISO metadata.

Transition to ISO

NOAA's directives for metadata, as part of its data documentation plan, include NOAA Administrative Order 212-15 and NOAA's Environmental Data Management Committee's (EDMC) Data Documentation Planning Directive. The Data Documentation directive "establishes ISO 19115 Parts 1 and 2 and a recommended representation standard (ISO 19139) for documenting NOAA's environmental data and information."

Machine Readable Catalog - MARC

The MARC formats are standards developed for the representation and communication of bibliographic and related information in machine-readable form. MARC formats are used widely in the library community.

NCDDC's MERMAid supports a MARC export from an FGDC CSDGM record. The Ocean Exploration Program also uses this transformation to provide MARC records to the NOAA Library.

Keyword Lists, Controlled Vocabularies and Thesauri

The use of standardized keywords, controlled vocabularies and thesauri, such as those listed below, can help to standardize metadata and optimize data discovery.

Additional Metadata Resources

  • US Geological Survey (USGS): This web site provides metadata information and such software tools as cns, mp, and Tkme. A guide for creating and reviewing metadata, titled Metadata in Plain Language, is also available.
  • Marine Metadata Interoperability (MMI): The goal of MMI is to support collaborative research in the marine science domain, by simplifying the incredibly complex world of metadata into specific, straightforward guidance. MMI encourages scientists and data managers at all levels to apply good metadata practices from the start of a project, by providing the best guidance and resources for data management, and developing advanced metadata tools and services needed by the community.